The region of Castilla y Léon, often thought of as Spain’s cultural heartland, dominates the steppes of northwestern Spain between Madrid and the border of Portugal. The region offers breathtaking landscapes, charming city streets and some of the best of Spain’s diverse food and wine.
When traveling in Castilla y Léon you won’t find a shortage of culture to soak up and savor. See below for highlights from one of Spain’s most iconic regions.
Enjoy the land of castles. Castilla takes its name from the 300-plus medieval castles around the region, more than any other European region. Many of these castles and fortified cities were built to defend against the Moorish invaders and are still preserved in perfect state.
Castilla y Léon is also home to 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other region in the world. The sites include:
It’s hard to find a bad meal anywhere in Spain, and Castilla y Léon is no exception. Some revered dishes include a local equivalent of paella, Arroz de Zamora (rice cooked with ham), cochonillo (roast suckling pig) roast lamb, morcilla de Burgos (a black pudding with rice), sopa castillana (a soup made of bread and garlic) and the famous creamy beans of Avila.
In this region you will also find a large population of black pigs who rummage the oak woods for acorns and are used to make Iberico ham – one of the mainstays of Spanish cuisine.
With nine DO’s, Castilla y Léon champions some of Spain’s most respected wines, most notably in the Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Bierzo areas. Made up of open plains, rugged mountains and the winding Duero river, Castilla y Léon possesses an ideal temperature range for growing grapes.
Most well-known for its reds, the Tinto Fino (Tinto Fina, Tinto del Pais, Tinta de Toro,Tempranillo) drives the Ribero del Dueros, Zamoras and Toros regions. Ribera del Duero sits on a plateau at over 800m elevation. With great fluctuation between day and night temperatures in the region, Tempranillo flourishes here and is able to express its true character. The area is not without its challenges – the cold temperature can effect grape ripening in harsher years.
The D.O. Bierzo is known for wines made from Mencia, which are value-driven, rustic and rich in flavor. A transitional region, Bierzo links the plateau of Castilla and mountainous Galicia. Its climate shares some characteristics with the cool and rainy maritime region to its west, but it is much more continental. This combination gives it excellent viticulture. For red wine, most of the vineyard plantings are dedicated to Mencía. For whites, Palomino is the most widely planted grape, but the quality wines come from Godello. The majority of the plantings are on the rolling hills in the valley, but vines are also planted up to 1000m elevation on steep slopes. Soils in the area range from alluvial to very poor stony slate.
Rueda is its most famous white wine, with the primary grape of Verdejo. This variety currently occupies more than half the vineyards in the region of Rueda. It’s a native variety growing on the left bank of the Duero, and is full of vigor. These wines have a refreshing acidity and summer-fruit finish wafting delicate vegetative aromas such as anise and hay. They pair with a range of dishes from seafood to spiced Asian cuisine. Another very important white wine of the region is Godello which tends to be more dry and mineral based with a zing.