The misappropriation of Monastrell?



My first contact with Bodegas Monastrell of Denominación de Origen Bullas (DO Bullas) was a little confusing.


In this part of southern Spain, Monastrell is the darling grape variety – as a monovarietal, in a blend, it’s used in probably 90% of all red wines of the zone, and to very good effect as well. So, I could understand a winery wanting to take ownership of the name – but, surely all others would have a similar claim?


However, on talking to Alejandro and Alfonso, it was clear that their naming the winery Bodegas Monastrell, is in no way an attempt to misappropriate the name of the variety. Rather, it’s an example of paying homage to this wonderful grape. And, when you taste the wines they make with it – well, it’s clear they also pay homage through their craft!


However, of the wines they recently sent me to taste for Cork Talk, only one was made using Monastrell. The rest are from a new portfolio of wines under the banner of ‘Salto del Usero’, the name of a small area of natural beauty in Bullas, which boasts and inland ‘beach’ alongside the small lake.


Personally, in the now daily heat, with temperatures set to go even higher, I find myself reaching for white wines and rosados, before reds. That is until later in the evening, perhaps over a late dinner, or simply drinking with friends, when it’s cooled down enough for some full red wines, that don’t need to have been chilled! And in the latter case, you can’t gro wrong by sticking with the same bodega enjoying their outstanding Valché, or their Chaveo, or indeed the Almudì I was sent.


However, speaking of ‘reaching’, well, I’m not sure what happened but when I did just that, into my full, 40+ bottle wine chiller to retrieve the Salto del Usero Blanco Macabeo, it fell! Tragically, this was onto tiles, and – well you know how unforgiving they can be! All was lost – of that bottle, which is a shame, as I certainly enjoyed its elder sister, Salto del Usero Blanco Fementado en Barrica.


This latter wine is a very limited production Macabeo fermented in just two separate French oak barrels of 300 litre capacity. It’s quite a remarkable wine, whose aromas on opening started with passion fruit and papaya notes combined, a little later, with a certain smokiness.

There’s also a faint note of yogurt and crème fraîche on the nose with a little vanilla thrown in, coming, probably from the wine’s 200 days in oak, resting on its lees, with regular batonnage (stirring).


I tasted the 2017 vintage of this wine, in fact its first vintage as it’s a new line and whilst it is in perfect balance, and drinking, I’m sure as the wine maker would want, I believe it will also develop in the bottle (providing it’s kept under the correct conditions, of course) taking on different, more mature aromas. In truth I’m quite enamoured with this wine, and I’m predicting that it may well be elevated to the flagship white wine, of this, a predominately red wine DO – though good whites are also made here.


Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the un-oaked version of this wine, as you know, from the heartbreaking occurrence detailed above. Neither can I comment on the red wine that is in the same range, as it wasn’t included in the case, though it was mean to be so. Never mind, there was one red, as mentioned above.

An organic wine made with Monastrell, claro, there is also a little Tempranillo and Petit Verdot in the blend. My bottle had Almudì 2016 written by hand in white, above a DO Bullas ticket signed and passed by the Consejo Regulador. A collector’s item – except that I’d rather drink it!

After temperature controlled fermentation the wine was placed in nearly new French oak 300 litre barrels for about six months. The resulting wine has good fruit on the nose and palate – think plums and dark cherries, with a little minty note too. It has sufficient complexity and depth for it to be paired with meat dishes, which we did, but it’s also a lovely wine to simply sip with friends.


Plus, the aforementioned, now depleted, wine chiller keeps red wines, chilled (the whites colder) and I first tasted the wine when it was cool – ideal in summer!


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