The wines of Madrid? Well, yes and no. No, you won’t see grapes growing near the Prado. But, yes, within the broader confines of Madrid, there are grapes and the wines from them are surprisingly good.
Last fall in New York, I attended a tasting for the Vinos de Madrid DO, the Denomination of Origin for a region located about an hour outside Spain’s capital, but still considered to be Madrid by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture. That government entity determines what regions deserve DO status, indicating an area that has specific, if not unique, characteristics and standards that contribute to better wines.
Wine has been made in this region, primarily east/southeast and west/southwest of the city, since the 13th century. For centuries, however, most of what was produced was cheap bulk wine. As is the case so often in the wine world, lower and lower yields gradually produced wines of higher quality, eventually high enough for Vinos de Madrid (VDM) to be granted a DO in 1990.
Twenty years ago there were only seven wineries. Today, there are 45 wine producers fed by some 2,500 growers. VDM has three subzones (Arganda, Navalcarnero and San Martin) and covers 8,000 hectares, just under 20,000 acres.
About two-thirds of the 3.5 million bottles produced are consumed in Madrid. And while exports have increased dramatically in the past dozen years or so, most exports are still consumed in Europe. However, VDM producers see the potential in the US wine market. Hence, their visit to the Big Apple.
About 60 percent of the wines produced in VDM are red and most of those reds are made from the Garnacha grape, the indigenous Spanish varietal (known as Grenache almost everywhere else) that has been coming on strong in recent years and produces dark, delicious, and food friendly wines. About 10 percent of the region’s grapes are Tempranillo. There is also some Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, almost all of which are used in blends.
The vast majority of whites come from the Malvar grape. Reminiscent of Torrontes, Malvar produces a floral wine with good minerality and a slightly bitter finish.
Of the two wines I liked best from the tasting— Bodegas Licinia, Licinia 2007 and Bodegas Senorio de Val Azul, Fabio 2007—only the Licinia (imported by Ole Imports; www.oleimports.com) is currently available in the United States. (One of the frustrations of wine writers occurs when wineries from new regions come to the United States to show their wares, hoping that we will write about the wines, which will then enable wineries to find importers, in essence, using us as adjunct PR firms.)
The Licinia 2007 (about $60), the second vintage of this marvelous wine, is a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a meaty, cherry nose, a firm, moderately tannic structure and ripe, dark fruit with chocolate and leathery notes.
Vinos Jeromin is the only other winery from the tasting that has a presence in the United States. (also imported by Ole as well as Quality Wines of Spain; www.qualitywinesofspain.com.) Of the wines I sampled, the clear favorite was the Grego Crianza 2005 (about $23). This blend of 60 percent Tempranillo, 30 percent Syrah and 10 percent Garnacha showed ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, nice minerality and earthiness and firm structure. I’d give it a bit more time in the bottle, or decant it if you want to consume it right away—and can’t wait for the other wineries to find importers.