Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Overview of Wines in Spain, 1882

Excerpted from "Spain", 1882, by Rev. Wentworth Webster, M.A. This is a brief overview of Spanish wine regions of the time.

The productions of the northern zone vary greatly according to elevation and exposition. Those of the Basque Provinces still belong to the north temperate zone climate—cattle, corn, and cider, as well as wine. The olive, and the mulberry for silk, are almost unknown; but maize is largely grown. As we approach Catalonia these products give way to those of the Mediterranean region of Provence and of the Riviera—the olive, the grape, the mulberry.

A powerful red wine is made on the lower southern spurs of the Pyrenees and of the Cantabrian Mountains, in the Riojas, in Navarre, and in Aragon. Much of it would be excellent if more attention were paid to the preparation, and especially to the conditions of transport. Great quantities are at present exported to France by sea from Bilbao and San Sebastian, and also by rail, for the purpose of mixing with the thinner and poorer clarets of Bordeaux, to fit them for the taste and market of England.

In Catalonia the wine improves, and is less used for mixing. The chief kinds are a red wine, like Rousillon, and sweet, luscious wines, Rancio, somewhat like Muscat or Malaga. Of late the manufacture of effervescing wines like champagne has been carried on with considerable success. The wine made in Catalonia amounts to one-fifth of the whole produce of Spain. Already the orange and the palm appear.

In other regions the wines are equally celebrated, from the strong red wines of Benicarlo, near the frontiers of Catalonia, to the sweet wines of Alicante and of Malaga, which are preferred by Continental taste to the drier and more fiery sherries, wines of the Guadalquiver valley, which please the English palate. Near the coast on the lower grounds, wherever there is sufficient water, rice is grown; but, on account of the unhealthy character of the cultivation, its culture is forbidden in the neighbourhood of towns.