“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is noble, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza. “The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”

“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”

“Obviously,” replied Don Quixote, “you don’t know much about adventures.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote 

Ah, yes, destiny, fortune, and adventure.  All of us have had those dreams but most have not executed them in the same way as Don Quixote from La Mancha.  What I can share is that I had a fantastic adventure tasting wine from D.O. La Mancha at Chicago’s The Boarding House at the Discover the D.O.Wines of La Mancha event.  Noticing no windmills but true giants in the form of wine at this event, those presented at the winemaker’s seminar and the walk around tasting were the real deal and they conquered my palate with their fresh tastes and terrific price points.  Master Sommelier Erik Entrikin led the by-invitation-only seminar exploring the region via a lecture and tasting of eleven wines. Following the seminar, representatives from seventeen Spanish bodegas showcased their wide selection of white, red, rose, and sparkling wine for eager (and thirsty) sommeliers, wine retailers, journalists, and members of the trade and media. Delicious tapas pairing perfectly with the wines were provided by the reknown chefs at The Boarding House.

La Mancha is the largest wine region in the world.  It covers the central plateau of Spain including the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, and Toledo.  Of the 300,000 hectares of vineyards, only ten percent of the wines produced are approved for D.O. La Mancha wines.  The D.O. distinction is awarded to “wines that adhere to quality, source, and origin standards set by a local Control Board”.

Touted by D.O. La Mancha winemakers as “the greatest dry farming process on the planet” abundant sunshine (an average of eight hours a day of sun every day) and a dry climate are characteristics needed for optimal grape growing.  Vines enjoy 120 days of sun during the ripening period and the flat, higher altitude terrain acts as both a thermal insulator and sunlight reflector that hastens the maturity of the vines.  A layer of red-brown Miocene clay and sand with elements of chalk and limestone retain water.  Although the temperature variation from winter to summer is broad and winds blow across the plateau all year, the dry climate in La Mancha has resulted in fewer plant disease leading to a smaller amount of chemical products needed in the vineyards.  This climate allows vintners to grow a diverse variety of grapes which are produced in a wide range of styles.  And their presence is consistent and uninterrupted…meaning that these wines are always available!

What grapes are found in D.O. La Mancha?  Red grapes include Tempranillo (called Cencibel in La Mancha), Pinot Noir, Granacha, Craciano, Malbec Mencia, Merlot, Monastrell, Moravia, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Bobal.  White grapes are Airen, Moscatel, Parellada, Pedro Ximenez, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontes, Verdejo, Viognier, Macabeo, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.  Airen is still the most widely planted grape overall, but is losing ground to Tempranillo (Cencibel) which is the region’s most planted red grape.  Frankly, I was surprised to see many of these varietals on the list.  Many “maverick winemakers” are working diligently to improve the wines from this region. Working with grapes which may not be indigenous to the region but which can complement those that are is just one part of creating wines which may elevate the image of D.O. La Mancha throughout the world.

As you may expect, I had my favorite wines from the seminar and tasting!  My mini-reviews and links to each winery’s website follow.

*Bodegas Allozo Centro Espanolas Flor de Allozo Tempranillo 2010 – Tempranillo and Granacha are the grapes in this fresh blend with aromas of blackberries and dark cherries.  The chewy tannins with tastes of juicy black fruits and minerality had a lovely, balanced finish.

*Bodegas Ayuso Estola Gran Reserva 2004 – Aromas of subtle spice and red fruits including raspberries and cherries were in this 65% Tempranillo and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  Pepper, iron, minerality, more spices, and fruit could be found on the palate. Smooth with a long finish, this wine was gorgeous.

*Bodegas Illana El Pico Crianza 2009 – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Syrah combined to make an old world style wine with a light, spicy, food friendly profile.  Blueberries and blackberries, some earth notes, and herbs on the nose and palate offered a lingering finish.

*Bodegas San Antonio Abad Villa Abad Tempranillo Semi-Seco 2013 – I loved the intensity of aromas of strawberries, raspberries, and more red fruits.  Easy drinking, this fresh, juicy wine of Tempranillo can stand alone or be the foundation to your summer sangria.

*Vinicola de Tomelloso Torre de Gazate Gran Reserva 2002 – My favorite wine of the afternoon, this rich and jammy, fresh and clean 100% Cabernet Sauvignon showed deep ruby in the glass.  Spice, oak, and luscious fruit aromas led to more of the same on the palate.  With a terrific finish, this wine will be a real complement to cured cheeses and meats.

 *Dominio de Punctum Organic and Biodynamic Wines Nortesur Chardonnay 2013 – 100% Chardonnay was clean and bright in the glass.  Aromas and full flavored tastes of tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango were delightful and the fresh acidity was a true palate cleanser after so many red wines!

*Bodegas Casa Antonete Rosado 2013 – Many delicious rosés were presented at the tasting, but this was a highlight.  The rosé of Tempranillo was spicy and rich with fresh raspberries, snappy minerality, and a long, crisp finish.  This will be all you need to sip while watching the sun set from your beach chair!


When you are looking for wine at your neighborhood wine shop, consider purchasing a quality wine from D.O. La Mancha. Most of these refreshing wines are under $15 and a range of styles is always available.  Spain’s presence in the international wine market is rising quickly and wines from this region are no exception.  Have a bit of adventure without spending a fortune.  Perhaps, Don Quixote should have had wine from La Mancha – his destiny would have changed forever!

Cheers! ~ Cindy

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