North Central Spain
North Central Spain encompasses the wine production area of Castilla y León vineyards around the River Duero.This is the old seat of Spanish nobility when the Moors still controlled the southern portion of the country, and it extends as far northwest as Bierzo, though that area has more in common with Green Spain than with the rest of Castilla y León.
The remarkable Duero River offers shelter to some of Spain’s greatest wine regions. It originates high in the Sierra de Urbión, at the top of the Sistema Ibérico, and 460 miles later empties into the Atlantic at Oporto, the city in Portugal that gives its name to a famous fortified wine. Descriptions of the river (spelled Douro in Portugal) along which Port is produced include terms such as remote, inaccessible, and difficult, but recall that the Port region is downriver of Spain’s Duero River wine regions.
If Portugal’s remote Douro River is downriver, then those Duero River Spanish vineyards are very high in elevation indeed. That altitude brings advantages, such as long and cool growing conditions and cool–to–cold nighttime temperatures that preserve acidity, but also disadvantages—there will be vintages in which the wines don’t ripen properly.
Some of Spain’s old and beautiful architecture is rooted in the Duero River valley, and the region's most famous estate, Vega Sicilia, exudes an air that seems older than its mid-nineteenth–century roots. It’s not that the winemaking is traditional or that the winery is antique. Some of the buildings are old and striking, but inside those doors, the winery is as ultramodern as any in the world.
But the ancient pervades: the aqueducts at Segovia offer evidence of a Roman presence, and vinous artifacts abound. Napoleon's troops perished on these fields during the war of Independence; El Cid fought for Spain's unification here as well. Now wheat fields and sugar beet plantations alternate with the vines; the breadbasket and the Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Toro vineyards lie together from Valladolid to Zamora to Segovia. High elevation viticulture this may be, but the region is still nestled between two mountain ranges: in the south, stand the Sierra de Guadarrama and Sierra de Gredos; to the north are the protective barriers of the Sierras de la Demanda and Sierra de Cantábria.