2004 Bodegas Balcona Partal DO Bullas
We had heard all about "Balcona", the high elevation plantings, the wind that rips down from the mountains, keeping the late-ripening Monastrell (or Mourvedre) healthy. The 2004 Partal, drawn from Pepa Fernandez's old-vine Monastrell was delicious -- a wildly aromatic Spanish wine with beautiful red fruit flavors and a finish that wouldn't stop. But even so, it was 8 hours from Catalunya to Bullas. A winter storm had blanketed the mountain roads. It would be half-crazy to make the trek on those narrow two-lane mountain roads just to understand what those ethereal aromas, and the finish that never ends, were all about. But, we were on a Spanish mission.
Our lunch with Pepa was a lesson in 20th century Spanish history viewed through the eyes of a winegrower. Over roasted baby goat paired with the 2004 Partal, Pepa told us about his grandmother, "La Balcona", a tenant farmer who, in 1940, right after the end of the Spanish Civil War, was given the opportunity by one of the local terratenientes to buy one of the prime vineyard sites in Murcia for next to nothing. She immediately ripped out the wheat and saffron and planted Monastrell bush plants. But Murcia would pay a hefty price for its opposition to Franco during the civil war. Franco cut off state funds to the region, and the young people fled, moving to Barcelona and Madrid. The fields were lying fallow, and the few grape growers selling to the local co-op found their Monastrell wines selling for 10 cents a liter in the retail stores of Madrid!
It took almost 35 years for Franco to pass and for Murcia to begin its comeback. And it took still another 30 years for the roots of La Balcona's Monastrell to spider underground, searching out water and nutrients, infusing these incredibly healthy bush plants with the explosive red fruit intensity that is found in this brilliant, utterly singular Spanish red wine.
Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Deep ruby color. Explosive aroma of red fruits, sous bois, dried flowers. Pretty, lively red fruit flavors, finely layered and complex, with excellent persistence. Fine, long finish, speaking to those old dry-farmed vines with the deep, spidering root structure. Drink now (it's perfect) or age for up to 4 years. Serve at 60 degrees."