Jumilla, less than 100 miles southwest of Valencia on Spain's east coast, is bone-dry countryside (far less than 12 inches of rainfall annually) marked by gentle rolling hills. These hillsides are loaded with highly porous, low fertility, chalk soil. Monastrell, known as Mourvèdre in France and Mataro in Australia, adapts well to these challenging growing conditions and is experiencing rediscovered popularity among winemakers in central Spain.
Almost certainly Spanish in origin, Monastrell is one of Spain's three most important red varieties, Garnacha (Grenache) and Tempranillo being the other two. The Monastrell grapes are small, dense-skinned and sweet which tend toward intense, gamey, tannic and high alcohol wines. Bodega Juan Gil's 2005 offering is indeed consistent with this model.
Carefully selected and harvested from 40-year-old estate vines at a miniscule 1.8 tons per acre, this is heady stuff. Grape clusters were fermented whole and left to macerate for well over three weeks. The young wine then matured for 12 months in French oak barriques before bottling. The result?
* Color: Moderately deep ruby with an orange and rust rim.
* Nose: Northern Rhône Syrah-like meat fat, smoky cumin, paprika, black pepper, plum, tea leaf and cherry.
* Palate: Medium-to-full body with straightforward blackberry and plum. Hot, chalky, fleshy and chewy. A bit monochromatic.
* Finish: Black fruit, plum and sweet chai tea. Lengthy and interesting.
As for a suggested food pairing, I have one word: paella. Only the most adventurous foodies among you will attempt to prepare it the traditional Valencian way, outdoors upon an open flame. Another great symbol of Spanish gastronomy should accompany the meal as well, the humble and delicious Valencia orange.
One final suggestion. Make that a strong suggestion. This wine should be opened and decanted several hours before enjoying with any meal. It needs plenty of time to calm, thus showing its best.
Good luck and let your palate be the judge...
Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.