Lying in the province of Aragón, around 60 km from Spain’s north-easterly city of Zaragoza, Campo de Borja finds itself in an area of transition between the mountains of the Iberian System and the valley of the very Ebro River that runs through the world-renowned Rioja region.
Records of wine-making in this region can be traced back to Roman times, with exports beginning in the medieval period with wine of the Cistercian Monastery of Veruela, situated at the foot of the Sierra de Moncayo Mountain Range.
La Mancha is one of the world's oldest and most renowned wine-growing regions, with local historical documents citing wine-making as early as the 12th century. Located in the southern Castilian plateau, some 60 km from Madrid, the strength of tradition in the area's viticulture reflects a series of intrinsic and natural conditions that favour grape cultivation and wines with well-defined qualities. Although the yield per hectare is not very high, the quality of fruit, the ripening cycle and the health of the vines in La Mancha are quite extraordinary.
Since the D.O. was officially established in 1976, its wines have proudly celebrated the spirit of adventure of another of the region's great exports, the much-loved Don Quixote de La Mancha. The cultural legacy of this great and heroic adventurer is as rich as it is varied and the classic image of the 16th century nobleman and his faithful steed, Rocinante, must surely be one of the most recognisable images in wine today.
Following the creation of this new D.O., local growers began to invest heavily in new winemaking technology, which triggered a revolution within the sector and a continuous process of modernisation which continues to this day. Investment in human resources has also been a key aspect in the improvement of the wines: the incorporation of oenologists and other highly qualified professionals has caused an unquestionable leap in quality and as a result the region's wines have won their place among the world's most prestigious.
The name 'Mancha' appears to come from the Arabic "manxa" meaning dry land. A dry land which spreads between the four provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo and which climbs steadily from north to south, reaching a height of 700 metres.
La Mancha's plains have an archetypal continental climate: the icy winters give way, nearly directly, to torrid summers. Summer temperatures often reach 45ºC and remains dry throughout the year as the surrounding mountains block the entrance of wet weather coming in from the sea.
In the last ten years, D.O. Alicante has been winning respect for its new light, fresh wines and interesting varietal reds produced by pioneering bodegas.
The winelands divide between two contrasting areas. The largest one is the arid valley of the Rio Vinalopó, which stretches behind Alicante city (also called Alacant in Valencian dialect). Here the Monastrell grape shares the vineyards with new varieties. The second smaller one, incorporated into the DO in 1987, is La Marina, on the northern coast, where Moscatel grapes flourish in the warm, humid climate.
Alicante DO, like another nearby Valencian wine terroir Utiel-Requena, spent decades largely supplying the bulk market, which still represents much of its output. However, it has a much longer history of winemaking, with a golden age from the 16th-17th centuries. In 1510, royal privilege prohibited the import of wines into Alicante as long as the region produced its own. By then it was already known in northern Europe, where it was imported by English, Swedish and Flemish merchants to add body and colour to other wines.
Alicante DO covers the southernmost of Valencia region's three provinces and is divided into two subzones. One of them, La Marina, on the northern part of the coastline, specialises in sweet Moscatel wines. The second, further south, spreads around and back from Alicante city (Alacant) to meet Castilla La Mancha and Murcia (600 hectares of vines also spills over the boundary). In this, the largest zone, the vineyards slope up to altitudes of 400 metres (over 1,300 feet) as the land rises to the central meseta's foothills.
The soils are mainly degraded limestone over limestone bedrock, with some areas of alluvial clay left by the rivers flowing towards Alicante's coast.
There are marked differences in the climate of the two subzones. The coastal vineyards of La Marina enjoy a Mediterranean climate. Those of the Vinalopó valley behind Alicante become more continental as one moves further inland. There is some humidity in the northern subzone, but it is generally a dry area with long areas of sunshine.
A relatively young Denominación de Origen, D.O. Jumilla was only established as an official wine-growing region in 1996. Since that time it has gone through various regulatory changes, although the biggest single impact on the quality of the region’s wines came a few years earlier, following the phylloxera attack of 1989. After much of the region's winelands were obliterated, many vineyards were replanted to produce lighter, more approachable Monastrell wines, suitable for a more international palate.
Since then, careful harvesting and investment in new equipment has greatly improved the quality of the wines. The result is a new generation of elegant young wines of the Monastrell grape, showing remarkable results in the hands of such skilled winemakers as Pamela Geddes, our master wine-maker.
Our Jumilla vineyards in Ontur offer a typical example of the region's arid, desert-like conditions. The lack of rain and year-round sunshine mean that the vines never reach more than a few centimetres in height, while producing grapes of enviable ripeness and intensity. Take a drive around the area and it's clear to see why Hollywood chose to film so many of its "Spaghetti Westerns" in the region's barren, featureless landscape. Fortunately for us, the film sets have since been replaced by some of the country's finest and most envied vineyards.
Since the phylloxera attack of 1989, Jumilla's wine-makers have invested millions in bringing the region's wines into line with the very best modern-day facilities.With the quality of its natural resources second-to-none, the introduction of this cutting-edge technology has allowed the region of Jumilla to experience a veritable renaissance and a reversal in its fortunes. Today, the region is receiving unprecedented praise from some of the world's most respected authorities on wine, perhaps the most celebrated of which being Robert Parker Jr.