Spain: Vine varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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The Spanish claim to have up to 600 different grape varieties, although 80% of the country’s vineyards are planted with just over 20 of them. Since the arrival of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century, farmers tended to favour varieties well adapted to local climatic conditions, but irrigation has changed this tendency considerably. The drought-resistant white airén is planted throughout central Spain, although by 2013 it had been overtaken as Spain’s most planted grape by tempranillo whose total of 210,000 ha represents an increase of more than 70% on the area planted with Tempranillo ten years earlier. It travels under such aliases as Cencibel, Ull de Llebre, and Tinto Fino in different parts of the country. bobal is the second most planted red wine grape with 75,000 ha/180,000 acres and the traditional garnacha is third with 65,000 ha/156,000 acres. Monastrell (the mourvèdre of France) is fourth with 55,000 ha/132,000 acres. Other white varieties which are also important in Spain are the sherry grapes palomino (planted in Jerez, rueda, and parts of Galicia) and pedro ximénez (Montilla-Moriles and Málaga). The white macabeo (also called Viura) is widely planted in Rioja and Cataluña, especially Penedès, where, along with Parellada and Xarel-lo, it is grown for Cava sparkling wine. High-quality white varieties which are gaining ground include albariño (Galicia) and verdejo (Rueda), while other promising grapes which are making a more limited comeback include the white loureira, treixadura, and godello (all three in Galicia) and the red graciano (Rioja) and mencía (Galicia and Castilla y León).