Valdepeñas: The Land of La Mancha Wine

About 200km south of Madrid, on the road that heads to Cadiz, is a small town located in the heart of Castilla-La Mancha known for their quality Domination of Origin wines: Valdepeñas. It’s small but quaint and makes for a perfect weekend getaway.

Windmill of Gregorio Prieto. Photo by Julie Peterson.

When to visit

The best time of the year to visit would be the summer months May-September. Avoid winter months. I went to visit in early December and it was cold and rainy with little activity. If you want to catch the harvest season and take part in the local wine festivities, visit in late August to early October.

Getting there

By car, get detailed directions from any point in Spain – visit como-llegar. There is a train station that runs daily to many destinations. To view timetable and prices, visit RENFE.  For buses, ALSA which has got few departures points from Granada, Almuñecar and Nerja. AvanzaBus offer routes from Madrid – Almería, running daily with a stop in Valdepeñas.

Accommodation

Valdepeñas offers just a few centrally-located hotels ranging from the 5 star Vera Cruz Plaza Hotel & Spa ranging from 60€/night down to the more budget friendly hostel Nuevo Real from 28€ located just on the outskirts.

Food & Wine

The gastronomy of this town is rooted in the rural and pastoral, once offered to knights, shepherds and laborers. The same dishes are still recreated respecting tradition, quality and fresh ingredients. Here is a list of popular dishes that can be enjoyed in the many taverns in town:

Arrope: Typical dessert made from caramelized grape juice usually added with fruits like quince, melon, peach or pumpkin.

Caldereta: A stew based on a reduction of water, oil and/or wine with meat or fish and vegetables. Traditionally considered “poor” for its simplicity, its name comes from formerly cooked in large cauldrons.

Duelos y quebrantos: The tradition of this dish goes back to the time of Cervantes, made with scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon.

Gruel: A type of porridge/grits made from varying flours, grains and rice.

Migas: Crumbs are simple dishes that were the essential diet of shepherds and drovers country people of Andalusia, Extremadura, La Mancha and even in Navarra. This dish has over 15 different recipes!

Mostillo: Typical dessert made from reduces grape juice thickened with flour.

Pipirrana: A refreshing salad made of onions, green peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Pisto manchego: Similar to ratatouille, there are many variations to this star dish typically prepared with squash, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, olive oil and salt.

Manchego Cheese: A designation of origin speciality. Makes for a good appetizer or dessert.

Sopas Revueltas: A soup made with bread, garlic and tomato sauce.

Tiznao: A salted cod dish accompanied by potatoes, red peppers, garlic cloves, paprika and onions.

To accompany these delicious delicacies is a nice large glass of one of the renowned wines of the region that in recent years have led to international admiration and recognition. The majority of wines produced fall into the following four categories: young whites, young rosés, young reds and young red clarets, all made for consumption within one year. Some Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Reservas are also produced.

Tasting of Manchego Cheeses & Wine. Photo by Julie Peterson.

Sightseeing

The one main attraction in Valdepeñas is of course its bodegas. Some big-name wineries to visit are Dionisos, Aruspide, Navarro López & Felix Solis. Be sure to check with the tourist office for opening hours. A good tip is that direct purchase of bottles there are generally cheaper than store-bought. To improve your knowledge of the history of the area’s many wines, you must visit the Museum of Wine. There are a couple of other great museums in the town that are worth a visit – The Municipality Museum and the Museum of Gregorio Prieto,  a local painter from the turn of the century whose personal paintings of portraits and the Manchego landscapes are displayed in a beautiful old farm house with an interior court. The 8th century Renaissance & Gothic like fortress of The Church of Our Lady of Asunción has a unique legend and story to tell its visitors.

Have you ever visited Valdepeñas? What did you think?

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