The Wines from the land of Don Quixote

23, August | 25 Comments
The Wines from the land of Don Quixote

La Mancha is not only famous for Don Quixote. The white windmills that can be found scattered throughout the region have become a true landmark. Academy Award winner and movie director Pedro Almodovar was born in La Mancha, as well as FIFA World Cup Champion Andrés Iniesta. Manchego cheese it is, probably, one of Spai´s most famous delicacies.

The region of Castilla–La Mancha, where most of the adventures of Don Quixote take place, it is also a very important wine producing area.

The World´s largest vineyard

La Mancha is considered as the world´s largest surface under vines, with almost 200,000 hectares of vineyards. The name ´Mancha´ appears to come from the Arabic ‘manxa’ meaning dry land, although some linguists and historians believe it derives from the contraction of the phrase “la más ancha” (the widest). Whatever the origin, both explanations are well suited to La Mancha´s wide dry plains. La Mancha´s plains, sitting at an average of some 700 metres altitude, have an archetypal continental climate: the icy winters give way, nearly directly, to torrid summers. Summer temperatures often reach 45ºC, while in the winter the thermometer may drop to as low as –12/15ºC.

The autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha is comprised of four provinces: Toledo, Cuenca, Albacete and Ciudad Real. The land is fairly flat, with an occasional isolated low hill. The reddish-brown soils, mostly made of red clay, have areas of high limestone content where the best vines are planted. The area is extremely dry throughout the year as the surrounding mountains block the entrance of wet weather fronts coming in from the sea. Rainfall is scanty, with a mere 300 to 400 mm per year. Long periods of drought are quite frequent. This factor is even more decisive when taking into account that more than 95% of La Mancha´s vineyards are dry farmland. In addition, the area has more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.The largest plain in the Iberian Peninsula, La Mancha is made up of plateau averaging 500 to 600 metres in altitude.

Manchego Cheese

Manchego (officially Queso Manchego) is a cheese made in the La Mancha from the milk of sheep of the Manchega breed, which is aged for between 60 days and two years. Manchego has a firm consistency and a buttery texture, and often contains small, unevenly distributed air pockets. The colour of the cheese varies from white to ivory-yellow. The cheese has a distinctive flavour, well developed but not too strong, creamy with a slight piquancy and leaves an aftertaste that is characteristic of sheep’s milk. The designation Queso Manchego is protected under Spain´s Denominación de Origen (DO) regulatory classification and the cheese has been granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union.

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