THE WINE IN SPAIN: PART OF OUR CULTURE AND HISTORY.

Thursday February 20th, 2020

The origin of wine in Spain dates from the first plantations in the year 3,000 B.C. with the arrival of the Phoenicians to our lands, although the first crops did not begin until 1100 B.C. in the area of ​​what is now Cádiz, on the western Andalusian coast.

Throughout the time of the Roman Empire there was an era of expansion that not only covered all of Europe as the empire advanced, but also in Spain was monopolizing territories. The Romans did their extensive cultivation and improved processing techniques being Spain one of their pantries and source of supply.

With the Visigoth Empire and the passage of the Arabs through our country (8th century) we lived an ambiguous period in which the cultivation was not lost, but neither did it imply improvements or development.

Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries there is an era of expansion and growth. With religion as a guiding thread we can speak of a religious expansion during the 9th to 11th centuries through the Camino de Santiago and the monasteries, especially in Rioja and Ribera del Duero were the gateway for those coming from Europe.

Starting in the 12th century, vineyards were planted in Catalonia and in the Jerez area, carrying out a repopulation of the area that had suffered some loss of vineyard during previous eras.

With the Reconquista (14th century) the definitive take-off of viticulture takes place and we can even begin to talk about the concept of export.

The Discovery of America (15th century) was decisive. The Catholic Kings as they were incorporating new territories reconquered from the Muslims there was a replanting of vines. The process of export was intensified by accompanying our settlers on the other side of the Atlantic and the importance of the Canary Islands as a stopover point in the trips to America made the first vineyard plantations arrive in these islands in 1497.

The s. XVI was a turbulent time, on the one hand, our wine from Jerez “conquered” the British market, although it was rather a piracy action. And on the other, some of the Spanish colonies brushed the economic threat of the country to develop productive processes there that replaced those of the nation itself.

 

  1. MODERN HISTORY IN SPAIN

Areas such as Jerez, Malaga and Rioja led the baton during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but were left behind in the face of competition and modernization of the sector derived from the industrial revolution that other countries were able to adopt more quickly.

The arrival of Philoxera in the mid-nineteenth century is a before and after in the European wine industry and, of course, Spanish. The French demand before the loss of its vineyards supposed a “colonization” in the bordering territories with this country in which zones like Rioja, Navarra, Catalonia, etc. they lived a resurgence with a consolidation of the production assuming technical improvements in vineyard and elaboration, import of foreign varieties, regulation, etc. However, Spain did not survive the plague and practically the whole country suffered the consequences. It must be recognized that the orography of the country, as well as the different terrains, distances between regions, made the expansion of the epidemic slow, although inevitable. It was the plantations brought to America that saved Spain and Europe from the biggest disaster in the wine industry.

Once the plague was overcome and the winemaking activity was re-established to a certain extent, the first half of the 20th century and 20th century came full of vicissitudes too. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) supposed an abandonment of the field and, therefore, of the vineyard. There was not even time to recover since the paralysis of the European market with the IIGM (1939-1945) soon followed.

After the 1950s, Spain began to recover and to generate a certain internal stability that would once again encourage consumption, production, etc. This first stage of recovery was based mainly on foreign markets that contributed to the rebound of areas such as Jerez and Rioja.

With the arrival of transition and democracy, the growing middle class fostered the internal development of the industry based on internal consumption. This growing demand meant in the 70’s and 80’s the great leap towards the modernization and professionalization of the sector almost to the point as we know it today. This time was a real revolution for the sector.

The arrival of the European Union meant the arrival of regulation, investment and aid that allowed to continue with this process of improvement and optimize resources leading to an increase in production and quality that put Spain at levels of other European historical producers and the new World. This fact marks the development of s. XXI in which the competition and competitiveness of the sector is aggressive and increasingly the difficulty of differentiation arises.

In recent years new regions, varieties, elaboration philosophies have emerged that seek to make a dent, even with small productions, in this world of wine.

 

  1. SPAIN IN FIGURES

Spain is the first world producer in surface according to data of the OIV with plantations that cover something more than 1M of hectares of our country. Let’s think that the entire European Union has an area close to three times (3.3 M approx.) And in the world, there is a total of about 7.5 M hectares of vineyard.

As a curiosity, it must be said that being the most extensive vineyard is not the first in production volume but the third. Spain produces 37M hectolitres of the more than 270M that are produced in the world, of these, more than half are produced within the EU with almost 166M hectolitres.

As for consumption, Spain is relegated to not so podium positions since our per capita consumption is very low and in terms of total consumption we occupy the eighth place with 10M hectolitres (less than a third of our production) compared to the more than 240M hectolitres around the world and the more than 27M in France make us realize that our internal consumption is not all that it should.

In view of our figures we see that much of our wine is exported, so much so that we are the first exporter in volume and the third in value.

The industrial fabric of Spain in the wine sector is nourished by some 4000 wineries. The top 10 of the D.O.’s in terms of number of warehouses are:

  • D.O. Ca Rioja 797
  • D.O. Cava 402
  • D.O. Ribera del Duero 307
  • D.O. La Mancha 252
  • D.O. Catalonia 211
  • D.O. Rías Baixas 179
  • D.O. Penedés 178
  • D.O. Ribeiro 109
  • D.O. Navarra 104
  • D.O. Priorat 101

The variety of our sector does not derive only from the large number of producers but from the great diversity of registered grape varieties, although 80% of the production is made with 20 types of varieties. Spain is a rich country in terms of soils, climates and our crops are spread across practically the whole country classified in 14 Wines of Payment, 2 D.O. Qualified (D.O. Rioja and D.O. Priorat), 70 Designations of Origin and 41 areas with Protected Geographical Indication.

The distribution of white and red (and rosé) wine in Spain is almost 50%.