Castilla-La Mancha is a large autonomía, or autonomous region, in the center of Spain. Castilla-La Mancha has made wine for millennia. Until recently, the region’s most recognized production was a pale red wine made from the white Airen grape and tinted with red. Beginning in the late 1990s, a conversion from white to red grapes began, and now the region is known for its dark, rich red wines.
Castilla-La Mancha is a large, sparsely-populated windy plain (a “meseta”) in the center of Spain. Windmills dot the land, recalling Miguel de Cervantes’ iconic novel The Adventures of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Agriculture is an important part of the local economy, especially cereals and saffron, and sheep and goats are widely raised.
Castilla-La Mancha has a distinct Moorish influence, which can be seen in the architecture of its major cities such as Toledo. Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its historical coexistence of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures.
Due to the low population density, Castilla-La Mancha also has a number of beautiful natural reserves. Hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding are all popular activities.
Agriculture, husbandry, and hunting are important parts of Castilla-La Mancha’s culture, and this is reflected in the local cuisine. The region’s most famous gastronomic export is the sheep’s milk Manchego cheese, and lamb, goat, and game birds such as partridge are featured widely in hearty roasts and stews. Castilla-La Mancha is also the original home of gazpacho, and marinated and pickled meats and vegetables are popular as well.
The climate in Castilla-La Mancha is hot and dry though cold in winter, making it inhospitable to fungus and mold. Its soil consists of red-brown sandy clay over limestone and chalk.
Cencibel, the local strain of Tempranillo, is widely grown in Castilla-La Mancha, as are international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. The resulting wines are well-suited to Castilla-La Mancha’s traditional roasts, stews, and famous Manchego sheep’s milk cheese.
Castilla-La Mancha contains nine Denominaciones de Origen (DOs): La Mancha, Almansa, Jumilla, Manchuela, Mentrida, Mondejar, Ribera del Jucar, Ucles, and Valdepenas.