Rioja. A word everyone knows. A word that conjures the image of shining glasses full of deep red wine pulled from the sun-soaked fields of Spain. For many, for most, Spanish wine is Rioja. Depending on the shop, other words, other regions, have started to drip into the marketplace: Ribera del Duero, Albariño, Priorat. And of course everyone knows sherry and Cava. But what of the rest of Spain? There are sixty-nine official wine regions and where are they represented? Where are they championed?
Madrid is Spain. A big melting pot of peoples and cultures stretching back to its founding in the 9th century by the Moors, who attacked and ruled the Iberian peninsula for a few hundred years. They brought rice, sugar cane, lemons and oranges, almonds, spinach and aubergines. They also helped to refine the gastronomy. But what of wine?
The Romans started it, exporting rough amphorae-fulls back to Rome. The Moors gently forbade it for drinking, but continued to tax the production. Then the Reconquest happened and the ruling Christians reopened the country to international trade, introducing wine to the British market for the first time. Things were going well until the 19th century when an epidemical plague of phylloxera ravaged Europe’s vineyards, bringing production to the brink of extinction. After the vines recovered in the 1900s Spain quickly became one of Europe’s leading winemaking countries. Madrid has been making wine since the 1300s but only received a Denominación de Origen (protected status, like for Champagne or Barolo) in 1990. They are young guns. Pretenders to the throne.
They are usually dark, youthful and full of rustic flavour when red; there are of course whites and rosés too. They can come from any of three subzones. So, just to get technical for a minute:
Sub-zone 1: Arganda – home of cutesy village Chinchón and UNESCO town Aranjuez. Located south east of Madrid. Sedimentary limestone soil; extreme winter and summer temperatures.
Sub-zone 2: Navalcarnero – home of the pretty town of the same name. Located south west of Madrid. Flat, sedimentary, loose soils of farmland origin.
Sub-zone 3: San Martin de Valdeiglesias – home of the Gredos mountains. Located in the extreme west of Madrid. Rugged zone, warmer and more humid temperatures. Granite soils on slopes and foothills.
These Madrid wines can be hard to track down internationally – we’ll put a top 6 selection of humdingers at the bottom of this blog – but within Spain they are gaining traction. The whole joy of wine is tasting the variety. Nobody wants to be that person who sticks to two or three bottles their whole lives ‘because they like it and trust it’.
There are 44 wineries in Madrid alone, so there is no excuse to not try them when you visit. The bars are also slowly but surely getting behind the Madrid wine train and are stocking them with more regularity. A lot of them are small, family-run or cooperative ventures without a lot of money to export on a massive scale. But they’re getting there; and my goodness are they friendly and welcoming. Coupled with a recent drive to export to the U.S., you could be seeing bottles of Vino de Madrid on the shelves sooner than you think!
A few of our favourite bodegas to check out:
- Bodega Regajal – Las Retamas (Tempranillo)
- Bodega Marañones – Treintamil Maravedíes (Garnacha)
- Bodega Bernabeleva – Navaherreros (Garnacha)
- Bodega Señorio de Val Azul – Fabio (Syrah, Cab Sav, Merlot)
- Bodega Las Moradas de San Martín – Initio (Garnacha)
- Bodegas Andrés Díaz – d’Ório (Tempranillo/Garnacha/Cab Sav)
From us here at SWE, salud!!