Catalunya occupies the north-east of Spain.
Font Rubi is found in the cool hills of Alt Penedès in Barcelona. The vineyards here are diverse, with a variety of soil types, elevations, vine ages and varieties, and microclimates. This is largely due to the hilly terrain, which leads to localised atmospheric conditions that can have a large impact on grape development. The coolness of the air from the hills combined with the hot daytime sun allows for day-night temperature differentials, allowing grapes to reach optimum maturity and the wines to have well-balanced aromas.
Logroño is the city at the heart of the Rioja wine industry in northern Spain. The region as a whole has 57,000 hectares of vines and produces 250 million litres of wine a year, 85 per cent of which is red. Most of the terroir here is on alluvial rock and clays that are rich in chalk and iron, and generally at an elevation above 460 metres. Logroño and the Rioja region have a largely continental climate, moderated by the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range, the Atlantic coast and the Ebro River.
There are three sub-divisions to Rioja where vines can be grown. Rioja Alavesa is a terraced area of limestone and clay soils. Rioja Alta features alluvial soils with calcareous and ferruginous clays. Both Alavesa and Alta are near the mountains, and their elevation leads to colder weather. Rioja Baja is mainly alluvial clay. The harvest takes place in September and October.
A typical Rioja red blend features 60 per cent Tempranillo, a grape which truly thrives in these limestone soils and provides acidity and rich, concentrated flavours, and up to 20 per cent Garnacha. Smaller quantities of Mazuelo and Garnacha. The Rioja Blanco uses primarily Viura/Macabeo, which provides a light fruitiness to the blend, Garnacha Blanca, to provide body, and Malvasia for added aroma.
Winemakers have been resident around Logroño since the time of the Phoenicians. The first written evidence of winemaking in Rioja goes back to 873, in a document recording a donation to a winemaking monastery. The city has been a commercial port since the 10th century, and by 1635 a by-law was passed banning traffic with metal wheels in the Old Town, lest they disturbed the estimated 5.6 million litres held in cellars below.
Some 2,000 years ago, Galician wines were being loaded onto galleons to reach the thirsty citizens of Roman-occupied England. This famed wine production continued through the Middle Ages, thanks to the clergy, and Galicia was the final destination for thousands of pilgrims over the years, who crossed the 500-mile route from the Pyrenees in the hope of reaching the tomb of Saint James. Today, this Spanish region on the northwest of the Iberian Peninsular, straddling Portugal to the south, is one of the 17 highest-level administrative regions in the country, and is best known for its white Albariño wines, although there is also a growing red wine scene.
The area is known as Spain’s “green region”, for obvious reasons. The green hills along the River Miño gradually merge into the Cantabrian Mountains to the east, which can reach up to 2,000 metres.
Two sides of the area border the Atlantic Ocean, which contributes cool wind that carries moisture from the sea. As such, this is one of the wettest parts of Spain, reaching annual levels of up to 1,300 millimetres in some places. This coolness is tempered by year-round sunshine of up to 2,000 hours annually. This balance is key to the grapes’ survival, but is not always enough for the reds to mature fully anywhere other than inland. As a result, the 1970s saw many of the red vines pulled up and replaced by the more productive whites, mainly Albariño. Other whites include Loureiro, Torrontes, Godello, Treixadura and the native Caiño Blanco.
These conditions produce wines that are in many ways similar to those of Minho, such as Vinho Verde, just over the border into Portugal.
There are five DO wine areas in Galicia, the most famous of which is Rias Baixas (or “lower estuaries”). Rias Baixas is a rare example of a non-contiguous appellation, spanning five sub-regions (Val do Salnés, Ribeira do Ulla, Soutomaior, O Rosal, and Condado do Tea). Here the terroir benefits from a cool, wet climate with plenty of sunshine. The wines have a fresh minerality, extracted from the granite soils. Some 90 per cent of the grapes grown here are Albariño. The different sub-regions produce variations in the wine, with those near the ocean having an increased minerality and those inland, grown in a warmer climate, championing wines that have more qualities of stone-fruits.