Wine-growing in Spain has an ancient tradition, as vines were already cultivated 3000 years before Christ. The Phoenicians founded the city of Gadir (Cádiz) around 1100 B.C. and carried on lively trade in wine in the Mediterranean. The first flourishing was in 200 B.C., because the Romans loved the wine from Baetica (Andalusia). The development was stopped by the invasion of the Moors in 711. For religious reasons the Muslims cleared large parts of the vineyards or only allowed the production of raisins. They brought with them the art of distillation, but this was not used for alcoholic drinks, but essential oils, as perfumes and fragrances. Only after 700 years did the Christians succeed in reconquering and with the advance to the south they planted new vineyards. As in many other countries, it was mostly Catholic monastic orders who planted vines near their monasteries for the preparation of mass wine. In the following centuries, viticulture developed into an important economic and export branch. From the beginning of the 16th century, the conquistadors brought huge quantities of wine to the newly discovered America. The Spaniards planted European vines in many areas and thus initiated viticulture on this continent, especially in Central and South America. They thus made a significant contribution in many countries of the New World.
In the second half of the 19th century phylloxera also invaded Spain and destroyed most of the vineyards. But Rioja was spared for the time being and when the pest reached this area at the beginning of the 20th century, most of the vineyards were already planted with grafted vines. The French were no longer able to meet the demand for wine in their own country due to the vineyards destroyed by phylloxera. At first, French merchants bought large quantities of wine in Spain, but later many French winegrowers emigrated to Spain and started to grow wine. Their sophisticated cellar technology has had a lasting influence on viticulture to this day.
In the early 1930s there was political unrest. These finally led to the Spanish Civil War and ended in 1939 with the victory of the nationalists under General Franco. During this period, large areas of vineyards and many cellars were destroyed. After the opening of the borders and accession to the European Union in 1986, a new start was made in Spanish viticulture. From the 1960s onwards, a great boom began with the original Spanish wines Rioja and Sherry. Today Spain is one of the most dynamic wine countries in the world. In 2012, the area under vines covered 1.017 million hectares, of which 31.1 million hectolitres of wine were produced. This puts Spain at the absolute top of the world ranking and it is constantly jostling for first place with Italy and France (see also under Wine Production Volumes).
Spain is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. The western mountain ranges are mostly composed of metamorphic and crystalline rock. The most common is slate, the parent rock of the country's best vineyards. It is found mainly on the Catalan coast, in the Priorato highlands, in the Rioja region and in the Douro port wine region. In the coastal regions light, sometimes sandy soils dominate. In the Jerez sherry region the strongly calcareous Albariza soil is found. The Canary Islands on the other hand are of volcanic origin. The country is criss-crossed by a number of large river veins that provide water for the vineyards and, like all waters, have a positive influence on viticulture. These are mainly Ebro and Duero in the north, the Tajo (Tagus) in the west, the Guadiana in the south and Júcar and Turia in the east.
Spain is divided into three major climate zones. In the so-called "green Spain" in the north with Aragon, Asturias, Basque Country, Galicia, Cantabria, Catalonia, Navarra and La Rioja there is a high amount of precipitation with hot summers and cold winters. In the centre is the extensive central plateau Meseta (Tableland) with the regions of Extremadura and La Mancha. It is characterized by extremely hot summers, very cold winters and low rainfall. The third zone is the coastal strip with southern Catalonia, the Levant and Andalusia. Here sea breezes soothe the hot summers, but there is also little rain.
A new classification system with controlled designation of origin was introduced in 1970, based on Italian and French wine legislation. Around half of the vineyard area has DO status to date. About 70% of the Spanish production are simple consumer wines. Above the quality designation "Denominación de Origen" is the name of the DO (for example Alicante, Ribera del Guadiana or Tarragona), only for the sparkling wine Cava and for Sherry there is an exception, the names speak for themselves. The regions with their areas classified as DO, DOCa or Vino de Pago