Spain is the most widely planted wine producing nation, but it is only the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest being Italy and France.
This is due, in part, to the very low yields and wide spacing of the old vines planted on the dry, infertile soil found in many Spanish wine regions.
The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 600 varieties planted throughout Spain, though 80 per cent of the country's wine production is from only 20 grapes, including Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo,Cariñena and Monastrell.
Major Spanish wine regions include the Rioja and Ribera del Duero which are known for their Tempranillo production. Jerez, the home of the fortified wine Sherry. Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which includes the Cava and still wine producing regions of the Penedèsas well the Priorat region.
Spanish wines are often labeled according to the amount of ageing the wine has received.When the label says vino joven ("young wine") or sin crianza, the wines will have undergone very little, if any, wood ageing .Others will benefit from some time ageing in the bottle.
For the vintage year to appear on the label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must be from that year's harvest.
The three most common ageing designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.
Crianza whites androsés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.
Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak.
Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.
Gran Reserva red wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years ageing, 18 months of which in oak.
Gran Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 4 years with at least 6 months in oak.