La Mancha is a historical wine region in the centre of Spain, and it is the largest wine region in Europe. It is not only the biggest, but it is one of the oldest regions in the country dating back to Roman times. The first vines of significance were planted in the 12th and 13th centuries, but the peak came after the Second World War and the European trade market recovered. The region became very famous thanks fo the writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) and his novel "Don Quixote de la Mancha" creating a big demand for La Mancha wine.
La Mancha is a land of extremes as the climate is continental with very hot and dry summers, often more than 40 °C, and frosty winters with temperatures sometimes down to minus 20 °C. This extreme climate is often the reason for very challenging viticulture. The soil types consist mainly of reddish-brown sand and clay with smaller limestone islands, and the best vineyards have more limestone and chalk content in the sub-soil. There is a peculiar, chessboard-like pattern way of planting and training low the vines so that each vine gets enough water due to the drought.
The dominant grape planted in the region is the white variety Airén with more than three-quarters of the total area. The grape is ideal for the hot and dry climate there. Other notable grape varieties planted are Tempranillo locally called Cencibel, producing lighter red wines, and the Garnacha (same as Grenache), Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Viognier and Torrontes.
The region offers great value and quality wines, especially after the long-term investment and modernization of the 1970s, which has been critical for improving La Mancha's bulk-wine image. Nowadays more and more quality wines are emerging from the region which proves the slow up-coming international popularity.