Wine from Castilla La Mancha
The homeland of Don Quixote, that immortal sad-faced knight, is a huge high plain with gentle undulations at its edges. It is also a "sea of vines", as one illustrious visitor called it, and represents the greatest concentration of vineyards in the world.
The predominating grape variety here is the white Airen, followed by the red Cenibel, known as Tempranillo in La Rioja, whose origin is attributed to a knight called Bernard de Cîteaux, who is reputed to have brought some of the noble Burgundy variety Pinot Noir to this region.
The La Mancha plain was the winery for the Spanish Court from the 16th to the 19th century. And right up until the middle of last century, the country's finest reds and clarets were produced here.
Modern communications gave rise to a spectacular increase in wine production, to the detriment of its quality, although recent technological awareness and advances in the wineries have allowed many wines to recover a large helping of former prestige.
Areas like Valdepenas, La Mancha and Almansa today produce interesting young white wines and some reds of comparable quality - at unbeatable prices.
Wine in La Mancha
To illustrate the dominance of the Castilla La Mancha region for wine, we need only say that half of Spain's vineyards are found in this Comunidad and just under half the country's total wine production comes from La Mancha.
The region is characterised today by an ongoing commitment to bring up to date the wine production techniques and technology the wineries have been using for decades. This resulted in some very good quality wines are being produced and respected in the market place.
Apart from the Airen grape, some varieties which were in danger of disappearing altogether have been reinstated, a good example being the Cencibel variety of the Tempranillo family.
Valdepenas / Valdepeñas
Local history has produced an intense concentration of wineries. Valdepenas' problem has been the same as in other historic zones such as Italy's Chianti with the mixing of red with white grapes, which ultimately reduces the wine's conservation period.
Valdepenas red, because of the white grape's intervention, loses body if it comes into too much contact with the oak.
The low acidity on the Southern Plateau and the small reserve of tannins mean that other solutions have had to be found.
Fortunately, a considerable increase in the planting of Cencibel, Tempranillo from La Mancha and the ever-increasing varieties of red grape, give hope that positive change is hapening fast in this famous wine-growing region in the centre of Spain.