Spain: Producer of Great Wines
Enormous amounts of wine of all kinds are made in Spain, although it is only comparatively recently that the numerous table wines have featured among the quality wines on export lists. Sherry is of course well known, although the previously popular Malaga and Tarragona are now not often seen outside their homeland; however, wines of quality, some of them dry, can still be found in these regions. Montilla has recently received much encouragement from export buyers. Rioja is certainly the best-known wine region, and both red and white wines are made, the estate names and the names of some of the bodega owners becoming familiar, as well as the more ordinary qualities of wines. The Penedes region, in the hinterland of Barcelona, produces some first-rate red and white table wines, also huge quantities of sparkling wines. The better ones are made by the Champagne method; the largest establishments making more wine of this type than the big Champagne houses! Priorato, Alicante, Alella, La Mancha, Valdepenas, Galicia and Navarre are some of the other wine regions where wines of individuality and some quality are beginning to be noticed today.
In the past, many bulk wines shipped to the U.K. Used to be labelled ‘Spanish Chablis’, Spanish claret’ and similar names, in an attempt to attract buyers with little knowledge of all but the most famous names and styles of classic wines. Today, however, the wines bear the names of their regions, or their estates, or are sold as branded wines. It is important to appraise them in their own right and not attempt to compare them with, say, French or other wines. Although some of them are still within the medium price range in the U.K., the finer Riojas, outstanding vintages of Pened6s and such rarities as Vega Sicilia are now in the high ranges.
There are a number of liqueurs produced in Spain, the most famous being the yellow and green Chartreuse at Tarragona; aguardiente, flavoured with various things, such as anis and quinine bark, is made somewhat as marc is made. Vermouth is made, as well as large amounts of brandy; some of the latter being produced by the great firms engaged in the sherry trade and also some of the more respected table wine producers. Visitors to Spain should always try the local wines and spirits, although for the conservative traveller, a large number of the internationally known brands of the latter are made in Spain under licence.