Today, we travelled to central Spain—well, in West Hollywood. We were invited to a tasting of the wines of DO (or Denominación de Origen) La Mancha, which is Europe’s largest (in contiguous land area) wine growing region, covering the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo. With 300,000 hectares (more than 740,000 acres) of vineyards, of which just over half have been approved for DO La Mancha wines, this region is an elevated plateau directly in the center of Spain, where rainfall is scarce, summers are quite hot and winters are very cold. The Moors controlled Spain at one time in its history, and the name La Mancha was likely derived from the Arab word “al-mansha”, meaning “the dry land” or “wilderness”.
In fact, master sommelier Eric Entrikin, who gave an interesting presentation on the wines of DO La Mancha, hails the region “the most successful dry farming experiment in the world.” Eric explained that only about 30% of the area is now irrigated, permitting a one-third more yield for those engaged in the practice. The greater amount of sugar in the grapes used to result in wines of high–alcohol wines, but DO La Mancha reds now typically cluster around the neighborhood of 13.5% while the whites are in the 10–12% alcohol by volume. Since 1996, the region has reduced its emphasis on producing bulk wine (which was historically shipped all over Europe), using modern winemaking techniques to produce more high–quality wines, which can be characterized as largely organic and consistently good value to current price points. At this point, only 10% of the wine in the region is designated DO La Mancha.
During Eric’s seminar, we tasted eight reds. Like its neighbors to the north, such as Rioja and the DO Toro, La Mancha’s most popular red grape is Tempranillo (or Cencibel as it is known locally). Our favorite of the tasting was the Dominio de Punctum Uno de Mil Tempranillo–Petit Verdot (50% each), although many of the other wines were very nice.
The site of the tasting event was the Herringbone restaurant at the Mondrian Los Angeles, including the outdoor patio overlooking Los Angeles, and they served up a very good luncheon. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful; unfortunately, it was a little too hot for some of the wines sitting on the tables in the sun. Before long, however, out came more umbrellas and so—problem solved.
Once outside on the patio, we were able to taste a broader range of reds and also some very nice white wines. In addition to Tempranillo, there are over a dozen red varietals from the region, including Pinot Noir, Grenache (or Garnacha), Graciano, Malbec, Mencia, Merlot, Monastrell, Moravia (or Crujidera), Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Bobal. The most common white grape is Airen (which is largely a blending grape, although it can be—and was today—found as a standalone varietal. The white varietals we enjoyed most today were Macabeo (known elsewhere as Viura) and Verdejo. Other white grapes of the region include Moscatel, Parellada, Pedro Ximenez, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrentes, Viogner, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. We finished off the event with a mini–s’more from Herringbone with a delightful taste of the Vinicola de Tomelloso Dulce Tentatione by Gazate Tempranillo, a Tempranillo–based dessert wine. A perfect way to finish our visit to central Spain.
Disclosure: We were granted complimentary media credentials for this event.