From its origins to the Reconquest
It is unclear precisely where vines were first cultivated in Spain or who brought winemaking techniques to the Iberian peninsula. Various sources believe the first vineyards were cultivated on the southwest coast of Andalusia, which may also have been the entrance point for the first vines reaching the peninsula.
This seems to be the most likely theory, particularly given the presence of the Phoenicians there approximately 3,000 years ago. They were a trading culture and founded a port in the southwest, which they called Gadir (now Cádiz). Later they moved inland, founding another city they called Xera (now Jerez), where they planted vines in the surrounding hills. The warm climate enhanced the strong, sweet nature of the wines, allowing them to stand up well to long journeys. By the early Christian era this factor, combined with the deeply rooted commercial spirit of the Phoenicians, made Spanish wines one of the most frequently traded products in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
The Romans continued to produce wine on the peninsula, introducing their own particular techniques over time - for example, the addition of resins and aromatic essences, and ageing in small clay amphorae in sunlit attic areas or next to chimneys. According to contemporary accounts these wines acquired fruity and floral aromas and flavours, and a much-appreciated smoky taste. The need to supply the vast empire and its legions with wine contributed to building up Hispania's already notable wine trade.
The decline of the Roman Empire and invasion of Hispania by northern barbarian tribes brought wine making in Spain to a temporary halt, although the subsequent arrival of the Visigoths counteracted this influence. Due to their contact with the Romans in the outlying provinces of the Empire, the Visigoths placed great significance on winemaking.
The arrival of the Arabs in the 8th century slowed the development of winemaking as the Koran prohibited the consumption of fermented and alcoholic drinks. Despite this religious prohibition, the cultivation of vineyards continued and even prospered under Moslem rule even if they were reoriented to the production of grapes or non-fermented must. Certain dynasties were liberal in their treatment of the dominated Christians and allowed them to continue cultivating vineyards and making wine, particularly in the monasteries.