- one of the largest producers of wine by volume, exceeded only by France and Italy, and with more land devoted to the vine than any other country. Spain is best-known for a diverse selection of regional wines including the fortified wine sherry, red Rioja wine and its Cava sparkling wines. The Spanish wine industry has been benefiting from huge investment in winemaking technology. Stainless steel, temperature control and the legalisation of irrigation have drastically improved the prospects of Spain’s wine regions. Spain’s wine-producing regions are classified and recognised by the Denominación de Origen (DO) label, but this is now considered inadequate for high-quality wines, so a higher grade has been introduced, the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa). So far there is just one region that meets these higher standards – Rioja, in the north, Spain’s premier wine region, whose wines are predominantly red and aged in oak barrels, lending them earthy, vanilla flavours. Spain has 5 wine-producing regions, classified by the DO system. Penedès, the centre of the Cava industry; Ribera del Duero, on the banks of the River Duero in north-central Spain, rivalling Rioja in producing quality red wines; Rueda, producing white wines, mainly from the Verdejo grape; Valdepeñas, in south-central Spain, producing soft, red wines from Tempranillo (Cencibel) grapes; and Jerez, Spain’s sherry-producing region. There are two other legal descriptors for wine. Vino de la Tierra (VdlT) is not unlike France’s vin de pays and describes wine from a specific region produced according to certain local strictures. Vino de Mesa (VdM) refers to unclassified or blended wine. As in Italy, there are some very expensive wines that, falling outside the other appellations, use this lowly nomenclature. Spain has literally hundreds of grape varieties. The aromatic Tempranillo, the grape of Rioja and Spain’s most widely planted variety, is perhaps its best-known. Grenache (Garnacha) is used to make red wine in northern Spain and the white Airén, planted in La Mancha and Valdepeñas, makes light, dry wines. Palomino, the grape of sherry, is found in Jerez, as well as other parts of Spain, including Rueda. The Pedro Ximénes grape makes sweet wines and is also used in Montilla, while Macabeo (called Viura in Rioja) is used in Penedès in the making of Cava. Needless to say, as elsewhere, international varieties are increasingly to be found.