Castilla - La Mancha wine region

Castilla - La Mancha
More than half of all Spain’s grapes are grown in this large region, lying south and east of Madrid.  This has less to do with the land’s suitability for vines than its unsuitability for anything else.  Few other crops can survive the hot dry summers, long freezing winters and nutrient-poor soils.
 
Even among vines, only the hardiest varieties can withstand the arid conditions.  The white Airén, Spain’s most planted variety, dominates due to its drought tolerance, high yields and low maintenance needs.  Unfortunately it produces rather characterless and acidic wine, much of which gets distilled into Spanish brandy.  Traditionally it was also blended with black grapes like Tempranillo (known here as Cencibel) to produce pale reds, especially in the DOs of La Mancha and Valdepeñas, but this is now on the wane.
 
Throughout the region Airén has been replaced by black grapes, including international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, to such an extent that two-thirds of the wine produced for drinking (rather than distillation) is now red.  Valdepeñas in the south has become a reliable source of low-priced, juicy reds from Tempranillo and international varieties, while also containing pockets of excellence like Dominio de Valdepusa, the first estate in Spain to be awarded its own DO.
 
In the very far south-east, spanning the border into the Murcia region, the Jumilla DO has developed a repution for full-bodied reds from Monastrell (Mourvèdre), which makes up 85% of the vineyards here.
 
The huge La Mancha DO, with more vineyard area than Australia, continues to languish, though there are some signs of revival.  It’s not as big as it used to be, either. In 2000 its eastern portion became the new DO of Manchuela, in recognition of the distinct, limestone-rich soils and the different varieties (chiefly Bobal and Albilla) that are grown on them.
 

Decanting Club wines from: Castilla - La Mancha

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