The Grapes of Spain
The grapes in the lead photo for this article are not ripening. They are in fact quite ripe as they’re the grape Xarel·lo that you find commonly in the Penedès region of Catalonia, Spain as well as a few others. I make this point as most people, when talking about Spain are of the opinion that it’s just Tempranillo and red. Admittedly there are gigantic tank loads of Tempranillo produced but it’s not Spain’s most-grown grape which is, get this, a white one called, Airén. Don’t be thinking, “Well, shit, why haven’t I see bottles of Airén on my shelves?” because most of it goes in to brandy and distilled alcohol production. Also, it’s from La Mancha and (rightly) doesn’t have the fame of Rioja and its Tempranillo.
I bring this up as I was commissioned to write an article for the Guild of Sommeliers about the Grapes of Spain. In there, I go into a great more detail on 16 grape varieties that are often found in Spain. If this doesn’t seem like a lot of grape varieties when you look at say, France, keep in mind that the French have “claimed” a number of Spanish varieties including: Grenache (Garnacha/Garnatxa), Mourvèdre (Monastrell), and Carignan (Carinyena/Mazuelo/Samsó). Also, when it comes down to it, how many of the vast varieties of France or even Italy are actually in large production? For that matter, a place like Georgia where they have some 525 cataloged varieties, only has about 30-40 in active production.
It’s all a good deal of food for thought and even though I live here I’m often finding various old varieties that someone is trying to pull back in to production as modern viticultural methods or even Climate Change have suddenly made them have value again. Keep an in this sector as Spain is hot and just getting hotter putting it at the front lines of the battle to try an make wine on a hotter Earth. People will be trying a lot of things here in the years to come.