Madrid was initially inhabited by the Iberians, but the region was later visited by the Carthaginians, followed by the Romans, two peoples who considered wine a basic element of their diet. Either of these primitive peoples could have been responsible for introducing the wine-growing custom in Spain, if it did not already exist in the territory at the time, although it seems most likely that Rome was indeed responsible.
Important roads passed through the Madrid of the Roman Hispania and it was to be expected that such a wine-growing people like the Romans would take advantage of the excellent conditions existing in these lands to elaborate their wines. Sadly, there are no vestiges or traces of this early wine-growing tradition, for they were lost following the invasion of the Barbarians. The Vandals devastated the region and impoverished the land, which led to a noteworthy decline in the demography. However, it seems that the vineyards which managed to survive were not affected, in the end, by the subsequent Arab invasion, despite the fact that the Koran expressly prohibits imbibing in alcoholic beverages. It seems that in Moslem Spain, the wine growing industry actually flourished due to the healthy drinking habits of the Hispanic Moslems, who, in this case, decided not to heed this particular dictate of the Koran.
The territory of Madrid was conquered once again by Alfonso VI, who seized Magerit (Madrid) in 1083. The repopulation was carried out by the people of Castilla la Vieja, mainly those from Segovia, who arrived at these new lands under contract to plant grapevines or cereals for the feudal lords or for the abbots of the monasteries.
It was during the 13th and 14th centuries, when the wine production in Madrid took on even greater importance. In the 15th century, the Madrid wines had attained an aura of prestige, which was reflected in many literary references, such as those of the “Arcipreste de Hita”, and these fine wines were even exported to other cities. In 1481, the Madrid Council established its conditions for the sale of its production and in a letter sent to the dignitaries of Burgos, it was decided that “those who come from afar for wine, should come loaded with fish, and if they do not bring fish with them, they will not take away the wine”.
In the so-called “Siglo de Oro” (Century of Gold – between the 16th and 17th centuries), Madrid was chosen as the capital of the Spanish kingdom and this led to a noteworthy increase in the demand for its wine. Despite the fact that Felipe II, during the first years of his reign, consumed wine from the Rhine, as it was elaborated expressly for the monarch, the local population drank the much praised wines of their region.
After three hundred years of economic growth, the 17th century experienced a general impoverishment of the Madrid Community, bringing with it hunger, plagues and an over-all decline in the demography, which would last until the 20th century. Nevertheless, the raising of the grapevines continued to flourish and the Madrid wines were able to maintain their prestige, although we cannot ignore the fact that the depression did leave its mark.
In 1914, phylloxera was detected for the first time in the Madrid area, which would end up destroying practically all of the region’s vineyards. The reconstruction process was slow but steady, while the city of Madrid took on greater and greater importance as a market for quality wines. After several difficult years due to autarchic policies which subsidised the abandoning of the grapevines, it was in the decade of the fifties when recovery of the vineyards was initiated once again. In 1984, the Specific Denomination of Origin “Vinos de Madrid” was recognised and it was officially approved in 1990. Fortunately, at present, on a day to day basis, both the vineyards as well as the wineries of Madrid are recovering a great deal of the prestige they so justly enjoyed in the past.