Although Madrid wines (Vinos de Madrid) are still relatively unknown among consumers, the region has enjoyed a prestige and historical past that dates back to the twelfth century. Current wines in the region however are far from the old wines of San Martín de Valdeiglesias, who in their golden years were perceived as some of the most prestigious wines in Spain. Today, the Vinos of Madrid face a highly competitive wine scene, but the effort local wineries regain this old prestige is evident in the quality of the wines being produced.
Madridhas a long and well documented history in viticulture. Evidence suggests that the existence of the wine industry in the current boundaries of the Community of Madrid dates back to the thirteenth century, but there is also evidence to suggest that vineyards and wines in the region date back centuries before. During that time, it is known that the cultivation of the vine was handled by winegrowers almost all dependent on the feudal lords installed on agricultural land near cities, as well as municipal institutions, called councils, who exploited their own vineyards.
By the 15thCentury, wines in the region enjoyed great prestige, as evidenced by famous literary works and multiple testimonies and the export to other cities in Spain, like Burgos. To add to this boom, the choice of Madrid as the capital of the kingdom resulted in a notable increase in the demand for wines from the region, which in turn resulted in a rapid increase in wine production in the neighbouring areas of Arganda, Alcalá de Henares, Fuencarral, Alcobendas, Torrelaguna, etc. The wines consumed during the reign of Philip IV came mainly from the outskirts of Madrid. Valdemoro wines found fame and great success, but the most prestigious remained those from San Martín, as well as those from Cadalso and Pelayos. Even in the city of Madrid there was notable production of wine, shown by the fact that in 1665, there were 63 growers in the city, all of which were subjected to rigorous checks and required to declare to the treasury the amount of grapes or juice they produced. Famous vineyards were even located around the various streets of Madrid, such as those around Calle de Segovia, or located on the slopes of the Manzanares River, or even the current Castellana up to where today the Nuevos Ministerios are located. There was also a large vineyard in much of the current Barajas airport, and even in Carabanchel, whose muscatel was famous and well esteemed. But the unstoppable growth of industrial estates and the conversion of villages into commuter towns put an end to Valdemoro, Pinto, Getafe, Mostoles, Torrejón, Alcobendas and Alcalá de Henares wines, and the airport and airbases did the same with the Barajas and Torrejón vineyards.
The expansion of Madrid, asphalt as well as the phylloxera plague eventually led to the elimination of virtually all of the vineyards near the capital, with barely a few hectares surviving in San Martin de Valdeiglesias, Navalcarnero and Arganda, areas that were important and at the beginning of the 20thcentury accounted for over 60,000 hectares of vineyards. The first plague of phylloxera in the vineyard of Madrid was detected in 1914 in San Martin de Valdeiglesias, which quickly spread to other areas and ruined many of the vineyards in Madrid, causing a substantial change in the character of the wines in this region. They were difficult years for vineyards and the wines of Madrid, and the real recovery will not come until the 1950s, after the war, when it began to introduce varieties on a massive scale, selected mainly for their high performance and alcoholic strength, with the red Garnacha gaining prominence in the areas of Navalcarnero and San Martin, and the white Airén in Arganda. At this time most of the cooperatives emerged, which provided a lot of anonymous wines without great features to a capital growing at a frenetic pace, and permanently buried the history of the wines of Madrid's famed muscatel of Carabancheles, Villaverde, Hortaleza and Fuencarral.
However, faced with the crisis and reduced consumption of anonymous and mass-produced wines throughout the country in the 1970s, production areas considered restructuring the wine sector. Since then, they have been working towards recovering some of the typical grape varieties in the area and updating the methods and production criteria to achieve wines consistent with new consumer trends, especially bottled wine.
Once again, the eighties mark a before and after for Madrid wines with the launch of the new Wines of Madrid Specific Designation (Denominación Específica Vinos de Madrid) in 1984, and the subsequent legally recognised Designation of Origin in 1990. A year later, some wines wore the label Vinos de Madrid and in January 1992, they began marketing the first aged wines. Thus it was reborn this long historical tradition, but it was also a challenge for some unknown wines, even for much of the Madrid market.
Vinos de Madrid is located in the geographical centre of Spain, in the southern part of the province of Madrid, where it forms a semicircle around the capital. The region is home to 8,300 hectares of vineyards spanning 54 municipalities, plus the El Encín estate in Alcalá de Henares, and is divided into the three sub-zones (Arganda, Navalcarnero, and San Martín de Valdeiglesias), each of which produce different types of wine. Vinos de Madrid is home to 2,891 winemakers and 44 wineries.
Climate, Soil and Varieties.
Arganda Subzone. Arganda is the largest sub-zone out of the three, containing about 50% of the vines and comprising 26 municipalities, plus the El Encín plantation. The subzone is home to predominantly clay soils, on granite subsoils with a good amount of calcareous soils. The Jarama River runs over this land, a tributary of the Tagus and the tributaries Tajuña and Henares. Here, there is a typical continental climate, with extreme temperatures in both winter and summer, with pretty low rainfall concentrated in spring and autumn and an average of 2,800 hours of sunshine a year.
Navalcarnero Subzone. This is a very flat subzone, comprised of 19 municipalities, and is located in the south-central area of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. It is split through the middle by the Guadarrama River and its climate is also continental, with hot summers and cold winters, and about 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. There is little rainfall in the region, barely reaching 300 litres of rain per square meter. However, the sub zone is home to brown non-calcium soils which are low in nutrients, and thick sandy and clayey subfloors, which have good water retention and allow for good grape growing. Wine production in this subzone represents only 15% of the total and is dominated by cooperative wineries, although today they are among the most modern in Madrid, and the bottled wine market has reached a level of quality.
San Martin de Valdeiglesias Subzone.It is located in the extreme southwest of the Community of Madrid, and is the smallest of the three sub-areas, although it is the second largest in wine production since its vineyards account for 35% of the total. The proximity of the Sistema Central provides a more rugged terrain and also serves to protect against the cold north winds. That's why its climate, still being continental, reaches warmer temperatures and has a more humid environment, reflected in less arid and more abundant pastures, pine forests and landscapes. Brown soils settled on granite lands, poor in humus and acid pH, have a good ability to produce quality wines.
In the three subzones, the authorised red varieties are Tempranillo (also known as Tinto Fino or Cencibel), Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, while the white varieties highlighted are Malvar, Airén and Albillo, as well as the Viura (also known as Macabeo), Parellada, Moscatel de Grano Menudo and Torrontés. One of Vinos de Madrid’s most exclusive varieties is the white variety Malvar. It has some resemblance with the Airén, but it is actually a different strain. This variety lends a certain freshness and lightness to white wines, and a stronger aroma than those made with Airén. In each of the subzones there is a certain variety that is principally cultivated: in the Arganda area, the red variety Tempranillo and the white Malvar; the Navalcarnero area is focused on the Garnacha Tinta and the white Malvar; and the red Garnacha and white Albillo predominate in San Martín.
Wines and Wineries.
As well as producing white wines, reds, rosés and natural sparkling wines, theDO Vinos de Madridalso produces wines under the label “sobremadre”. These are either white or red wines that are produced by fermenting the must with the stemmed and crushed grapes (madre). Once fermentation has been carried out, the grapes remain with the wine for a maximum of 6 months, with no racking. This unique production process of this wines generates endogenic carbonic gas. Currently, inDO Vinos de Madrid, there are 8 wineries that cultivate their vineyards and grow grapes following the principles of organic agriculture and are registered to the ‘Comité de Agricultura Ecológica de la Comunidad de Madrid’. However, within the 44 bodegas are a significant number of cooperatives that bring together much of the total wine production, although there is also a collection of young winemakers and grape growers working with great enthusiasm, dedication, knowledge and vision to make wines very personal and genuine, especially in the higher altitudes of the region and with the Garnacha Tinta.
One of the wineries that deserves a special mention isComando G. Two men have been instrumental in the rebirth of Gredos: Dani Landi, who also runs his own project in the area after leaving Jiménez-Landi, his family's winery in Méntrida, and Fernando García, who works as a winemaker for Bodega Marañones (Vinos de Madrid). Although they both defend that Gredos should be an appellation in its own right, the winery produces wines under two different wine regions: Vinos de Madrid and VT Castilla y León. One of the wines produced under the DO Vinos de Madrid classification is La Bruja Avería, a red wine made with Garnacha grapes and aged for 5 months in the barrel, and following the Burgundian approach, this ‘vino de pueblo’ really conveys the landscape of Rozas de Puerto Real. The grapes, 40% of which are bought, come from the bottom of a U-Shaped valley that is drawn between the municipalities of Rozas, Cadalso and Cencientos. It is a direct, sweet, fruity and fresh wine. Also under the DO Vino de Madrid comes the wine Las Umbrías. This wine is also a single variety Garnacha, with grapes taken from the Valle de Tiétar, born from the first abandoned and restored biodynamic vineyard, with which Comando G was produced in the 2008 harvest. This half hectare plot with strains aged around 60 years old is located at the top of the so-called Monte de los Corzos (1000 metres), with characteristic granite soil in the area as well as red clay. His latest creation is the Rozas 1er Cru, which is 100% Garnacha from a three hectare plot with 50-60 year old vineyards grown on granite soil with sand and clay at the surface. They are located in Matallana, Prado, Nebrillo and Arroyo in the town of Rozas de Puerto Real in Valle del Tiétar, 900 metres above sea level. It is fermented in French oak vats with indigenous yeasts and aged for 12 months in 500 litre French oak barrels. Also made under VT Castilla are Rumbo Al Norte, La Mujer Cañón, a collection of 60 year old Garnacha vines 900 metres above sea level and El Hombre Bala which is aged for 10 months.
An example of a small winery is El Regajal, which was founded in 1998 with the planting of the first vineyard, and now extends over 16 hectares. They cultivate Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah varieties under biodynamic principles in order to grow vines that are truly loyal to their terroir. It features Jerome Bougnaud, who belongs to the fourth generation of a family of wine growers in the Cognac region and has developed a large part of his professional career in Spain. For years, he has been the ‘vigneron’ (wine-maker) of El Regajal, as well as Quinta Sardonia and Dominio de Pingus. The estate has a small and modern winery for making and ageing wine, the wines age in French oak barrels and are marketed under different labels, including Galia, a red wine produced with Tinto Fino and Garnacha and aged for 19 months in French oak barrels; Las Retamas de El Regajal, made with a jigsaw puzzle of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, and aged for 10 months in French oak barrels; and Regajal Special Selection, aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
Another example of a modern and tiny winery is Licinia, located in Morata de Tajuña. It has 28 hectares of vineyards and in autumn 2006, Licinia’s first vintage was harvested. It produces only red wine, the Licinia, with Tempranillo (65%), Syrah (25%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and is aged in 225 litre new French oak barrels for 12 months. It has a good, intense aroma with black fruit, toasted notes, spices and a floral point, with subtle mineral notes; round, glycerine, intense in fruit and scent, tasty and very persistent.
4 Monos Viticultores, in Cadalso de los Vidrios (Madrid), are four friends from Madrid who decided to take advantage of the ecological virtues of high-altitude vineyards to create very personal and different wines. In a vineyard in Cadalso de los Vidrios, they found Cariñena, which they mix with Syrah and Garnacha to make their red wine, 4 Monos (4 Monkeys). They also make a white wine, 4 Monos Albillo, and La Danza del Viento, a Garnacha red wine from an estate 820 metres above sea level, which is made with 100% of the stem and spends 14 months in barrels in San Martín.
Bodega Ecológica Luis Saavedra, was the first organic winery in the area, taking advantage of the excellent conditions of the land in Cenicientos for the Garnacha and Albillo varieties, but also for the Merlot, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon strains, grown without herbicides or pesticides, manual harvest, indigenous yeasts etc. This attracted the attention of the Jews, and consequently they produce the only kosher wine made with the organic seal of Spain, the Corucho Kosher, and other brands for the Jewish community, as well as a red oak made with 75 year old Garnacha and four months in the barrel.
Barnaveleva Winery and Vineyards is located in San Martin de Valdeiglesias on the same route as the Bear and Bulls of Guisando (Toros de Guisando). This winery is a pioneer in restoring bush planted Garnachas up to 800 metres above sea level, the red Morenillo and the white grapes Albillo and Moscatel de Grano Menudo, all cultivated using biodynamic farming processes. His most commercial labels are Cantocuerdas Moscatel and Albillo, Navaherreros in both the white and red versions, and the single vineyard wines: Bernaveleva Arroyo de Tórtolas, Bernaveleva Carril del Rey, and Bernaveleva Garnacha Viña Bonita.
Bodega Marañones is located in Pelayos de la Presa, where oenologist Fernando García and lawyer Fernando Cornejo decided to collaborate on a project restoring the local Garnacha and Albillo varieties. The winery has 20 hectares of vineyards and has pioneered the first Albillo white wine reared on its lees in 500 litre barrels. They develop it, then age it for up to a year, like their white wine Picarana. Highlights include the red Treintamil Maravedíes from the Garnacha variety; the single-estate Marañones (Garnacha), much like the single vineyard wines Peña Caballera; the white Albillo, Pies Descalzos; and the red Labros, with a Garnacha grown on a stony plantation.