The autonomous province of Castilla-La Mancha lies in central Spain, and is bordered by Castilla y León, Madrid, Aragon, Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia, and Extremadura. It is known as the setting for Don Quixote's Spanish novel.
Castilla-La Mancha is the powerhouse of the Spanish wine industry, producing almost half of Spain's vinous output, from a range of grape varieties: Albillo, Parellada, Torrontés, Moscatel, Merseguera, Pardilla, Macabeo (Viura), the local Malvar and the prolific Airén for easy-drinking, crisp, squeaky-clean whites. Tempranillo (locally known as Cencibel) Garnacha Tinta, the local Moravia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Monastrell are used principally for reds and rosado (rosé) wines.
Castilla-La Mancha incorporates the following DO appellations with various winemaking traditions and varying degrees of success: the heavyweights of La Mancha and Valdepeñas, and the lesser-known Almansa, Ribera del Júcar, Méntrida and Manchuela. Since the late 1990s, the local wine industry has progressed in leap and bounds to become a source of modern-styled, easy-drinking, excellent value for money wines.
La Mancha is the biggest wine region in Spain, producing over 700,000 hectoliters of wine annually. It occupies the southern portion of the Castilla-La Mancha region just south of Madrid, stretching between the Montes de Toledo and the western spurs of the Cerros de Cuenca.
Since the early 1990s, wines from this arid, windswept, 600-metre-high plateau have left behind their (often literally) murky, bland and poor-quality past, and been reinvented as progressive, modern and good value. A driving force in La Mancha's remarkable transformation has been the involvement of wineries from Spain's finest wine regions, who have injected considerable amounts of money into the area. These pioneers include Ribera del Duero's Alejandro Fernández (El Vinculo), Martinez Bujanda (Finca Antigua) and the maverick owner of Marqués de Griñon, Carlos Falco, from Rioja, and the Jerez/Sherry behemoths Osborne and González Byass.
Wines range from fruity, approachable, value-for-money examples (often made in high volumes to individual specifications from supermarkets and large retailers) to top quality, expressive, serious wines made in small quantities, often using experimental techniques and bespoke varietal clones.
Wines range from fruity, approachable, value-for-money examples (often made in high volumes to individual specifications from supermarkets and large retailers) to top-quality, expressive, serious wines made in small quantities, often using experimental techniques and bespoke varietal clones.
The reds are typically firm, ripe and fruity with a nice balance of toasty oak. They are made principally from Tempranillo (aka Cencibel), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Monastrell. The most common white varieties are Airén, Albillo, Macabeo, Merseguera and a little Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The whites show a wonderfully clean, modern character with subtle flavours and frequently offer excellent value.
Castilla-La Mancha is also home to Dominio de Valdepusa and Finca Élez, two of Spain's ‘private wine regions’, called Vinos de Pago DO (Denominación de Pago) that refer to single-estate wineries, each with their own rules and regulations. The classification of Pago was created in 2003 and bestows DO status on outstanding single estates, even if they are located outside an existing DO area.
Recommended Producers: El Vinculo (Alejandro Fernández)