• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Spain becomes world's biggest wine producer

AFP · 19 Mar 2014, 09:10

Published: 19 Mar 2014 09:10 GMT+01:00

The massive crop vaulted Spain to the world's biggest wine producer, forcing its vintners to compete abroad in a tough market to sell off the surplus.

Spain overall produced 50 million hectolitres (6.7 billion bottles) of wine in 2013, a 41 percent surge from 2012, the Spanish agriculture ministry says.

The ministry's figure for Spanish production exceeds the estimates from the Italian and French wine industries for their own production — 47 million and 42 million hectolitres respectively.

The definitive production figures from the International Organisation of Wine and Vine are published in May. But if confirmed, they would give Spain another industry to look to for exports to build a lasting recovery from the burst property bubble that has hobbled the economy since 2008.

Even Rafael del Rey, director of the Spanish Wine Market Observatory, admitted he found it "most surprising" that Spain leapt ahead to become the top wine producer in the world in 2013.

While weather helped -- last summer the country enjoyed the usual sunny weather plus enough rain to really water the vines — the rise in Spanish production is also the result of a drive to increase productivity.

"We have spent many years investing in improving the vineyards", said del Rey.

Twenty five years ago, Spanish vineyards had average yield of 17 hectolitres per hectare -- "very low", said Roca. But in recent years the yield has reached about 50 hectolitres per hectare.

Older, less productive vines have been torn up and vineyards made more efficient by replacing handpicking with machines where possible.

"The vineyards' productivity has improved noticeably," del Rey said.

 A euro a bottle 

But one problem for winemakers is that Spanish drinkers, who generally prefer a cold beer on their sunny terraces, are not keeping pace with the surge.

"Apart from Norway, Spain is the country with the lowest wine consumption per capita in Europe," said Pau Roca, secretary general of the Spanish Wine Federation.

While just eight years ago, wine made in Spain was mostly drunk there, according to del Rey, now it is mostly exported.

"In the past two years, Spain has been exporting more than double the amount of wine it consumes," he said.

The experience of the Jesús del Perdón cooperative, nestled in the Castile-La Mancha region whose windmills and castles are the setting for Miguel de Cervantes's classic novel "Don Quixote", is typical.

The group of 682 producers in the central Spanish region exported just 20 percent of its output a decade ago. Now 86 percent goes abroad.

Exporting is not always an easy option for vineyards, however.    

While Castile-La Mancha accounts for over half of the country's wine production, the region's producers must fight to distinguish themselves from better-known names in Spanish wine such as La Rioja and Cava.

"Unfortunately, wine from our region is still not sufficiently appreciated, especially in the foreign market," said the cooperative's viticulturist, Jorge Martinez.

Story continues below…

And competition at the lower end of the market is fierce.   

Spanish wine generally sells for half the price of French and the vintners of Castile-La Mancha have to keep their prices especially low.

Martinez said the range of 11 bottles the cooperative produces under its own brand sell for between one and six euros ($8.30) per bottle.

While growing output and need to export pose challenges for Spanish vineyards, it is an opportunity for the government which is counting on exports to drive economic recovery.

With the economy having contracted more than five percent since the property bubble burst in 2008, Spanish firms have been looking abroad for sales and the country's exports hit a record high last year.

The government expects the economy will grow by 1.0 percent this year, after having contracted in four out of the past five years.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spanish police smash Chinese immigration ring
The Chinese nationals paid the ring about €8,000 to get a fake work contract. Photo: Cristina Quicler /AFP

Spanish police said Saturday they had smashed a major ring allegedly providing Chinese nationals living illegally in the country with fake contracts as domestic staff so they could get residency permits.

Gallery
10 super Spanish drinks everyone should try
Photo: Ignacio Palomo Duarte/Flickr

While we've all been tempted by the Spanish holiday classic of a chilled glass of sangria, Spain has much more to offer when it comes to tantalizing tipples.

Property
Buy your own Mediterranean island paradise for just €5m

Got a spare €5 million? Then this Mediterranean island paradise could be yours.

Vamos a la playa! These are Spain's top ten beaches
Playa de Ses Illetes, Formentera, Europe's best beach. Photo:Photo: Ismail Mia/Flickr

Spain has five beaches in Europe's top ten. The Local gives you a tour.

Spanish economy continues to grow despite lack of govt
Photo: Contando Estrelas/Flickr

Spain's economic growth continued in the second quarter even as the country remains mired in political limbo after two inconclusive general elections.

Shocking video shows torture of young calf during fiesta
Cruelty in the name of fun? Photo: Pacma

Bullfighting fiestas reached a new low with the torture of a young calf.

Ethan Hawkes to be honoured with San Sebastián award
Ethan Hawke in the Magnificent Seven

The Hollywood actor will be given the Donastia lifetime achievement at the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival.

Gallery
The ten most weird (and wonderful) museums in Spain
Photo: Courtesy of the Museum of Funeral Carriages.

Spain is home to some of the finest museums in the world, but it also boasts some of the most bizarre.

Spanish court bars top Eta figure from Basque elections
The Basque separatist leader in San Sebastian. Photo: AFP

Arnaldo Otegi, once jailed for terrorism charges, has been barred from standing in Basque elections.

Spanish town warns against texting while crossing roads
The warnings now appear at crossings in Talavera de la Reina in Spain.

It might seem entirely obvious to most, but it seems some people need to be told that looking at your phone while crossing a busy road can prove dangerous.

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Police launch appeal for Costa Blanca hit and run driver
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Politics
What political deadlock? Spain economy forges ahead
Features
Eight reasons to spend your gap year exploring Spain
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
International
'We won't ban burqinis on our beaches' insists Barcelona
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
British dad drowns saving daughter on red flagged beach
National
11 Spanish words that English must adopt right now
Lifestyle
Justin Bieber just bought an amazing new pad in Lanzarote
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Recipe: How to make Andalusian Ajo Blanco soup
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Travel
Ten touristy types you'll meet in Spain: Which one are you?
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
Ten top tips to avoid looking like a guiri when in Spain
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
International
Don't miss this spectacular meteor shower over Spain
Travel
Desperate Ryanair passenger chases after missed flight
Travel
What's on in Spain: August 2016
National
Get your kit off! Spain's ten best nudist beaches
National
German firestarter blames blaze on 'toilet paper mishap'
National
Flashmob prank sparks 'terror attack' panic in Spanish resort
Culture
Croquemon Go: Spain invents twist on game to 'eat 'em all'
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
National
Spanish parents fight for right to name their son 'Wolf'
National
Beach closed after shark attack in southern Spain
National
Spain ups security at tourist spots as terrorism fears grow
National
Ten great reasons to discover the real Malaga right now
3,196
jobs available