Spain had ca. 1 million hectares of land occupied by vineyards in 2012, the largest of any country. Yet only a quarter of a century ago, this figure was 50% greater (1.5 million ha). As the national vineyard continues to evolve, which of the country’s regions are winners (expanding) and which are losers (decreasing)?
In the second half of the 20th century Spanish winegrowers faced the twin threat of decreasing per capita wine consumption at home and increasing competition from New World producers in export markets. Domestic wine consumption went from ca. 60 litres per capita per annum in 1980 to about half that figure by the end of the century. Demand for table wines were particularly hard hit as Spanish consumers turned their attention to quality wines. With vineyard yields and wine stocks increasing, whilst prices were falling, Spain began to reduce the size of its vineyard in 1980. With Spain’s entry into the EU in 1986, it became subject to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which then subsidised vine-pulls, especially for lower quality vines. All these factors contributed to not only the overall shrinking of Spain’s national vineyard, but for those vineyard areas outside of Denmonación de Origen Protegida (DOP) regions to be disproportionately affected.
Since 1990 Spain’s total DOP vineyard area has remained roughly constant at ca. 600,000 ha. Yet within this space there has been much jockeying for position, reflecting the ease, or otherwise, of commercialising the wines from a particular DOP. The greatest vineyard losses in the 21st century have been in La Mancha DOP (down by ca. 31,000 ha) and Jumilla DOP (down by ca. 18,000 ha). A number of much smaller DOPs have lost between a third and a half of their vineyard area including Alicante, Méntrida, Montilla-Moriles, Calatyud and Condado de Huelva.
Those DOPs that have been able to significantly increase their size in the 21st century are presumably enjoying a greater than average commercial success. They include well known DOPs such as Rioja (+ ca. 5,500 ha), Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Rias Baixas and Priorat. Yet the greatest vineyard gain in the 21st century has been at Extremadura’s less well known Ribera del Guadiana DOP (+ ca. 18,000 ha), Only established as a DOP in 1999, Ribera del Guadiana’s success appears to based on vinifying Tempranillo in a fruity “New World” style.