About wine

The vine is one of the world’s oldest plants. Wine production can be traced back over 8,000 years – even back then, grapes were being pressed to make wine in Damascus.

Only beverages made from the fruits of the vine are permitted to be bear the trade name “wine”. Any other “wine beverage” requires further explanation on their label.

Based on what is currently known, the wine aroma is composed of almost 1,000 different components. While part of the substance that forms the flavour stems from the place it has been cultivated and from the variety, other aromas are only created through the treating of the berries, the fermenting, the finish and the storage of the finished wine.

The composition of the soil and of the soil layers largely determines the style of the wine. While calciferous soils favour wines that have, for example, finesse and good ageing potential, clay soils result in weighty wines. Soils containing sand and gravel favour earlier ripening of the berries.

The soil property also plays a major role in binding or releasing moisture. In regions with low levels of rainfall, the ability to store the moisture that exists is crucial, while the soil requires good drainage ability in areas with high precipitation levels. The microflora and the micro-climate present at the vineyard are also important.

It is vital that the variety matches the soil type if a high-quality wine is to be produced. For example, the Riesling thrives on shale soils as found along the River Moselle.

A vine only produces good quality if the soils are not too fertile. Otherwise the harvest increases at the expense of quality.

The range of vines has been very much restricted by the defining of designations of origin (AOC in France, DOC in Italy and D.O. in Spain).

Of the almost 16,000 varieties that are known, only about 1,000 varieties are permitted for commercial wine growing within the official lists.

Designation of origin and quality

The classic designations of origin and ageing levels of Spanish wines are:

D.O. = Denominación de Origen,

Spanish wines from legally defined geographic areas, from permitted vine varieties only. Cultivation and harvesting are regulated, and there is an official quality rating achieved by neutral tasting and analysis.

D.O.C = Denominación de Origen Calificada,

The top quality designation for Spanish wines.

Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica

Defined quality wine growing areas dating from more recently which have to prove themselves for at least five years before they can be promoted to the D.O. category.

Vino de la Tierra

Land wines from Spain from specified land wine areas which are produced according to specific rules.

Vino de Mesa

Spanish wines made from permitted varieties with a 9% minimum alcohol content.

Vino Joven / Cosecha

A Vino Joven is a vintage wine that is fermented in a steel tank and is not aged in a barrel. In Spain it is distributed in glasses or sold in bottles under many different designations. 

Crianza

A wine in the Crianza age category must be aged for at least 24 months in barriques and/or in bottles; depending on the region, 6-12 months of this must be in an oak barrel. A wine classified as a Crianza can therefore only be sold in the third year after the harvest.

Reserva

A wine in the Reserva age category must be aged for at least 36 months in barriques and/or in bottles; 12 months of this must be in an oak barrel. A wine classified as a Reserva can therefore only be sold in the fourth year after the harvest.

Gran Reserva

A wine in the Gran Reserva age category must be aged for at least 60 months in oak barrels and in bottles; 24 months of this must be in the oak barrel. A wine classified as a Gran Reserva can therefore only be sold in the sixth year after the harvest.

Tips on storing wine

A dark, cool area is ideal. Best is a constant, cool temperature (not above 15° C if possible) and air that is not too dry.  It ought also to be protected from light and other odours, as the wine “breathes” through the corks and so can absorb odours. Wines should always be stored horizontally so that the corks do not dry out.