There are various trends in evidence in the Spanish wine sector. First of all, on the producers’ side the market is more segmented and/or differentiated than in the previous decade. Alongside large and medium-sized operations there is a new line-up of small winegrowers that address niche markets with very limited quantities of wine specialities. Never before has the Spanish world of viniculture been presented in a more differentiated and versatile manner than over the past three years. It can be said without reservation that these small individualists are the winners of the crisis.
Trend: Sustainability at Vineyards
Another trend are organic wines. Wines from organically certified cultivation are up and coming. Spain managed to substantially expand its certified growing areas last year and now ranks first worldwide with 58,000 ha. Also percentage-wise the country is rising to the very top. Considering a growing area of 852,000 ha the proportion accounted for by organic cultivation amounts to 6.8% – a percentage only exceeded by Austria. Experts expect the Spanish organic wine-growing areas to continue growing strongly since an impressive number of vineyards is undergoing changeover. Growth is also being posted by the biodynamic experts. At this year’s ProWein visitors should therefore keep their eye on producers focusing on sustainability. Incidentally, the strongest region for organic wine is the Greater Region of Castilla-La-Mancha situated south of Madrid which boasts 30,000 ha, followed by 10,700 and 5,500 ha in Murcia and Valencia, and Catalonia with 4,500 ha and Extremadura in the South West with 1,750 ha.
Fewer grapes harvested due to heat and mildew but with healthy-to-the-core grapes
The 2011 grape harvest in Spain was characterised by two crucial factors. On the one hand, abundant precipitation in spring caused mildew in several major areas, which in turn entailed losses in yield. On the other, the extreme dryness that followed right after this impacted the vegetation cycle and ripeness. With the exception of Galicia almost all Spain’s growing regions suffered a dry phase of fourth months. This means less volume in total and a very healthy, though not always analytically balanced harvest due to sometimes high Oechsle values. Since the Greater Region of Castilla-La-Mancha as a rule accounts for half Spain’s total output, the mildew-related lower yield in La Mancha must be seen as the main reason for the lower total output. The Spanish harvest of must and wine totals 38 million hl in 2011.
The author David Schwarzwälder is Spain correspondent for the magazines Weinwirtschaft, Weinwelt, Sommelier Magazin (Meininger Verlag) and also writes articles for the Feinschmecker, Weingourmet and various Spanish journals.
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