La Mancha is a DO (Denominación de Origen) in the autonomía of Castilla-La Mancha. It is Europe’s largest demarcated region, and its DO-classified vineyards alone, less than half its total, cover more area than all of Australia’s vineyards combined.
This part of Spain has made wine for millennia. Until recently, La Mancha’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 in 2005 more than 2/3 of the grapes in this DO were red.
La Mancha is a large, sparsely-populated windy plain (a “meseta”) in the center of Spain. Windmills dot the land, recalling Miguel de Cervantes’s 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.
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, La Mancha also has a number of beautiful natural reserves. Hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding are all popular activities.
The local importance of agriculture, husbandry, and hunting are reflected in the regional cuisine. Lamb, goat, and game birds such as partridge are featured widely in hearty roasts and stews, and marinated and pickled meats and vegetables are popular as well. La Mancha’s most famous gastronomic exports are gazpacho, a cold vegetable-based soup, and Manchego, a sheep’s milk cheese.
The region’s wines are well-suited to La Mancha’s traditional roasts and stews. The local climate is hot and dry in summer and cold in winter, making it inhospitable to fungus and mold. The soil consists of red-brown sandy clay over limestone and chalk. These conditions result in rich red wines, often made of Cencibel (the local strain of Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot.