Jumilla, in the arid Murcia region of south-central Spain, is a high desert that has historically produced massive quantities of bulk Jumilla wine. Recent plantings by quality-minded growers, mostly of Monastrell (Mourvedre), have yielded Jumilla wines that combine black fruit flavors and firm tannic structure.
Spain has more acres under vine than any other country and ranks third in production behind Italy and France. Much of this output continues to be hot-country jug wine made to satisfy the everyday thirsts of the domestic and greater European markets. But many inexpensive Spanish wines that once were rustic, tired, or dried out have been replaced by bottlings that are lush, round, ripe, and cleanly made. Regions that previously made blended Spanish wines that were virtually too strong to be bottled on their own, such as Tarragona, Valencia, Yecla, Jumilla, and Toro are now firmly in the table wine business, even if these wines of Spain can be alarmingly high in alcohol.
At the high end are exciting new bottlings from the historically important Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions in north-central Spain and from the wild, hilly Priorat in Cataluña, in the northeast corner of the country. A new generation of Spanish wine makers has begun crafting wines in a distinctly modern international style: deeply colored, very ripe, and high in alcohol, generally aged in a high percentage of new French oak, and often quite pricey. The majority of these wines are based on Tempranillo, Spain's most distinguished red variety. While the ultimate quality and longevity of these Spanish wines are yet to be proven, these new bottlings have unquestionably captured the attention of wine drinkers both inside and outside Spain.
Although much of Spain bakes in the sun for at least half the year, the country actually covers a vast range of climates-from the cooler and much wetter Atlantic-influenced northwest, to the arid, blazing Mediterranean south and southeast-so vintage generalizations are tricky with Spanish wines. Moreover, the majority of Spain's better vineyards lie at relatively high altitude, where summer nights are cool even when afternoons are stifling. " e wines and is perfect with any chocolate dessert.
Powerful earthy and savory reds, with some serious tannins
Stews, roasts, grilled meats
A sparsely planted variety found predominantly in the southern Rhone, Provence, and elsewhere near the Mediterranean coast, Mourvedre is best known for its place in powerful game and earth-scented reds. One is mostly likely to encounter the grape in wines from the southern Rhone. Here, Mourvedre takes its place blended with Grenache and Syrah, notably in the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
If you want to discover what the grape offers on its own, head to the appellation of Bandol, in Provence. Provence may be best known for the widespread production of rose wines, but for serious wines in the region, Bandol is the first (and for many, the only) stop. Here, wines are dominated by Mourvedre, and in some examples, this grape is the sole variety. Because of the high percentage of Mourvedre, wines from Bandol can be fiercely tannic upon release, and often demand at least six to eight years of cellaring. After this time, this wines will gain nuance and grace, complementing their underlying savory and musky characteristics. Here, we like wines made by Domaine Tempier and Chateau Pradeaux.
In Spain, Mourvedre is known as Monastrell or Mataro, and it is planted heavily on the southeastern Mediterranean coast, including the appellations of Jumila and Yecla. Good examples come from Bodegas Castano and Bodegas El Nido.
The grape is sometimes found in very warm microclimates of the New World, especially in parts of California and Australia. Indeed, winemakers in Australia have increasingly been following the lead of their counterparts in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, incorporating Mourvedre into the increasingly prevalent GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) wines. Many of these wines are quite affordable.
As Mourvedre-based wines are generally earthy and rustic, they pair well with comparably rustic fare like meat-based stews and roasts.