Undiscovered Spanish wines: Vinos de Madrid

by mary on April 21, 2013

Spanish wine from Madrid: Vinos de Madrid

After finding Zestos, a great everyday value wine from the Madrid region of Spain, in Costco, I’m inspired to talk a little more about the Madrid wine region, Vinos de Madrid. It’s not well known, even in Spain, though it’s gaining in reputation among wine professionals and aficionados alike. Formerly known for plonk that was served in Madrid bars, the area has fought hard to change that reputation. One of the drawbacks is that production of top wines is small and prices are not always low, though the wines are still good value. One sub-area in particular, San Martín de Valdeiglesias has been making an impressive reputation for itself with totally original old-vine Grenache and unique white Albillos. If you want something with personality and totally different than most Spanish wine, check out these wines….

The Vinos de Madrid appellation is small, only about 20,000 acres (8,000 hectares) planted to vines. The three sub-zones are Arganda, Navalcarnero, and San Martín. They have very different altitudes, soils and climates, thus producing very different wines. The primary red grapes are Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), while the best quality white planted in quantity is Albillo.

Arganda is in the southwest and is the largest (over 50% of production), hottest, and most arid. Navalcarnero is a meseta flat area between the city of Madrid and the mountainous area, the sierra, to the west and northwest of Madrid. It is the smallest and has a bit more rainfall. St Martin, is to the west further, is actually quite hilly and has even more climatic from the Sierra with a much higher rainfall. St Martín represents 30% of total production.

There is lots of good and great wine from the Arganda area, in fact it was this area that took off first and really brought an initial change to the reputation of the region. Wineries such as Tagonius and El Regajal were producing fantastic wines 10 years ago and charging premium prices for them. There are also lots of great value, easy-drinking wines from the likes of Vinos Jeromín, which has a huge range.

Arganda, though is very similar in climate to La Mancha, and the wines read like La Mancha wines at all price points. Navalcarnero wines are somewhat like Méntrida wines, the La Mancha Appellation right next to it. They both have excellent potential and represent Madrid well as a southern meseta appellation.

It is St Martín that stands out as a little different. It is a hilly area in the foothills of the Sierra, borders up against the Ávila region, has a climate influenced both in rainfall and temperature by the mountain chain to its north. It is also an area blessed with, like so many Spanish regions, with amazing old vine vineyards. In this case, they are mostly Garnacha and Albillo. St Martín has really turned into a mecca in recent years for young wine makers interested in making something special from some unique sites. The fact that it is less than an hour from downtown Madrid is a huge plus!

The Garnacha in Spain is usually pretty big, sexy and voluptuous. There is a ton of it around here in the US, mostly from the region of Aragon, specifically the wine regions of Calatayud, Cariñena, Campo de Borja. These wines are big, bold, fruity, yet soft and plush at the same time. Spicy, sweet, and a real crowd pleaser! Though they often have alcohol contents of 14-15.5%, they have a freshness that belies that and makes then very drinkable. There freshness and low tannin makes them surprisingly food friendly.

Over in Navarra and in Cataluña you can get a leaner, more mineral Garnacha, though you can still find the big sexy ones too. In Priorat, they are usually part of a blend.

In Madrid, it’s all different. This is the Garnacha that could stymie the blind tasting panel. It’s floral, fragrant, sometimes earthy, Pinot noir-like in the nose. In the mouth, it sometimes has a bit more of the Grenache sweet fruit, but with a leanness and acidity that can be shocking at times. But there is still those lovely floral aromas. The tannins are often surprising for a Grenache. Very reminiscent of southern Rhine Grenache. The alcohol contents can be 14%, but are often lower and read even lower.

These wines are so fresh, balanced, aromatic, sometimes with a distinct earthiness….they come in all levels of price point and complexity. All very unique for Madrid and for Spanish wines from these hotter meseta areas. They are really exciting wines with so much personality!

The Albillo whites too, are super original…some are super mineral, others are almost “fat” and mouth-filling. My two favorite wineries have a totally different style of basic Albillo.

There are a lot of fantastic wineries, but my two favorites are without a doubt Bernabeleva and Bodega Marañones. They both make a range of wines, from a delicious entry-level wine as an easy price, to spectacular single vineyard wines. All of them are amazing value….

Have you ever tried a wine from Madrid? If so, what’s your favorite?

If you live in the US and frequent Costco, try the Zestos…amazing value and gives you a nice idea of the potential idea of these wines!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bodega El Regajal April 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Thanks for including El Regajal in your post. However, we don’t agree with the premium prices you mention. If you think that 14 euros for El Regajal is expensive, you can buy Las Retamas for only 8 euros, even cheaper in the winery. We invite you to try our wines the next time you visit Madrid.

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mary April 26, 2013 at 4:43 am

Thank you for your comment! You are absolutely right, 14 euros for wine of the quality of El Regajal Seleccion Especial is not expensive at all! It has not gone up a lot in price in ten years! When I first tried the Seleccion Especial around 2003/2004, it was not much lower in price…back then it was a premium price for a Vino de Madrid and even generally in much of Spain. Fifteen years ago, El Regajal was really instrumental in changing the reputation of Vinos de Madrid, and was one of only a few. Now there are many amazing wines but it still remains a benchmark wine. I was definitely focusing on the wines of San Martin in this article and did not explain the prices in enough context…thanks for pointing that out. I will of course be trying it again on my next visit to Madrid…I look forward to trying La Retama, which I have never tried.

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