You may remember from my last post (link: https://timmilford.com/2013/06/13/eating-out-on-the-costa-blanca/) that a couple of weeks ago I found myself on the East Coast of Spain visiting family and getting some much needed R+R. As with any trip I make I was very keen to explore some of the fantastic local cuisine, which I hope my last post did justice to. For anyone that’s been following this blog for the few months that I’ve been writing it (or for anyone that knows me in real life, for that matter), you will know that I would also have been keen to explore the local wine and see what it had to offer too.
On the first part of my trip we were staying with my cousin and her husband. Luckily my cousin-in-law is a fellow wine enthusiast and had been looking for an excuse to explore some of the local grapes himself. Even more fortunately, my cousin is pregnant – so we had a designated driver! A collection of some of the wines that we made our way through can be seen in the collage at the top of the screen.
We headed to Jumilla, which is a Denominación de Origen (DOC) on the border of the Murcia and Albacete regions. The first place we visited was a Wine Co-operative called “Bodega San Isidro”, where local farmers would bring their grapes to make into wines. I noticed quite quickly that the predominant grape variety in the area was the Monastrell grape, better known to the wider world as Mourvèdre. Now, I cannot recall having drunk much Mourvèdre before; if I have, it was most likely in a blend (it quite often features alongside Grenache or Syrah).
At BSI we tried three wines from the same label, which had spent different amounts of time in oak barrels (I think they were American oak, but I will have to check on that). First we tried a young wine (2012), which had not spent any time in barrel and had gone straight to bottle. It tasted youthful, fruity and fresh, as you would expect, but lacked any length on the finish. Next we tried a bottle of the Crianza (2009), which had spent six months in oak barrels and then spent further development time in bottle. Instantly, this wine tasted a little more refined – with a slightly softer approach. This was then developed even further when we tried the Reserva (2006), which had spent two years in barrel. The initial fruity overdrive of the younger wines was replaced with a softer flavour, more musky notes of tobacco prevalent. My impression of these wines was that the young wine would be a perfect “BBQ wine” as a “Summer Wine” (Tinto de Verano where red wine is served with lemonade and a few blocks of ice). The Crianza, lacked a little finesse and the Reserva was pleasant; however all of these wines came in at under €10/bottle – making them great value. We also tried a 2009 Dolce Monastrell, from Gemina. This was a complete surprise to me as the wine was absolutely gorgeous – plummy, sweet, hint of treacle to it. The Dolce Monastrells are made like a German spätlese (ie: they are picked late off the vines in order to allow extra sugars to develop in the grapes). A bottle of this wine is currently sitting in my flat, waiting for an occasion to drink it.
After this Bodega we headed to one of the more famous wine centres in Jumilla – Luzón Bodegas. Here we were welcomed by an English-speaking member of staff (in BSI my cousin and her husband did an admirable job of translating), who gave us a little tour through their wines. We started with what was, in essence, a fairly non-descript white wine; but quickly moved on to the reds, which are the real strength of the region. What was noticeable here was that all of the reds that we tried had been chilled prior to serving.
The first red that we tried was a bottle of 2008 Altos de Luzón Autor, which was a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Suavignon and Temperanillo. This wine packed quite a punch at 14.7%, but the taste did not let on to that; it was smooth and very tasty – I bought a bottle of this to take home with me. Another highlight was the 2007 Alma de Luzón, which is their signature wine and is a blend of 70% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah). According to the label Alma means “soul” and the wine is, therefore, supposed to express the soul of the soil, which if it is true suggests that the soil in this area has a lovely, and rather refined, soul. The wine benefitted from some time in barrel (22 months according to their website) and was nice and rounded, with flavours of black fruits (blackberries). This wine retails at €40/bottle on their website, but in the Bodegas itself it was less (in the region of €25/bottle, if I remember rightly). As in BSI, one of the highlights of this tasting was the Dolce Monastrell (2006) from Luzón – once again characterised by sweet and spicy fruit.
When we went to Valencia we found that there was a similar emphasis on local Valencian wines in a number of restaurants. Monastrell seemed to be less prevalent, with a higher number of Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Temperanillos. Understandably there was also no shortage of Riojas on offer too. Places of particular note included: Casa Montaña, where the wine selection in the restaurant was nothing short of prodigious; we were in the Tapas bar area and were content to try from the ‘wines by the cup’ menu, where we tried wines from Valencia, Navarra and Rioja. All of the wines were priced around the €2/3 mark – value that you just couldn’t find in the UK. I also particularly enjoyed the wines at Bar Almudin where there was a nice selection of wines in a chiller unit all priced at €2.50 a glass.
The barman even allowed us to try a small amount of the wines before selecting. One of particular interest was a Bobal, which had a slightly fragrant nose reminiscent of Parma Violets, with a surprising dash of acidity that my wife characterised as tasting like the Haribo Sour Cherries. It was unusual, but in a pleasing way. The barman was very generous in allowing us to sample before we selected and even offered us a nice glass of Pedro Ximénez on the house to have with our pudding.