Airén is the green wine grape of La Mancha in central Spain. It is however quickly losing ground – the area planted with Airén has decreased with thirty-five percent world-wide between 2000 and 2010.
When vinified as a varietal, Airén produces a fresh and crispy but neutral, low aromatic wine made for early consumption.
This is one of the reasons it is mainly being used for producing fortified wines such as Brandy. Airén is also common to use for blending with other varieties, above all bringing acidity and volume.
Airén owns its popularity to a very high drought resistance combined with high yields. As a varietal wine it has a domestic market, but it is difficult to find outside Spain.
Due to its relatively high acidity levels, a varietal Airén will work well with various fish and shellfish dishes. It is also nice on its own, served at the right temperature (8°C/46°F – 10°C/50°F) on a hot Summer day.
Where is it grown?
Airén can be found in several regions in Spain, but the main plantings are in Cuidad Real, Toledo, Cuneca, and Albacete.
Overproduction of wine in Europe, combined with higher demand – and subsequently better pay – for red wine, has led to uprooting of a staggering 135.600 ha/335,075 ac between 2000 and 2010. Nevertheless Airén remained the third most planted grape in the world in 2010 with its 252.364 ha/623,605 ac, (beaten only by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).
No reports of plantings outside of Spain have been found.
Airén is recognised as having originated in the Castile-La Mancha region, where its main plantings still can be found. The district of Cuneca is a likely birthplace. It has historically been confused with the grape Lairén but it is now established that they are two different varieties.