The Meseta

Almost two-thirds of all Spain’s vineyards are on these arid plains. Until just a decade or two ago, it was an internationally accepted dictum that little of quality was made here.

How wrong we all were. Many of Spain’s top Vinos de Pago (such as Dominio de Valdepusa, Finca Elez, Dehesa de Carrizal and Pago Guijoso) are found in this area. The northern portion of the Meseta pitches its dry plateau to the edges of the Sistemas Central and Ibérico; the vineyards might be hot and dry, but they often lie at high altitudes, and nighttime temperatures can be cool as a result.

The Castilla–La Mancha region is the Midi of Spain, and as with France’s Midi, a focus upon varietals is fueling a revolutionary turnabout in which these wines may become some of the most familiar Spanish wines to Americans. But the revolution is still nascent. For the moment, Airén remains the most widely planted grape, at over 70 percent of the vineyards. Within this larger region is the absurdly large DO La Mancha, and nearly half of the vineyards of the DO aren’t allowed to use the DO on their label. Confused? Don’t be; it speaks well of the DO rules that merely being from an area doesn’t guarantee a producer its DO status.

The DO’s of Almansa, Manchuela, Méntrida, Mondéjar, Uclés, Valdepeñas, and Vinos de Madrid share little in common except that they are all relatively unknown. But their wines are rapidly improving; their elevated vineyards are often high and can be mighty.

The Extremadura region lies to the west, and just as with Castilla–La Mancha, there are some surprising wines to be found, with one DO, Ribera del Guadiana, showing distinct promise.

The Meseta DOs