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Spain kicks off with optimism

Spain will be presenting a wide range of wines but generating interest are the many wines from Levante that will be available for tasting. This native Spanish variety Monastrell (known in France as Mouvèdre) is proving to be a key quality driver for a new generation of red wines that convince consumers with their fruity exuberance and appealing softness along with their often moderate to very reasonable prices.

Forming the traditional focus here will be exhibitors from Castile & León who will be presenting a significant number of new wines. Particular attention should be paid to the still largely unknown appellations Arlanza, Arribes, Tierra de León and Tierra del Vino de Zamora. These new quality wine-growing areas granted official DO status only in 2007 will be presenting more wines than ever this year.

Another tasting zone likely to prove rewarding is the highly acclaimed Priorato whose cool 2007 vintage did the warm region good. However, visitors should not limit themselves to this one renowned Catalan appellation. In the last few years its little neighbour Montsant has made prodigious progress on the quality front and with its full red wines is now an ideal alternative, especially also in terms of its convincing price structure.

In the light of this vintage the Andalusian range also promises to generate interest. Still going unnoticed by the general public significant progress has been made in the interior of Andalusia. An impressive number of wine growers are now producing remarkably “normal” table wines very far from the classics from Jerez, Málaga and Montilla with the focus here on reds cultivated using modern methods.

After the highly acclaimed launch last year the Spanish Export Institute is once again planning to feature a large tasting zone at ProWein 2010. After the great success of the thematic tasting sessions including focuses on wines and their soil structures or the specific climatic conditions of the country we can now again look forward to the range of guided tastings on offer at ProWein 2010. Here we can expect interesting area presentations. The spotlight will fall on growing regions that are less familiar to trade visitors such as the aforementioned Levante.

The Spanish wine sector saw a patchy year in 2009. Against the backdrop of an exacerbated economic crisis at home wine sales in Spain itself even dropped. The restaurant and hotel trade, in particular, as well as the specialist retail trade posted clear minuses against the previous year. By contrast food retail held up here surprisingly well. The export business also saw a noticeable trough in the first months of the year before the long awaited turnaround in the second half of the year straightened up the figures again. Overall, however, there was still a minus in total exports by the end of 2009. Nevertheless, the sales trend for Spanish wines on international markets is pointing upwards again, which has led to moderately optimistic expectations for exports this year.

Last year’s harvest can also be rated positively. Initially Spain expected a complicated harvest as conditions were everything but ideal especially in the entire southern half of the country. Overall, late spring and summer saw high temperatures and the continuing dry spell threatened the quality of the harvest in almost all parts of the country.

In the north of the macro appellation La Mancha late frosts also triggered reduced yields. A very early start to the harvest kicked off last autumn although picking had to be interrupted in many places due to heavy rain in September. However, thanks to the very good conditions in the second half of September and the first two weeks of October, a very good quality vintage is now expected. The harvest was noted for the excellent quality of the grapes that were picked ripe and in a delightfully healthy condition.

Many of the renowned growing regions like Rioja, Bierzo and Ribera del Duero in Castile and León as well as the Galician appellations in the north-west now boast above-average quality wines stored in their cellars. However, the quantity was considerable lower than the previous year, which allowed producers to breath an initial sigh of relief.

At ProWein, Spain’s producers will be focusing on presentations of wines from the 2006 and 2007 vintages while the 2008 vintage will dominate amongst the young wines. 2006 is considered a good, even solid vintage without promising any outstanding wines. Catalonia displays generally good quality here. Also it is anticipated that some of the appellations in the northern plateau, i.e. Castilla y León, will await us with some very successful wines.

The 2007 vintage is of particularly interest when it comes to Rioja. This region enjoyed a very good harvest producing a plethora of fine and elegant wines boasting that traditional Rioja character. 2007 and 2008 both come under the so-called cool climate block that has given the Spanish some unusually fresh, very fruity and pleasantly lean wines. Lovers of elegance will therefore also be catered to by Spanish wines.

However, 2005, 2006 and 2009 have to be rated as “Mediterranean/typically Southern European vintages. Those interested in the great 2005 vintage are sure to discover one or other latecomer in the premium segment only now becoming available.


December 09



1 December 2009 - Felicity Murray