Castilla-La Mancha is a region located in central Spain and is the stomping ground of the famous literary figure, Don Quixote. In fact, wines produced in Castilla-La Mancha now print the bust of Don Quixote with the words "Vinos de la Espana de Don Quixote" on the bottles. About two thirds of Spain's vineyards are located here, but until recently the wine produced was not of high quality. That has all changed in the last few years.
Historically, the region was Castilla La Nueva, but today, the area is called Castilla-La Mancha, and it is one of Spain's Autonomias, or Autonomous Communities. A hot, dry area of open plains that covers about 30,000 square miles (almost 16% of Spanish territory), including the provinces of Toledo, Guadalajara, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Albacete. It is Spain's largest wine-producing region, with over 600 wineries, and 9 D.O.'s: Jumilla, Manchuela, Ribera del Júcar, Uclés, La Mancha, Méntrida, Mondéjar, Valdepeñas and Almansa. These wines have become popular, and are of good quality, being exported around the world.
For an interactive map of the Castilla-La Manacha region, check the Castilla La Mancha Tourism Official Web Site.
Grape varieties grown in the region of Castilla-La Mancha include:
- White Varieties: Airen, Viura and Macabeo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Riesling, Parellada, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Pedro Ximénez and Torrontes.
- Red Varieties: Cencibel or Tempranillo, Garnacha, Moravia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah., Petit Verdot, Monastrell, Bobal, Graciano, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Pinot Noir and Mencia.
Denominations of Origin
Below is a list of the D.O.'s located in Castilla-La Mancha, including a short summary of the types of wines produced and grape varieties grown.
- Almansa: This DO is located in the southeast area, where the high central "meseta" starts its descent down toward the Valle de Vinalopó. Its vineyards still average 750 meters in altitude, and the climate is extremely dry. Primarily red wines. Traditionally Monastrell grape has been grown and wine from it is produced. However, many times the Monastrell is mixed with Tempranillo.
- Jumilla: Arid, sunny conditions in the southeast area of Castilla-La Mancha are perfect for Monastrell grapes. So, it's no surprise that about 85% of vineyards planted with Monastrell, however Garnacha, Tintora, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are also produced. White wines are made from Airen and Macabeo grapes.
- La Mancha: This is Spain's largest DO, and it's border is only 40 miles from the capital, Madrid. Although it continues to produce traditional white wines from Airen, Macabeo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc,the Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon show promise. The Regulatory Council for D.O. La Mancha has an informative and attractive web site, which includes everything from general information about the region and its' wines, as well as a page describing the "secrets of wine tasting."
- Manchuela: To the east of La Mancha and Ribera del Jucar sits Manchuela. It is closer to the Mediterranean Sea, sitting at high altitudes and receiving winds from the east. Summer temperatures here are cool, and the native grape is called Bobal. Chardonnay, Macabeo, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo makes up the whites. Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot and Monastrell are the red grapes.
- Mentrida: This DO is located in the northwest part of the Toledo province, and is bordered to the north by Avila and Madrid. Its' climate is continental, with scarce rainfall and big temperature swings. Young roses and reds are produced here, with garnacha and tempranillo grapes.
- Mondejar: Officially recognized as a D.O. in 1997, wine has been produced in this region for for over four centuries. Located in the southwest area of the province of Guadalajara, approximately 40 miles east of Madrid, it is on the way to Valencia. Young red wines are produced here from tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon grapes.
- Ribera del Jucar: Located between the DOs of La Mancha and Manchuela, southeast of Madrid. This D.O. was only recognized in 2003, created by a combination of wine cooperatives in the province of Cuenca. Full reds are predominantly produced here from tempranillo and bobal grapes. Moscatel de grano menudo is the principal white grape of the region.
- Ucles: Centered around the city of Ucles, areas of the provinces of Cuenca and Toledo form part of this D.O., which was recognized in 2005. In order to maintain high quality wines, vines less than 6 years old cannot contribute to the red wines of Ucles, while vines 1 year old can contribute to white wines. Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Garnacha are the principal red grapes, while Verdejo, Chardonnay, Moscatel de grano menudo, Sauvignon Blanc and Macabeo are the principal white grapes.
- Valdepenas: A wine-producing area since ancient times, Valdepenas was recognized as a D.O. in 1932. Traditionally, it makes blends of red and white grapes, creating rosados or light reds. The principal whites are Airen, Macabeo and Chardonnay, while principal reds are tempranillo, garnacha, cabernet sauvignon and Merlot.