Spain strongly represented at ProWein 2009

Trend towards indigenous varietals / Sherry Lounge as a meeting point

Alongside Germany, Italy, France and Austria, Spain has long been one of the major sources of exhibitors at ProWein, the world’s No. 1 event for the wine industry. This also goes for the upcoming edition of the fair, to be staged between 29 and 31 March 2009, when the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) block will once again form the core of the country’s contingent. Attracting particular attention will be the export association from Navarra, which will once again be represented by a joint stand. Navarra is unquestionably one of Spain’s most dynamic winegrowing regions and a key player on the domestic market. The region is one of the few in Spain to produce certified “Quality Wine” and is selling such products in increasing quantities to restaurants and specialist retailers. Last year, only Rioja and Ribera del Duero were bigger on the domestic market. Navarra is one of the first regions to have fully implemented the new Spanish Vineyard and Wine Act passed in 2003, with the result that it now boasts two denominations of origin (Vino de Pago). Until only recently, solely four estates in the region of Castilla-La Mancha south of Madrid had this honour. The titles Pago de Arínzano and Pago de Irache represent the dynamic region of Navarra, which is also using the denominations of origin (DO) as a launch pad for new wines and an image campaign. Pilar García-Granero, the new president of the regulatory council of Navarra, sees her region as taking off and is looking forward to the upcoming edition of ProWein: “Navarra produces fruity, very drinkable wines. The cooler climate of our northern Spanish region also allows for the cultivation of elegant quality wines that have great potential on the export market.”

Trend towards indigenous varietals
Wines made from indigenous grape varietals are in favour in Spain. In Navarra and its neighbour to the east, Aragón, encompassing the Campo de Borja and Calatayud appellations, wines from old Garnacha vines are creating quite a buzz. While for a long time Garnacha – an indigenous varietal – was only used for rosados (rosés) and blends, this grape is now also the source of internationally acclaimed reds from Spain.

In fact, indigenous varietals are the ‘it’ grapes in Spain. Over the past few years, a couple of exciting discoveries have been made, notably in the north and west of the country. First the spotlight was trained on the northwestern growing area of Bierzo on St. James’ Way where the native red varietal, Mencía, promises a great leap forward in quality. Subsequently, a large number of impressive Mencía wines have appeared on the market and will be available for tasting either at the Castilla y León region’s joint presentation or from one of the many suppliers specialising in Spanish wines. Winemakers and the trade press see even greater potential in the largely unfamiliar red varietal of Prieto Picudo. It originates in León or Tierras de León to be more precise, which is one of the four new certified terroirs – all of them in Castilla y León – to recently acquire DO status. Prieto Picudo is intensely fruity with a striking tannin structure, stable tannins and high acidity. It is therefore not surprising that, in a wine-producing nation particularly threatened by global warming, these cool-climate red grapes have been so well received. Wines from the four new appellations Arlanza, Arribes, Tierras de León and Tierra del Vino de Zamora will be showcased together under the regional banner of Castilla y León. Within this expansive joint presentation there will also be a few small consortiums comprising wineries active in various Spanish locations that promise to be of particular interest to specialist retailers and wholesalers. Guided Castilla y León tastings to be conducted during ProWein will shed new light on the unique offerings from this region so important to the advance of certified Spanish “Quality Wines”.

Every year, the southwestern Spanish DO of Ribera del Guadiana takes the spotlight with greater confidence. The appellation Extremadura has raised its profile tremendously thanks to two cooler seasons and their vintages in 2007 and 2008. And as far as quality goes, it’s in a stronger position than ever before. The area specialises in Tempranillo and offers excellent value for money. Fifteen winemakers are expected to turn out at the Ribera del Guadiana joint stand, where once again this year the appellation will offer an initiation into their wines in the form of guided tastings.

Sherry Lounge as a meeting point
A traditional gathering point for all those trade visitors with an interest in Spain will once again be the Sherry Lounge (Sherry information office) in Hall 6. At the lounge, you will be able to meet with, among others, the people responsible for exports at the major sherry producers. The sherry makers are considered a good barometer for the state of the Spanish wine industry. César Saldaña, who is secretary general of the regulatory council for the Jerez DO, gives every assurance that the sherry producers are well prepared for the future: “As a result of the last couple of lean years in the sherry business, the major producers have restructured and diversified, which means that they are well prepared for the years ahead. The wineries that have performed strongly in recent years will stay on track. Of course, over the long term, only the truly flexible operations will be able to hold their ground.”

Constant prices
Spain did not bring in a large harvest in 2008. With fewer than 40 million hectolitres, it lies behind Italy and France. Nevertheless, the prospect of price increases is very remote. In the light of the current economic climate as well as the available stocks, prices are unlikely to shift very much. Among regions such as DOCa Rioja and Ribera del Duero that tend to set the tone, there’s no sign of an upward trend in prices, suggesting that widespread hikes will not materialise, either. The Spanish industry is aware that due to the difficult conditions on the domestic market where, according to the adjusted figures, per capita consumption is thought to have sunk below 25 litres, only the export markets offer any real promise – and these are currently extremely sensitive to rising prices.