The wine region of Andalucia, Spain, wines, Andalucia, Andalusia, Spain
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Wine in Spain - Castilla y Leon Wine

The very origins of Spain's history as a modern nation can be found in this ancient land north-northwest of the capital Madrid. It is a large region made up of nine provinces. Previously known as Old Castile, it is a mix of flat and open plains girded by chains of hills and mountains, and home to some of Spain's finest historical heritage. The region is traversed by the graceful Duero River which has acquired international fame for nurturing the great Port wines in Portugal where the watercourse is known as the Douro. Back in Spain, the Duero has long been a friend of Spanish wine and has recently played protagonist to some of Spain's most influential and cutting-edge regions.

   

For the most part, Castilla y León's fame falls heavily on its red wine, though it also boasts a very important white wine region. In fact, maybe we could start right there. The region is called D.O. Rueda and it is located smack in the heart of Castilla y León (in the province of Valladolid).

 

Up until the 1970s, Rueda's reputation rode heavily on a kind of sherry-style wine which travellers would pick up on their way to and from Madrid. Apparently they were not especially delicate vinos and with the passing of years they drifted far from the modern taste for lighter wine.

 

 

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That was the case until a few key wineries made the switch to less alcoholic whites based on the local grape called Verdejo. In the last few years, Sauvignon Blanc has responded with spectacular results too. Now Rueda has become Madrid's standard white wine, an incredible feat considering how young this region is. Probably the best news is that, so far, the fame hasn’t gone to its head, and the prices are still pretty friendly. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Getting down to the meaty reds, first mention goes to D.O. Ribera del Duero. A huge producer during the Middle Ages, as recently as 1970s this region had so little to hope for the grape growers themselves were actually ripping up thousands of acres of vines as if they were weeds. “No future!” they said. No future, indeed! Spain's most revered winery, the untouchable Vega Sicilia, was located in those parts, obviously good wine could be made there if the producers put their minds, hearts and money to it. And that’s just what happened. In little more than twenty years, Ribera has turned itself into one of the titans of the Spanish wine world. The reason is simple: its unquestionable quality. The culprit here is a grape called Tinto Fino, alias Tinta Fina, alias Tinto del País, alias Tinta del País. its all Tempranillo. It’s the grape responsible for the fruity young reds as well as the complex, alluring aged wine. The rise to stardom has also meant a very sharp increase in their price, unfortunately making many of these wines a special occasion order rather than a daily joy, but the young bottles are still relatively reasonable. More often than not, the quality and elegance of the crianzas and reservas justify the cost. Any “bottled” visit to Spain's new wine look requires a stop at this exceptional wine-producing land.

 

Another up-and-coming region is D.O. Toro. The word "Toro" means "bull" and it aptly describes the robust character of these reds of yore. The wine charged at you like a snorting beast bursting out onto the bullring! The word actually refers to a town by the same name in the province of Zamora. The river Duero softly drifts by and bathes the lands with just the right moisture for growing grapes. The fruit of choice? Tinta de Toro, alias, you guessed it, Tempranillo. Well, not exactly Tempranillo, say some, but close enough. The winemakers in the area have toned down the rugged nature of their wine, and what they have come up with is something extraordinary. Full-bodied and full of character, but not overwhelming.

Switching directions, we find another region with a longstanding tradition for reds, but of a very different kind: young and fruity ones made from the grape Mencía, a variety with characteristics similar to those of Cabernet Franc. The region is called D.O. Bierzo and its a fertile valley hidden away in the north-western reaches of Castilla y León. It is slowly but surely coming of age. Just a couple of years ago, no one would have guessed that, but now some of Spain's most renowned winemakers have moved in to take a stab. Mencías are intense and lively wines, mostly designed for early consumption. Whites made from Godello are also available.


Most wine regions in Castilla y León make some rosé, but D.O. Cigales is what comes to mind when one thinks of these very aromatic and fruity blushes. New more intense versions are especially exciting and a refreshing solution to warm weather meals. Cigales has also made a strong bet on the future of its reds, which appeal to a wider market. The most recent reports have been nothing less than encouraging.

There is also a handful of minor regions harbouring many “independent” wineries which have gained notoriety in the international market. Most notable of all are probably V.T. Castilla y León and V.T. Tierra de León. Similar names, separate regions.

Castilla y León is definitely wine country, there is no doubt. And though it may not have returned to centre stage until recently, one gets the feeling its heritage is as old as the hills.

Feature written by Brian Murdock, author of the book "
Let's Open a Bottle". You can contact Brian at murflo@eresmas.net

 
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