La Mancha: Spain’s Largest Wine Region

Let’s face it, when you hear someone say, “La Mancha,” you think of windmills – and a certain self-styled knight – rather than wine. It’s time to connect this region’s name not only to Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel but also to La Mancha’s wines. After all, La Mancha isn’t just Spain’s largest wine region, it’s the largest in the world.

view counter

The La Mancha DO covers about half of the Castile-La Mancha region, stretching from just east of Toledo south to Puertollano, and east to La Roda. The region is fairly flat and has a continental climate. This means that wine growers must contend with extreme temperatures as well as frequent droughts; La Mancha doesn’t get much rain because mountains encircle the region. Winters are cold, with temperatures as low as 10°F, and summers are blazing hot, with highs in the low 100’s.

It is almost impossible to look at La Mancha’s landscape without thinking of Cervantes’ hero, Don Quixote. In some respects, the area looks much as it did when Cervantes wrote his famous novel. Hilltop castles with sturdy, round towers and crenellated walls dot the landscape. Small, white clouds float across the intensely blue sky, and rows and rows of grapevines spread across the dry plains. You can visit a line of windmills near Campo de Criptana and imagine the Don himself, attacking these towers and muttering about giants. There’s even a Don Quixote Route you can travel, which bills itself as Europe’s “longest eco-tourism route,” according to Spain’s official tourism website.

Like Don Quixote, La Mancha’s wines are an integral part of the region’s history. You can take the La Mancha Wine Route (“Ruta del vino de La Mancha”) to see the entire DO, or stop by a bodega or two to experience wine production and tasting from start to finish. With approximately 300 wineries to choose from, you won’t have much trouble finding a tasting opportunity. Some wineries prefer that you call in advance to set up an appointment, while others are closed on Sundays, so it’s best to telephone the winery before you arrive.

La Mancha produces red, rosé and white wines, with whites predominating. Airén is planted in approximately 80% of La Mancha’s vineyard acreage. Macabeo, the next most popular white wine grape, trails far behind at about 1% of planted acreage. Red wine grapes include cencibel (also known as tempranillo), 12%, and garnacha, 3%.