Central, Southern Spain & Islands

Central, Southern Spain & Islands


Over the past decade much has changed in the central and southern reaches of Spain. Identifying cooler mesoclimates and harnessing the sheer quality of some of the old bush vines and outcrops of well-drained soils are among the keys. The introduction of irrigation over the last decade has also given this arid area greater scope. Although this is more relevant in the production of bulk wines, of which a considerable volume are produced here. This is particularly the case with wines made from the lower and more fertile central plains.

Old Garnacha bush vines at Vinos de Madrid

The nation’s capital city is home to the small DO of Vinos de Madrid. The vineyards stretch over a large area both to the immediate south-east of Madrid and some considerable distance to the west and include three sub-regions. Tempranillo is the most important red variety and Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are also permitted. Garnacha is also now assuming much greater importance. Whites include Chardonnay, Albillo and the local Malvar. The reds in particular can be very good and are more akin to a Ribera del Duero than a Rioja. A little further to the south-west of Madrid is the DO of Mentrida. This is mainly red wine country. Garnacha and Tempranillo are successful here as are the French interlopers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot.

The vast central plains and particularly La Mancha are not generally associated with wines of any substance, this region after all is notable for its considerable number of co-ops. Things are beginning to change, though, and new and interesting wines are emerging, particularly from bodegas with higher altitude vineyards and better sites. A strict control of yields is also a key factor. However, unfortunately for the DO, many impressive emerging wineries prefer to take the VdT Castilla because of the perception of quality from La Mancha. In the west of the region there are a number Vinos de Pago (single property) DOs, a classification taking increasing significance throughout the country. Dominio de Valdepusa has been well established for some time, Dehesa de Carrizal is more recently known on international markets. At Dehesa del Carrizal the focus is on French varieties, reds as well as Chardonnay, at Dominio de Valdepusa there is a little Graciano as well. A number of La Mancha bodegas also have holdings in the new small DO of Uclés, to the south-west of Madrid. Some rich and well made reds are now appearing. Valdepeñas used to be considered somewhat of a beacon amongst the other wine regions of the area but nothing of real consequence has emerged recently.

Some of the best potential for reds is to the east of the area, nearer the coast in the DO’s of Valencia, Manchuela and Utiel-Requena. The indigenous Bobal and Monastrell are both proving very successful and fine Syrah, Malbec and Garnacha is also being made. Just to the south in the DOs of Yecla, Jumilla and Bullas some impressive and complex reds are being produced. A number of joint ventures with overseas expertise are being developed and some of the wines are not only impressive for their quality but notable for their high price as well. The newly created DOP El Terrerazu is a fine source of Tempranillo as well as Bobal. Some good fortified wine, Fondillon is produced from Monastrell at Alicante, as are some fine, sweet Moscatels. In the past decade some very well made reds and decent well-crafted whites have also been made here.

Southern Spain and Islands

The south is fortified-wine country, most specifically the sherries of Jerez y Manzanilla. Andalucía is also home to the fortified wines of Montilla-Moriles and Málaga. Most of the former are relatively ordinary but there are some exceptional wines from old soleras. The traditional wines of Málaga are very rare, a blend of sweet wine and grape juice, some of which is fortified. The sherry industry is centred around the towns of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda to the north of Cádiz. The wines are all raised in a solera system which is maintained by fresh young wines. Fino sherry in Jerez is very similar to Manzanilla at Sanlúcar. Both are best drunk on release for their fresh, salty character imbued by a period under flor yeast. Manzanilla Pasada is a nutty, aged wine, having been exposed to flor influence, as is Amontillado. Oloroso will have no flor character at all, having been immediately fortified above 18 degrees of alcohol. Palo Cortado is halfway in style between Fino and Amontillado. Rich and concentrated fortified Moscatel is also produced in the area as well as Pedro Ximènez. A recent development to ensure quality and character is a new set of classifications, VOS and VORS. VOS stands for Very Old Sherry and the wine must have an average age of at least 20 years. VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry and the average age of the wine must be a minimum of 30 years. Many of the best examples are older than this, although it is not a requirement for the classification to be used.

Soleras at Gonzalez Byass

Over recent vintages the other major development in the south has been the emergence of some very impressive light wines both red and white. In the VdT Cádiz impressive and structured reds are being produced by one winery in particular, Huerta de Albala and from an area thought of simply as fortified wine country. A number of sherry bodegas are also taking advantage of the classification, mainly for whites. To the east at Sierras de Málaga (sharing the DO with the fortified wines of Málaga) the high altitude vineyards inland are now a source of some very impressive Bordeaux style reds. A number of fine examples are also simply labelled as Vino de Mesa. Yet further still to the east is the large VC (Vinos de Calidad) Granada (VC being an interim classification before full upgrade to DO status). Among the eastern appellations of Andalucia are the vineyards of the VdT Cumbres del Guadalfeo (formerly Contraviesa-Alpujarra), home to some of the very highest vineyards in Spain, a source of intense and mineral-scented whites and structured, characterful reds. Also of interest Inland of Almeria is the VdT Ribera del Andrax, where altitude also plays a part in producing balanced, rich and ripe reds.

As yet few wines have emerged on overseas markets from the either the Balearics or the Canaries. However a number of particularly impressive reds are produced in Mallorca from the DO’s of Binissalem Mallorca and Pla i Llevant, as well as the VdT’s of Formentera, Mallorca and Iles Balears. A number of varieties both red and white are proving successful, none more so than the indigenous red Callet. The Canaries would also seem to have genuine potential for whites with its sparse volcanic soils and fortifieds are also produced.

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A to Z of producers by appellation

Bernabé Navarro
El Seque
E Mendoza
Bodegas Sierra Salinas
Bodega Balcona
Bodegas Lavia
Bodegas Monastrell
Dehesa del Carrizal
Dehesa del Carrizal
Dominio de Valdepusa
Pagos de Familia
Pago El Terrerazu
Pago Florentino
Bodegas Y Viñedos La Solana
Jerez y Manzanilla
Alvaro Domecq
El Maestro Sierra
Fernando de Castilla
Gonzãlez Byass
Gutiérrez Colosia
La Bota De
Emilio Lustau
Bodegas Tradición
Altos del Cuadrado
Casa Castillo
Crápula Wines
Bodegas El Nido
Bodegas Juan Gil
Bodegas Olivares
La Mancha
Bodega El Vinculo
Mano a Mano
Bodegas Volver
Pago de Los Balagueses
Bodegas Vegalfaro
Málaga/Sierras de Málaga
Cortijo Los Aguilares
Bodegas Málaga Virgen
Jorge Ordonez
Bodega Vetas
Alto Landon
Cien y Pico
Bodegas Ponce
Finca Sandoval
Dani Landi
Jimenez Landi
Montilla Moriles
Perez Barquero
Ribera del Júcar
Elvi Wines
Ribera del Guadiana
Bodega Carabal
Dominio de Aranleon
Alvarez Nolting
Rafael Cambra
El Angosto
Heretat de Taverners
Bodegas Los Frailes
Pago Casa Gran
Celler del Roure
Vinos de Madrid
Ricardo Benito
Bodegas Bernabeleva
Comando G
Comando G - Uvas Felices
Bodegas Licinia
Bodegas Maranones
Bodegas Tagonius
Vinos Jeromin
El Regajal
Viña Al Lado de La Casa
Bodegas Castaño
Señorío de Barahonda
VdT Cadiz
Huerta de Albala
VdT Castilla
Cerro del Águila
Bodegas Ercavio
Finca Coronado
Finca La Estacada
Mano a Mano
Pago del Ama
Pago de Vallegarcia
Bodegas Recuero
Bodega Tikalo
Venta La Ossa
VdT Cumbres de Guadalfeo
Dominio Buenavista
VdT Extremadura
Bodegas Habla
VdT Formentera
Cap de Barbaria
VdT Mallorca
Son Vell/4 Kilos
A Negra
Bodegues Ribas
VdT Ribera del Andarax
Bodegas Ánfora Enix
VdM Andalucia
Barranco Oscuro
Principe A. de Hohenlohe
Sedella Vinos
VdM Valencia
Celler La Muntanya


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