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Wines Of Spain

WINES OF SPAIN The wines of Spain may be regarded as second in importance to those of France. Although the quantity produced is not so large as in Italy, the quality on the whole is decidedly superior to that of the latter country. There are three main types of wine with which consumers in the United Kingdom are familiar, namely Sherry, Tarragona (Spanish Port or Spanish Red) and wines of a claret type. The trade with the United Kingdom is of considerable proportions, the total quantity of Spanish wines imported in 1906 amounting to 1,689,049 gallons of red wine (to the value of 154,963), and white wines to the extent of 1,119,702 gallons (to the value of 242,877).

The most important wine produced in the province of Andalusia, which is the chief vine-growing district of Spain, is that known to s . us as sherry, so called from the town of Jerezde la Frontera, which is the centre of the industry. Sherry is produced in a small district bounded by San Lucar in the north-east, Jerez in the east and Port St Mary on the south. The total viticultural area amounts to about 20,000 acres. The soil is of very varying nature, and consists in some districts of the so-called albariza (mainly chalk with some sand and clay), in others of barros, which is mainly sand cemented together with chalk and clay, and of arenas, which consists of nearly pure sand. Most of the vineyards in the Jerez district are upon albariza soil, those to the north and north-east are mainly of barros, and those close to the seashore of arenas. The dominating vine is the Palomino, which produces amontillados and finos. Other important vines are the Perruno and the Mantua Castellano. There is also a variety of Pedro-Ximenes, which, however, is not used for making ordinary wine, but for the purpose of preparing the so-called dulce, a very sweet must or wine, made from over-ripe grapes, which, after fortification with spirit, is 1 employed for sweetening other wines. The process of vinification is comparatively simple. The grapes are, after gathering, dusted over with plaster of Paris, and then crushed by treading in a shallow rectangular vessel termed the laear. The juice, which is so obtained together with that which results from the pressing of the murk, is fermented in much the same manner as is customary in other countries. There are two main types of sherry known in the United Kingdom, namely, those of the amontillado and those of the manzanitta classes. The former are generally sweet and full-bodied, the latter light and dry. The mansanillas are mostly shipped in the natural state, except for the addition of a small quantity of spirit.

The amontillados may be again divided into the finos and the olorosos, the former being the more delicate. These distinctions are not of a hard and fast character, for they frequently merely represent different developments of the same wine. Thus, according to Thudicum, the regular heavy sherry from albariza soil remains immature for a number of years and then becomes a fino. After five to eight years it may become an amontillado, and if it is left in cask and allowed to develop, it will, after it attains an age of nine to fourteen years, become an oloroso, and still later it may become a secco. In Jerez itself a different classification, namely that according to quality and not age, exists, which, however, is only employed locally. Thus the term palma is applied to fine dry wines when in their second or third years. These may be amontillados, but according to some they never become olorosos. Then there are varieties known as double and treble palma, and single, double and treble polo, the latter being the finest form of oloroso. Then there is the quality of wine termed raya. This is dry and sound, and forms a great part of the sherry exported to the United Kingdom. The sweetness of the sweet sherries is partly due to an inherent property of the wine (apart from any sugar they may contain) and partly to natural or added sugar. In some cases the fermentation of the must is stopped by the addition of spirit before the whole of the saccharine is converted, 1 and the wines so prepared retain a proportion of the sugar naturally present in the must. In other cases dry wines are prepared and sugar is added to them in the form of duke (see above). In order to prevent refermentation it is then necessary to fortify these wines with spirit. The standard of colour required for certain quantities is maintained by the addition of color. The latter is made by boiling wine down until it attains the consistency of a liqueur. The great bulk of sherry shipped to the United Kingdom is blended. The system of blending sherry in some respects recalls that of the blending of Scotch whiskies. Wines of the same type are stored in vats or soleras, and the contents of the soleras are kept as far as possible up to a particular style of colour, flavour and sweetness, yrior to snipment the contents of various soleras are blended according to the nature of the article required.

In addition to the wines described above.there are others of a similar nature grown in the vicinity, such as mantilla (made in Cordova) and moguer (produced on the right bank of the Guadalquivir).

The bulk of the sherry imported into the United Kingdom still consists of the heavier, fortified wines, varying in strength from 17 to 21 % of absolute alcohol, although the fiscal change introduced in 1886, whereby wines not exceeding 30 proof (i.e. about 17% of alcohol) were admitted at a duty of is. 3d., as against 33. for heavier wines, naturally tended to promote the shipment of the lighter dry varieties. In this connexion it is interesting to note that the importation of sherry into the United Kingdom on a considerable scale commenced in the 15th century, and that the wine shipped at that time was of the dry variety. It seems possible that sherry was the_ first wine known as sack in this country, but it is at least doubtful whether this word is, as some contend, derived from seek or sec, i.e. dry. According to Morewood it is more likely to have come from the Japanese Sakt or Sacki (see SAKfi), derived in its turn from the name of the city of Osaka.

^Chemically the sweet sherry differs from the natural dry light wines in that it contains relatively high proportions of alcohol, extractives, sugar and sulphates, and small quantities of acid and glycerin. This is well illustrated by the following analysis :

Analysis of Sherry (Fresenius).

Alcohol per cent by vol.

Grams per Litre.


Total Acid.





19-94 48-9 1zz -2 1zz 0-2 Malaga is a sweet wine (produced in the province of that name) which is little known in England, but enjoys considerable favour on the Continent. It is generally, as exported, a blend made M*lm from vino dulce and vino secco, together with varying quantities of vino maestro, vino tierno, arope and color. The vino dulce and vino secco are both made as a rule from the Pedro Jimenez (white) grape, the former in much the same way as the dulce which is employed in the sherry industry, the latter by permitting fermentation to take its normal course. The vino maestro consists of must which has only fermented to a slight degree and which has been " killed " by the addition of about 17 % of alcohol. The vino tierno is made by mashing raisins (6 parts) with water (2 parts) pressing, and then adding alcohol (i part) to the must. Arope is obtained by concentrating vino dulce to one-third, and color by concentrating the arope over a naked fire. Malaga is therefore an interesting example of a composite wine. Besides the sweet variety, a coarse dry wine is also made, but this is little known abroad.

Another well-known wine district in the south of Spain is that of Rota, where a sweet red wine, known in England as tent (tinto), chiefly used for ecclesiastical purposes, is produced.

Wines of the Centre and North. While the most important Spanish wines are those grown in the southern province of Andalusia, the central and northern districts also produce wine in considerable quantity, and much of this is of very fair quality. Thus in the central district of Val de Penas and in the Rioja region (situated between Old Castile and Navarre) in the north-east are produced red wines which in regard to vinosity, body and in some other respects resemble the heavier clarets or burgundies of France although not possessing the delicacy and elegance of the latter. They are shipped in some quantity to the United Kingdom as Spanish " claret " or Spanish " burgundy." The most important industry, outside the southern districts, is, however, that in Catalonia, where, in the neighbourhood of the town of that name, the wine known as Tarragona or Spanish " port " is produced. The finest Tarragona (which much resembles port) is made in the Priorato region, about 15 m. inland.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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