Our #WorldWineTravel writers continue in Spain this month, investigating a region almost smack in the middle of the country. The land is dry, in fact often parched, with summer temperatures frequently exceeding 40 °C (104 °F). Yet they drop just as dramatically at night- sub-zero and frequent frost. This is Castilla La Mancha, the heart of the Spanish peninsula and location of one of producer Envinate’s projects.
In a nutshell…
Castilla La Mancha (La Mancha) is Europe’s largest single defined ‘quality’ region, encompassing 160,000 hectares / 469,500 acres. In addition to wine, the industry revolves around olive oil, fruit and vegetables, fresh and processed meat, cheese and dairy products.
And impressive is the area’s commitment to organics, renewable energy and the environment; solar photovoltaic and wind energy are huge, as is extensive research related to use of biomass, of which La Mancha is a large producer.
Several grapes are allowed for use including:
- RED: Tempranilla (Cencibel), Graciano, Bobal, Monastrell, Grenache, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
- WHITE: Airen, Chardonnay, Viognier, Macabeo, Torrontes, Verdejo
It is no surprise to see a project by this creative producer in La Mancha, given two of the four are from the area.
Alfonso Torrente, José Ángel Martínez, Laura Ramos and Roberto Santana met at the University of Miguel Hernandez in Alicante while studying Oenology. Their shared ‘same vision about wine’ resulted in Envínate, a wine consultancy with wine production on the side. They mostly make wine in regions they consult (and they are from), allowing easy rental of space at client bodegas.
This vision includes advocating fresh wines reflecting the soils and grape varieties of the areas sustainably. They have projects in the Canary Islands, Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra and of course La Mancha, the home of Ramos and Martinez.
You might consider them part of the next generation of winemakers. They were never in a classical box instead preferring to showcase grapes from the regions they operate with minimal intervention- no chemicals in the vineyards, wild yeast fermentation sometimes with whole clusters, and minimal sulphites added only at bottling, to name a few. Aging is in old oak barrels or casks and concrete.
Recently in San Sebastien, we dined at Gerald’s Bar specifically recommended by the restaurant Arzak sommelier. She shared they have a super wine list of small and sustainable producers. It was there we discovered the Envínate wine Albahra.
Albahra (“small sea” in Castilian) is light, fresh, and a rather sassy blend of Garnacha Tintorera and the indigenous obscure Moravia Agria, both red grapes. There is only around 50 hectares of Moravia Agria left in Spain. A higher acid grape, it adds acidity to blends. About 13,000 bottles of this wine are produced annually.
The first smell sent me to cranberry, raspberry, graphite and smoke. And the first taste to juicy red and black berries, and pepper and wet forest floor. It’s sassy because it bursts with flavors, freshness and an arc of acid that is balanced by crushed velvety tannins. We found this a high-toned (pretentiously elegant!), delicious, ‘drink now’ wine that works with many foods- wild mushrooms, seafood, and pork were on our plates that evening. I note it took several swirls to open up as it was slightly reductive. Price: €12 in Spain / about $25 in the States.
Albahra | 70% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and 30% Moravia Agria
Made in Castilla La Mancha, the Almansa and Manchuela sub-regions.
Aged eight months in concrete tanks on lees. Neither fined nor filtered and minimal sulfites added.
Are You Drinking ‘La Mancha’ Wine?
According to the Wine Scholar Guild, there are eight DOs (Designations of Origin) in Castilla La Mancha. If you see one of these DO on the label, La Mancha is in your glass!
- La Mancha DO
- Manchuela DO
- Méntrida DO
- Mondéjar DO
- Ribera del Guadiana DO
- Uclés DO
- Valdepeñas DO
- Vinos de Madrid DO
- Jumilla DO is not counted as one yet is in both Murcia and Castile-La Mancha, because the area the vineyards cover crosses the border between the two regions.
And there is also the Castilla VdT or Vino de la Tierra. Sometimes producers will use this when the wine they want to make does not fit into appellation rules.
Check out what the World Wine Travel group found in Castilla La Mancha. We’ll be chatting on Twitter at 17:00 CET, 8 am Pacific November 27th. Follow #WorldWineTravel.
- Camilla is Chasing Windmills with Tojunto + Bodegas Volver La Mancha Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2017 at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Martin is Tasting A Rare Grape Variety: The 2018 Bodegas Gratias Tardana Sol at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Jeff entices us with La Mancha by the Liter – Gulp Hablo at Food Wine Click!
- Gwendolyn is Dreaming Impossible Dreams: Tilting at Windmills withTempranillo and Verdejo from Castilla La Mancha at Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley.
- Lynn is living La Mancha Local – Wine with Project Envínate at Savor the Harvest
- Linda shares ‘Valley of Rocks’ Wine from Spain Rocks with Spanish-Style Pizza at My Full Wine Glass.
- Terri pairs Turkey Tamales and Eguren Tempranillo Vino De La Tierra De Castillo at Our Good Life.
- Deanna is having a Rock Crab Boil + a Castillan Mag in a Bag Rose at Wineivore