The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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SPAIN very best. Right there in the middle of it all was Castilla-La Mancha, whose “family winemakers are innovators,” says Carlos (Charlie) Arturaola, a Uruguayan-born sommelier, now working in Miami, who directed and starred in the movie El Camino del Vino. One of those families operates the Encomienda Cervera estate in Ciudad Real. Established in 1758, this beautiful mountainous area is thick with holm oaks, juniper trees, rosemary and thyme. Near the Maar de la Hoya de Cervera volcano, the vineyard’s black volcanic soil meets clay, chalky, stony terroir perfect for the new Syrah clones. They, like many of the other Castilla-La Mancha vineyards, are trying to break away from a bulk-wine reputation. “Our goal is to not have the most wine in the world; it is to have high quality,” says Horten Espinosa, Export Manager. “This is more passion than business.” Bodegas Latúe’s Clearly Organic Tempranillo is poured at Fenavin. friends in Rioja are getting heavy American attention, Castilla-La Mancha Fenavin attendee Angeles Trujillo Martinez holds a bottle of Las Liras, a 100-percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Mont Reaga Bodegas y Viñedos in Castilla-La Mancha. Under the Radar According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment of Castilla-La Mancha, more than 70,000 families make their living produc- ing wine in this region. While their 82 / the tasting panel / july 201 1 winemakers are flying under the radar. Many are struggling to find U.S. importers. But they represent what one importer calls the “sweet spot” in the $9 to $12 retail range, putting the import purchase price at around 1 euro a bottle. “These people are promoting their wine. They want to grow. They feel they are not getting their due respect in world market,” says Michael Podbere, co-owner of Action Inventory Services, an importer of fine wines and spirits. “They do great in China. We only hope that other importers don’t catch on to their value.” The region that once consisted of 90 percent Airén grapes for brandy is now experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec and is planting more Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Syrah. They may not yet command the marketing power of Rioja, but they can, says Arturaola. “I just love Castilla-La Mancha,” he says in the middle of a blind tasting. “There are just so many good wines coming from here.” D.O. Diversity Within Castilla-La Mancha may be the world’s most diverse region. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, Castilla- La Mancha makes about seven percent of the world’s total wine. Smack in the middle of Spain’s dry central plain, with relentless summers and harsh winters, the region consists of nine certified Denominaciónes de Origen, with 45 approved grape varietals. The D.O.s include Almansa, Jumilla, La Mancha, Manchuela, Mentrida,

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