WINES OF THE NORTH PLATEAU8.a.
The Plateau of Castile (including the Northern and southern sub plateaus and the autonomous regions of Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha, with Madrid in the middle of them) represents a summary of the Spanish wine production. It is here where the widest production of the country can be found, and, especially in the northern area, where some of the best wines are made. Next, we will see the different denominations of origin classified by regions.
The whole northern sub plateau is occupied by the region of Castilla y León. Although the oenologic sector means a small part of the agricultural land (in contrast with what happens in the region of Castilla-La Mancha), it has become the first driving force of the industrial production in the region. In general terms, we are talking about small, family companies that, in different regions, make quality wines. In addition to this, some wines that are not under any denomination of origin are obtaining an important presence in the market, too.
One of the reasons of these wines’ achievements must be found in the strength and personality of their local grapes, among which we should highlight tinta fina or tempranillo, mencía or verdejo. Modernization of the production chain and the strong investments of important companies also help to improve the situation.
There are five denominations of origin: in Castilla y León: Ribera del Duero, Bierzo, Cigales, Toro and Rueda.
The D.O. Ribera del Duero stretches out through 14000 hectares in the provinces of Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia and Soria. It is, together with Rioja, Jerez or Cava, one of the most most world-famous wine regions in Spain. Its wines’ success lies, on the one hand, on the tinta del país grape (a variant of tempranillo) which appears in a minimum of 75% in all wines. Besides, there is a special concern on a careful grape selection in order to obtain the best results in the Winery. On the other hand, harvesters of the region are closer to Bordeaux methods than to Rioja production procedures, which makes their strong, structured and tasty wines need more time for developing their qualities and their elegant bouquet in bottle. There is no need to say that the more appreciated wines are vintage red ones, even though youthful reds and rosés are also produced.
The D.O. Bierzo is located on the region of the same name in the northwest of the province of León, in the border with the autonomous regions of Galicia and Asturias. This geographical circumstance brings a special microclimate in which mencía (more common in Galicia that in Castilla) is the main grape variety. This variety is controversial according to its results, since some people state that it is not suitable for making such strong and enchanting red wines as those from Castilla. Indeed, wines including experimental grape varieties, both national ( tempranillo) and foreign (merlot, cabernet-sauvignon), have given better results than single variety mencía-based wines. The region produces youthful and vintage red wines, as well as rosés. There are also made white wines with the varieties doña Blanca and godello.
The D.O. Cigales spreads through the northern part of the river Duero hollow. This region is associated with the production of pink wines and clarets (specially in bulk consumption). Rosés, made from both tinta del país and garnacha stand out for being fresh and natural. There are also youthful reds, fresh, fruity and easy to drink, and vintage red wines.
The D.O. Toro, on the western end of Zamora and a small section of the province of Valladolid, is one of the regions that have had a greatest improvement in Spain. The major grape is the excellent tinta de toro (a variant of tempranillo), with which thick, full-bodied wines with a dark red colour were traditionally produced. Nowadays, however, there are produced some wines much more adapted to the market’s new tastes, less alcoholic and softened, in many cases, with coupages in with the garnacha variety plays an important role. The final result is a wine with a good tannic expression and fabulous body, also with a balanced acidity level that give it great qualities for ageing. As well as youthful and vintage red wines, the region’s rosés and whites are more and more acknowledged in these years.
The D.O. Rueda, chiefly located on Valladolid, also covers small areas of the provinces of Ávila and Segovia. Although it has historically known for its production of dry, full-bodied amontillado-like wines (the famous finos de Rueda), today it is well-known for the youthful, light and fruity, almost transparent, white wines made with the verdejo grape. But also cabernet sauvignon blanc wine grape gives rise to fine wines here, wines with great intensity and bouquet complexity. We must not forget that new experiments with sparkling cava-like wines are giving very interesting results in this region.