La Mancha is a Spanish Designation of Origin (DO) and is located in the largest continuous vine-growing area in the word, the autonomous region of Castile-La Mancha. This area in includes 182 municipalities: 12 in the province of Albacete, 58 in Ciudad Real, 66 in Cuenca and 46 in Toledo. 22,000 grape-growers and over 300 wineries (bodegas).
The first written documentation on viticulture in the region dates from the 12th century, though it is generally believed that vines were introduced by the ancient Romans as in other regions of the Iberian peninsula.
Under Moorish rule between the 8th and 15th centuries, it was known as al-mansha, meaning “parched earth” – a fitting description for the arid countryside here.
Wine production took off in the 1940s due to the setting up of numerous cooperatives in the region. Viticulture is the economic mainstay of many of the municipalities that form part of the DO.
La Mancha has an extreme continental climate. Summer daytime temperatures regularly exceed 104F (40C), but drop dramatically as darkness falls. Winters are cold, with sub-zero temperatures and frequent frosts. These dramatic climatic variations, along with low annual rainfall (on average 14in/350mm), create certain challenges for grape-growers.
The plentiful sunshine (approximately 3000 hours a year) ripens La Mancha’s grapes without difficulty, making excessive heat one of the region’s key challenges.
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.
The following are the authorised grape varieties:
- Red: Cencibel (also known as Tempranillo), Garnacha, Moravia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah
- White: Airén, Macabeo (also known as Viura), Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc
- Source: en.wikipedia.org