Spain

Grape vines have been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since at least 3000 B.C., although it was not until 1000 B.C. that winemaking began here in earnest – a skill brought by Phoenician traders from the eastern Mediterranean. Today, Spain is home to more vines than any other country on Earth, and has a national wine output exceeded only by France and Italy.

All seventeen of Spain's administrative regions (communidades autónomas) produce wine to some extent, including the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands. The greatest concentration of vineyards is in Castilla-La Mancha, but the finest and most famous wines come from Galicia (Rias Baixas), Catalonia (Cava and Priorat), Andalucia (Sherry), Castilla y Leon (Rueda, Toro and Ribera del Duero) and of course Rioja.

Geography and climate together play a fundamental role in defining Spain's many wine styles. From cool, green Galicia and the snow-capped Pyrenees in the north, via the parched central plateau, to sandy, sunny Andalucia in the south, the Spanish landscape is very diverse. The country spans seven degrees of latitude (36°N to 43°N), leaving 500 miles (800km) between its Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

The key red-wine varieties, in order of acreage, are Tempranillo, Bobal, Garnacha and Monastrell. The leading white-wine varieties are Airen, Viura/Macabeo and Palomino and Albarino. 'International' varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are becoming more and more popular in Spain, and their plantings are rising in various Spanish regions. Along with the most popular varieties, there are regional specialties, such as Hondarrabi Zuri in the Basque Country, Marmajuelo in the Canary Islands and Zalema in Andalucia.

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