By Rosie Carbo
Michael Green is not a live, stand-up comedian. But as the star of “Wines worth Discovering,” a Denomination of Origin (D.O.) La Mancha spring road show, his colorful anecdotes is key to learning about the wines from this region.
“I close my eyes and I can smell La Mancha; it has the largest production of saffron in the world,” said Green, who spent nearly 20 years as wine and spirits consultant with Gourmet magazine.
“I can smell its Manchego cheese, and I think of Pedro Almodovar, one of the most famous film makers in the world. I’m very, very, passionate about these wines. This is only my fifth day on the job, but I felt like I was from there when I visited. It has one of the largest appellations in the world,” he said.
Gregorio Martin Zarco, La Mancha’s D.O. president, kicked off the seminar and wine tasting by telling the gathering that the region is made up of four provinces and situated south of the capital city of Madrid.
“We are a D.O. made famous by the great writer Cervantes, and we are south of the capital. We are made up of the provinces of Toledo, Cuidad Real, Albacete and Cuenca. We are a zone where wine is part of our identity; it’s part of our culture and our heritage,” said Martin Zarco.
Green, who has also taught wine classes at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, told a group of wine distributors, wholesalers, wine consultants and the media that the legendary La Mancha has been overlooked long enough.
“Whether you’re a wholesaler, whether you’re a distributor, whether you’re with the media, this region has not been fully discovered in the United States. I taste 200 wines a week, I go to some of the best restaurants in the world, but I don’t see these wines on restaurant wine lists,” Green said.
Based in Don Quixote’s central Spain, La Mancha has 265 wineries. Fifteen of them were on hand to offer detailed information and samples of their wines. The main white grape grown is Airen. The main red grape grown is Cencibel, which is known as the popular grape Tempranillo.
Other grapes that thrive in this region, said to be “nine months of winter and three months of hell,” are Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc used to produce white wines. Red grapes like Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon contribute to red wine production.
La Mancha has a winemaking history that dates back to Roman times. Green talked about the region’s varied terroir at the wine-tasting seminar held recently at Houston’s Parador, an event venue. A walk around tasting showcased more than 100 wines. Some are new to the U.S. market,but none are in Texas.
“Most of the wines we’re going to try today have a retail value of under $15. These aren’t cheap wines; they come from a specific, regulated place. And the story (of La Mancha wines) has really, really not been told,” Green said.
The seminar included a wine tasting that began with two white wines: Los Galanes Airen 2011, Santa Catalina and Parra Jimenez Verdejo, 2011 Parra Family organic wine. The first was a straw-colored white that was crisp and clean on the palate. Los Galanes retails for $7.99 and had green apple notes.
The Parra Jimenez was made with 100 percent Verdejo grapes. It tasted like Sauvignon Blanc but with a touch of more acidity. Parra Jimenez Verdejo, where available, retails for $9.99 on sale or $10.99 regular price.
Green pointed out that all the La Mancha wines represent the best value for the money. One rose tasted was an Artero Rosado 2011, Vinedos y Bodegas Munoz. While this rose should be high on any must-try list, it’s not yet on the wine list of many restaurants.
“I don’t like a lot of (restaurant) wine lists; they are too traditional. Anyone can spend $60 on a bottle of wine, but why? The wines coming out of La Mancha are extraordinary,” said Green, pointing out that Artero Rosado retails for $9.00 and pairs well with salmon and other seafood.
Five red wines tasted included: Imperial Toledo Tempranillo 2010, Bodegas Verduguez; Viento Aliseo Roble Cabernet Sauvignon Graciano 2010,Dominio de Punctum Organic & Biodynamic wines; Besana Real Crianza 2009, Vinos Coloman; La Villa Real Reserva 2008, Bodegas La Remediadora and Ojos del Guadiana Gran Reserva 2004, El Progresso S. Coop.
“I love this style of Tempranillo; it’s very fruit forward and combines the traditional, old world style with modern techniques,” said Green of the Imperial Toledo Tempranillo 2010, which retails for $8 to $9 a bottle.
He compared some of the reds tasted to “super Tuscans” that have been popular for the past few years. The Aliseo 50-50 blend pairs well with red meat and retails for $14.99. In reality, all the red wines paired well with a variety of foods, including lamb and beef barbecue.
“All the wines here today are superb….I cannot separate any of the wines I’ve tasted from the people, the culture, the passion I’ve seen in their winemaking. And I feel truly, truly blessed,” said Green.
When asked what has taken so long for a region with a history like La Mancha to promote their wines, Green said they had apparently not focused on marketing.
“I think La Mancha understands the importance of the U.S. market. And they are now spending marketing dollars to build awareness of their wines and the region,» he said.
Carlos Martinez, Foreign Trade Institute of Castilla-La Mancha (IPEX) International Trade Advisor said they are trying to promote the wines and build a solid reputation for quality.
“We’re trying to create a quality reputation for our wines. We want people to know that we are tradition combined with modernity, and we have a very, very vibrant history. We want people to know La Mancha is a hidden jewel,” said Martinez.
The seminar and wine tasting was organization in part by Dallas-based Janet Kafka & Associates with the cooperation of the D.O. La Mancha Council and IPEX. The promotional campaign through the United States will continue through fall 2012.
For more information contact: www.lamanchawines.com or Foreign Trade Institute Castilla-La Mancha: www.ipex.es
About The Author
Rosie Carbo became a wine lover on her first trip to Spain. Since then the Texas journalist has made wine tasting a hobby. The former newspaper reporter has written articles on the wines of Spain, Portugal and Argentina. Currently a full-time freelance writer, Carbo also writes about food, travel, art and fashion for Texas magazines and web sites, including Wandering Educators.com (www.wanderingeducators.com)
La Mancha Wines would like to thanks Rosie Carbo for allowing us to reblog her article posted on www.localwineevents.com