As in most fine wine regions of the world, grapes are woven inextricably through the fabric of daily life.
Castilla – La Mancha, is the heart of Spain on a high plateau is no exception. It is Spain’s largest wine region, the largest airen vineyards of the country.
Grapes thrived in Castilla – La Mancha whenMiguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, on the parched red earth of Spain’s central plain.
There is much to see and do in this vast region. It is the leading Serrano ham producer of the country. The charming town close to Madrid makes a perfect day trip; you can taste the famous Manchego cheese made exclusively from teh milk of Manchega sheep, and there are many wineries that freely and generously pour their wines for tasting.
Each region’s D. O (Denominacion Origen) regions (Almansa, Jumilla, La Mancha, Manchuela, Mentrida, Moudejar, Ribera de Jucar, Ucles, and Valdepenas) offer its own glimpse at the diversity and progress in wine making and fine gastronomy.
Only a few decades ago co-operative wineries produced much od the wine which lacked quality.
Many boutique wineries and large winery organizations from other Spanish regions invested huge sums, and planted based on scientific research, most suitable grapes and now produce remarkable quality at very reasonable cost.
Here the summers are hot with little rain and winters cold. Hot, dry summers allow grapes to grow without spraying the vines with pesticides and fungicides and the fruit ripens fully. Many of the vineyards are organic but do not advertise the fact, since they are nor certified.
While there are nine D.O regions, the more specific D.O. de Pago (single-vineyard) quality has ee n introduced of late by Marques de Grignon, and followed by Caldazilla.
Regulations allow the planting of 45 grape varieties, predominantly tempranillo. Some growers and winemakers claim tempranillo to be the most versatile and best red grape variety of Spain. Even Portuguese growers employ this variety and call it aragonez.
For white wines, the most popular varieties are – verdejo, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay. Macabeo, malvasia, albillo, malvar, torrontes, moscatel de grano menudo ( Muscat d’Alexandrie) and moscatel.
For reds, the following varieties are popular: monastrell (mourvedre in France), garnacha (Grenache in France), tintorero, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, moravia, bobal, and Moravia dulce.
Almansa produces mainly red wines using monastrell, sometimes blended with tempranillo.
Jumilla – 85 per cent of vineyards are planted to Monastrell, which produce dark, alcoholic but well balanced and deeply flavoured wines. Medium bodied whites are also produced.
La Mancha – produces both white and red wines for everyday consumption. Most of the production goes to Madrid 60 kilometres away to be sold as carafe wines by the glass of by the litre.
Manchuella – bobal is the prime red grape variety here, yielding red wines that go well with beef and game dishes.
Mentrida is famous for its garnacha-based wines. Some white wines are also produced.
Moudejar was given D.O. recognition in 1997 and ever since has improved the quality of its red and white wines.
Ribera del Jucar produces powerful dry red- and sweet white wines.
Ucles produces red wines that represent good value using mainly tempranillo.
Valdepenas has large airen vineyards and a lot of red grapes.
Airen is used mainly to distil brandy. They are aged in Jerez de la Frontera and sold as Sherry brandies.
Some wineries blend red and white wines to cerate roses but they taste less refined than their other counterparts produced elsewhere in the country.
Castilla – La Mancha wines represent excellent value because land is less expensive that anywhere else in Spain. Grapes are naturally grown in dry hot summers eliminating the need of using fungicides and pesticides.
Labour is also less expensive in this vast region than elsewhere in the country.
The wines enjoy less demand in Spain and wineries feel necessary to promote exports by pricing their products competitively.