Wine Guide Southern Spain & Islands
Wine Guide Southern Spain & Islands – Wine Region Map
While for years the quality of Spanish wine in the more established regions and DOs had been acceptable it could also have fairly been said that the real potential in the country remained untapped. However, the past half decade or so has seen dramatic change both in fine-wine production and in lesser regions. There are new-wave Riojas and an abundance of great reds from Castilla y León, but other, smaller regions like Priorat have also been providing some remarkable and striking wines in recent years. Further south, in the great centre of the country, relaxation of the regulations governing irrigation and a desire to harness the potential of the best hillside sites as well as some fine, old bush-vine plantings of regional varieties has brought increasing change. It remains depressing, however that despite all this there is still a sizeable amount of sometimes very mediocre wine being produced in almost all the established regions.
Southern Spain and Islands Wines
Wine Region Map
Central and South-East
Over the past decade much has changed in the central and southern reaches of Spain. Identifying cooler mesoclimates and harnessing the sheer quality of some of the old bush vines and outcrops of well-drained soils are among the keys. The introduction of irrigation over the last decade has also given this arid area greater scope. Although this is more relevant in the production of bulk wines, of which a considerable volume are produced here. This is particularly the case with wines made from the lower and more fertile central plains.
The nation’s capital city is home to the small DO of Vinos de Madrid. The vineyards stretch over a large area both to the immediate south-east of Madrid and some considerable distance to the west and include three sub-regions. Tempranillo is the most important red variety and Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are also permitted. Garnacha is also now assuming much greater importance. Whites include Chardonnay, Albillo and the local Malvar. The reds in particular can be very good and are more akin to a Ribera del Duero than a Rioja. A little further to the south-west of Madrid is the DO
of Mentrida. This is mainly red wine country. Garnacha and Tempranillo are successful here as are the
French interlopers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
The vast central plains and particularly La Mancha are not generally associated with wines of any substance, this region after all is notable for its considerable number of co-ops. Things are beginning to change, though, and new and interesting wines are emerging, particularly from bodegas with higher altitude vineyards and better sites. A strict control of yields is also a key factor. However, unfortunately for the DO, many impressive emerging wineries prefer to take the VdT Castilla because of the perception of quality from La Mancha. In the west of the region there are a number Vinos de Pago (single property) DOs, a classification taking increasing significance throughout the country. Dominio de Valdepusa has been well established for some time, Dehesa de Carrizal is more recently known on international markets. At Dehesa del Carrizal the focus is on French varieties, reds as well as Chardonnay, at Dominio de Valdepusa there is a little Graciano as well. A number of La Mancha bodegas also have holdings in the new small DO of Uclés, to the south-west of Madrid. Some rich and well made reds are now appearing. Valdepeñas used to be considered somewhat of a beacon amongst the other wine regions of the area but nothing of real consequence has emerged recently.
Some of the best potential for reds is to the east of the area, nearer the coast in the DO’s of Valencia, Manchuela and Utiel-Requena. The indigenous Bobal and Monastrell are both proving very successful and fine Syrah, Malbec and Garnacha is also being made. Just to the south in the DOs of Yecla, Jumilla and Bullas some impressive and complex reds are being produced. A number of joint ventures with overseas expertise are being developed and some of the wines are not only impressive for their quality but notable for their high price as well. The newly created DOP El Terrerazu is a fine source of Tempranillo as well as Bobal. Some good fortified wine, Fondillon is produced from Monastrell at Alicante, as are some fine, sweet Moscatels. In the past decade some very well made reds and decent well-crafted whites have also been made here.
Southern Spain and Islands
The south is fortified-wine country, most specifically the sherries of Jerez y Manzanilla. Andalucía is also home to the fortified wines of Montilla-Moriles and Málaga. Most of the former are relatively ordinary but there are some exceptional wines from old soleras. The traditional wines of Málaga are very rare, a blend of sweet wine and grape juice, some of which is fortified. The sherry industry is centred around the towns of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda to the north of Cádiz. The wines are all raised in a solera system which is maintained by fresh young wines. Fino sherry in Jerez is very similar to Manzanilla at Sanlúcar. Both are best drunk on release for their fresh, salty character imbued by a period under flor yeast. Manzanilla Pasada is a nutty, aged wine, having been exposed to flor influence, as is Amontillado. Oloroso will have no flor character at all, having been immediately fortified above 18 degrees of alcohol. Palo Cortado is halfway in style between Fino and Amontillado. Rich and concentrated fortified Moscatel is also produced in the area as well as Pedro Ximènez. A recent development to ensure quality and character is a new set of classifications, VOS and VORS. VOS stands for Very Old Sherry and the wine must have an average age of at least 20 years. VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry and the average age of the wine must be a minimum of 30 years. Many of the best examples are older than this, although it is not a requirement for the classification to be used.
Over recent vintages the other major development in the south has been the emergence of some very impressive light wines both red and white. In the VdT Cádiz impressive and structured reds are being produced by one winery in particular, Huerta de Albala and from an area thought of simply as fortified wine country. A number of sherry bodegas are also taking advantage of the classification, mainly for whites. To the east at Sierras de Málaga (sharing the DO with the fortified wines of Málaga) the high altitude vineyards inland are now a source of some very impressive Bordeaux style reds. A number of fine examples are also simply labelled as Vino de Mesa. Yet further still to the east is the large VC (Vinos de Calidad) Granada (VC being an interim classification before full upgrade to DO status). Among the eastern appellations of Andalucia are the vineyards of the VdT Cumbres del Guadalfeo (formerly Contraviesa-Alpujarra), home to some of the very highest vineyards in Spain, a source of intense and mineral-scented whites and structured, characterful reds. Also of interest Inland of Almeria is the VdT Ribera del Andrax, where altitude also plays a part in producing balanced, rich and ripe reds.
As yet few wines have emerged on overseas markets from the either the Balearics or the Canaries. However a number of particularly impressive reds are produced in Mallorca from the DO’s of Binissalem Mallorca and Pla i Llevant, as well as the VdT’s of Formentera, Mallorca and Iles Balears. A number of varieties both red and white are proving successful, none more so than the indigenous red Callet. The Canaries would also seem to have genuine potential for whites with its sparse volcanic soils and fortifieds are also produced.