(For full article click on link. Italics and red highlighting are mine.--GD)
"For a long time, the received truth about Spain was that, despite having the world’s largest vineyard surface, its production was much smaller than that of France’s or Italy’s, due to much lower yields in a markedly drier climate. This has now changed spectacularly. The vineyard surface has shrunk since 1990 by about 100,000 hectares to just under 1.2 million, which is still far above that of France or Italy. More importantly, though, viticultural changes have increased yields exponentially, and production has crept much closer to French and Italian levels.
(Brilliant, comply with EU regulations and cut vineyard surface while increasing yields by switching to high-production clones.--GD)
During the drought years of 1994 and 1995, Spain produced, respectively, 20.995 and 20.876 million hectolitres, or about 16 hectolitres per hectare. Even in a more clement vintage such as 1996, which produced 32,675 hl, the average yield was just 24 hl/ha. But in 2006 production reached an estimated 43.448 million hl – no longer very far from the 50.000 million hl figures usually recorded by the French and the Italians – with average yields of 36 hl/ha.
The main reason for the increase in production has been the European Union-funded vineyard re-structuring scheme, started in 2000, of which Spain has been the main beneficiary. More than 140,000 ha have been replanted to date, generally to high production clones in trellised vineyards with drip irrigation, and yields of up to 100 hl/ha are not uncommon in these vineyards.
In 2004, the secretary of the Cava regulatory council, Gabriel Giró, raised the first protest against a “well-intentioned, but ill-advised” scheme that had contributed to a glut in grapes for the Spanish sparkling wine. In that year production had suddenly reached 360 million kg, 100 million kg above the average of the previous decade, due to the many new, high-yield vineyards just entering production. . .
. . . Against that backdrop, the continued reduction in consumption is even more devastating. The latest data by the Agriculture Ministry indicate that in 2006 the drop was the steepest in 16 years . . . The per capita consumption figure (in Spain) broke a new negative record. . . The figures are much lower than in the other major wine producing countries of Europe. Since 1987, when per capita consumption was 47 litres, consumption in Spain has almost halved. In both France and Portugal, Spain’s next-door neighbours, locals drink twice as much wine per capita as the Spaniards.
No serious research has yet been conducted on the causes of such a comparatively low rate of wine consumption in a traditional Mediterranean wine-producing nation, though Spanish authors have drawn comparisons with Greece, where wine’s flagging popularity is possibly caused by the dismal quality of wine produced over the past several decades. . .
(Has anyone done a study on whether the slavish production of copycat Parkerista-style wines with jammy, overripe fruit, low acid levels, high alcohol and enough new oak to build a chalet have anything to do with the turn-off in Spanish wine drinking habits? --Gerry Dawes.)
. . . While retail sales remained almost unchanged (–0.8%), this has translated into a precipitous drop of ontrade sales (–8.3% last year) as restaurant customers developed a fear of alcohol controls and the possible loss of their drivers’ licenses.
(So the wine industry, both in Spain and elsewhere, sees the impact of alcohol controls on the road and their answer is the keep wratching up alcohol levels in wines until many wines top 15% and they can't seem to grasp a relationship between high octane and falling sales!!!!--GD)
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand prize in 2009 and received the Association of Food Journalists 2009 Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.