The Wines of Asturias – Part 1
For a long time, Spanish wine suffered a bad reputation compared to Italian and French vintages. This was partly because during the 1960s right up to the 2000s Spain exported its secondary wines, preferring to keep its best wines for home consumption. Also, the wines found in the tourist areas around the Costas was often inferior table wines that were thought good enough for tourist consumption.
Today the best Spanish wines are not made for vast production unlike other wine producing areas, Spain used to be geared up to make average wine for mass export, but no longer. Instead the best Spanish wines are made regionally and mostly for home consumption. Asturias is no different, it produces quality wine in relatively small quantities. The local terrain of high-mountain vineyards produces wine under the Cangas Quality Wine designation, and are mostly produced in the southwest of Asturias.
The Culture of Wine in Asturias
Wine making and viticulture in this region of Spain can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the first monasteries began to appear in Europe. The monks used terracing as a way of cultivating vines on the mountains, which was a great way to irrigate the grapes as well as maximizing the sunlight. Asturias has a fairly mild climate which allows for the growing of grapes in high altitudes, but this does limit production quantity. The culture of wine growing that started with the monasteries continues to this very day as it has been passed down from generation to generation.
Vinos de Calidad de Cangas
These wines are among the best that are produced in the region, they include Bodegas Anton Chicote, Vinos La Muriella, Bodegas Monasterio de Corias, Bodega Vidas, and Bodega Chacon Buelta. The wines of Asturias are Atlantic wines and are similar to wines of Galicia and northern Portugal. The terroir is mostly slate in this part of northern Spain and together with the cool climate all adds together to make fresh wines which have good natural acidity and can be aged well.
Their strength is average around 12% to 13% and the wines have a very fruity taste to them. The grape varieties are quite unique, and this makes for quite original wine that is only made in small batches. As a consequence, these wines are highly sought after in certain wine sectors for their uniqueness, originality and difference.
Wine production in Asturias has been termed as Heroic Viticulture by certain wine buffs around the world. In this area of Spain wine is embedded in the culture and tradition of the people, the wine calendar rules the lives of many Asturians. Because the Asturias vineyards are located in small plots and often in inhospitable places, the keeping and harvesting of the vines is not easy. Hence the phrase heroic viticulture or mountain viticulture, as some of the slopes the vineyards are situated on are at a maximum of 30 degrees.
This does not allow for machinery, so wine production is as it was centuries ago and done by hand. This labor-intensive production does lead to the wines being of really good quality hence why they are so sought after. We continue of journey through the Asturias vineyards in part two of this blog.