Castilla y León

Castilla y Leon, the land of castles, is a large region that covers most of North Central Spain. It nears Madrid on its southern boundary, neighbours La Rioja and Navarra to the east, and stretches as far as, and includes, Bierzo at its north western edge. Perhaps not surprising then that the heartland of Castilian Spain has nine sub-provinces, the most of any Spanish region, and five classified DOs. Yet, this hot, dry part of the world was for most of the 20th Century associated only with hearty, rustic, basic wines, to be consumed locally. That was until the 1990s; a decade which witnessed a boom in quality, plantings, investment and international attention, led by the silky, perfumed reds of Ribera del Duero. It can now count Spanish luminaries Vega Sicilia, Bodegas Aalto and Sei Solo - Javier Zaccagnini’s latest venture - as residents. This means that, with Rioja and Priorat, Ribera del Duero is now rightly considered one of the leading fine wine regions in Spain. Of the four remaining DOs, Toro and Cigales are both regions that produce powerful, intense wines and remain somewhat underexplored, while Bierzo is an area experiencing a steady rise in popularity and international interest, particularly in Mencia, the indigenous local variety. Credit for much of this must go to the Decendientes de Palacios estate; the flagbearers of the region. Finally, and not widely appreciated, Rueda has the potential to produce top-notch whites from the Verdejo grape, given the right vineyard sites and skilled winemaking. Bodegas Ossian, located in the village of Nieva are leading the charge for quality - producing ripe, age-worthy wines with finesse and minerality thanks to some uniquely sandy soils. Sand provides a natural defence against the phylloxera pest and allows Ismael Gonzalo and his team to work with the very best old vines in the region (up to 160 years old).

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