The Castilla-La Mancha area covers the entire southern half of the Central Meseta of Spain. It extends over a vast area of eight million hectares (80,000 square kilometers) and includes five provinces: Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo. Within this region there are four DOs: Méntrida, La Mancha, Valdepeñas and Almansa. It is the habitat of the most common vine in the world, the Airén, which is not planted anywhere else. This underlines the size and significance of this autonomous community. This area also produces about 50% of the total wine production in Spain.
The landscape of Castilla-La Mancha is defined by mountains and rivers. In the north, the Tagus (el Tajo) acts as a natural border with the Madrid region, while in the south the Guadiana River flows past Valdepeñas, just north of the border with Andalusia. This vast plain is surrounded by mountain ranges, including the Sierra de la Calderine in the northwest, the Sierra Mestanza in the southwest, the Loma de Chiclana in the south, the Sierra de Alcaraz in the southeast and the Sierra de Cuenca in the northeast. Despite these natural barriers, the wind can still cross the immense plateau, as evidenced by the famous windmills of La Mancha. Winters in this area can be freezing, while summers are extremely hot.
The reason why many of Spain's largest wine companies settled here in the 70s and 80s is due to the relatively low cost of land. They introduced new technology and took full advantage of the abundant sunshine that bathes the plateau every day.
The Airén is historically the most planted grape in the world, while it only occurs in La Mancha, which indicates how common it is. This grape is used for the production of white wines. Airén wines usually have mild acidity and can range from light and refreshing to fuller and richer in flavor. Although La Mancha is known for its white wines, many red wines are also made. These are usually made with the Tempranillo grape. Tempranillo produces red wines with flavors of red fruit, spices and often a hint of vanilla due to aging in oak barrels. Tempranillo red wines can be young and fruity as well as complex and aged. Furthermore, grapes such as Garnacha, Mascuelo, Verdejo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also widely produced.