Having just walked in the door from a rather intense 4 day tour through Castilla y León, or Castile y León, I’m teetering a precarious line between feeling a surge of passionate energy to share everything I’ve seen and experienced on this trip and feeling utterly drained from going on an average of 5 hours of sleep per night. Not to mention the long stretches spent zooming past the stark meseta landscape in a bus, the 3 hour meals filled with delectable regional treats, the time spentÂ bantering away with fellow Circle of Wine Writer members on everything from the definition to quality wine education to the way in which suckling lamb is cooked, and of course, the amazing time devoted to some pretty unbelievable winemakers throughout the region. In short, it’s been an incredible jam-packed adventure, and one that I’m very happy to have attended.
However, for someone who’s been spending the best part of 4 years in Spain, I felt a little awkward heading west from Barcelona, armed with little to no information on this vast and spacious region. Though I was savvy of both Denominación de Origenes, Ribera del Duero and Rueda, beyond that, I was relatively clueless.
I’ve learned that Castilla y León nestles up to Portugal (also known as, “that country over there”) and Galicia to the west, Asturias and Cantabria straight north, Aragon, Pais Vasco and Rioja to the east, Madrid and Castile-La Mancha to the southeast, and Extremadura due south (not to be confused with its Portuguese neighber, Estremadura). However, of the 17 political regions in Spain, Castilla y León is the largest, occupying one-fifth of the entire country, or 94,223 km2. What’s interesting is that this gigantic landmass only houses 5% of the population at 2.5 million people. And just to give you an idea of how few people that is, Barcelona boasts of 1.6 million people in a 100 km2 area! So basically, this is the Nebraska of Spain – the region where you can drive for hours and see nothing but rocks, windmills, almond trees, and of course, vines. It’s a truly calming, tranquil and a beautiful site to behold, and one that I looking to forward to return to in the very near future.
In regards to wine, the Castilla y León is comprised of 9 Denominación de Origenes (Bierzo, Cigales, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Arlanza, Arribes, Tierra del Vino de Zamora and Tierra de Leon), 2 Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinadas (VCPRD) (Valles de Benavente and Vinos de Calidad de Valtiendas) and 1 Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT) (Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon). With the exception of Rueda as a white wine region, the rest of the area has been primarily known for its red wines. With Ribera del Duero leading the way, I came into this trip believing that I would be tasting a wide range of red wines from indigenous grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mencia, Juan Garcia, Rufete and Prieto Picudo. But what I failed to realize is that there are some rather potent and incredible white grapes in this region making some absolutely spectacular wines.
Over the next week, I will do my best to give you my impressions of the food, wine and culture of Castilla y León. Mind you, we were only able to visit a handful of producers, as a result of the courageous distances we traveled by bus, but it will at least give you a glimpse into the quality and culture of wine within the region, the tradional foods you might encounter, some places absolutely worth visiting, and just maybe, an over arching article on the pitfalls and successes in wine education.
If you have any questions that you would like me to tackle about Castilla y León, please never hesitate to chime in now, or next week.