Reflections on DO Bullas

Just to round off my lengthy blog on DO Bullas and their annual Wine Competition where I had the honour of being appointed one of the judges, some reflections on, well, on it all!

As I’ve said – there are some really good wines emanating from this SE Spain area of production, which, until recently, seems to have been content to be in the shadow of more famous DOs. And I don’t just mean the likes of DOCa Rioja, DO Ribera del Duero, DO Penedés et al.

Using the same grape variety (Monastrell), a similar climate and similar soils too, the DOs, also located inland from the Meditteranean, but a little to the North, are achieving greater success and world-wide acknowledgement. DOs Alicante, Yecla and Jumilla are appreciated in markets ranging from the USA, to Europe and Asia.

Indeed, DO Yecla exports a stunning 95+% of its wines and is therefore firmly established in the wider wine-world.

DO Bullas has some catching up to do. But how? Clearly there has to be greater investment and of course this will not come easily as Spain, no matter what the politicians tell us, is still in a very difficult financial situation.

DO Bullas producers are aware that inroads have to be made into marketing, in Spain and abroad. I was talking at lunch with one producer who was lamenting the difficulty of increasing sales in Spain and who was just starting to feel his way into Europe. He does sell a little in Germany and is hoping to enter Poland soon.

But he’s basically a one-man-band without the funds, at present, to create a marketing/export department. His wines are good, medal winners in the competition, but he needs the investment.

There are already some who are pushing the boundaries. Bodegas del Rosario winner of several medals at the competition, has a dynamic Export Dept. and whilst helping their own balance sheet they are also preparing the way for others in DO Bullas.

The wine making talent is there already. The outstanding wines of the competition, those from Bodega Monastrell (yep, they’ve nicked the name!) are awarded late 80s and early 90s in the Peñin Guide, and thus ‘measured’ against all other producing areas of Spain, therefore beating and equaling many Rioja wines, for example.

Also, Avila wines, which, curiously, were not entered in the competition (more’s the pity) are also of this very high standard. The night before the competition I tasted both bodegas’ wines and found it difficult to choose between them.

Investment and some thinking out of the box is urgently required. It’s clear that the Consejo Regulador is aware of this. The cost of the competition: the hotel and travel expenses of the judges, and indeed the quality of the judges (leaving myself out of this, of course), the coach to take many to the Gala Dinner etc is their investment. Will be set against the hopeful benefits that we judges might bring.

The writers, like myself, will do our bit recognizing the quality of the wines and reporting on them. But bodegas also need to bite the financial bullet, with banks offering favourable terms, if the area is to achieve its full potential. I hope they do.

Bullas has always been first and foremost a red wine producing area. It’s here, particularly, where the best wines are to be found – the reds. Also, of course, the native Monastrell variety and the ubiquitous Garnacha are used to make some cracking Rosado wines too. I tasted several, all of a high standard.

However, though I’m not a winemaker nor an expert in micro-climates and soils, I can nevertheless see that the nearby DOs already mentioned are making very good white wines. I’m sure that with careful analysis and experimentation and using the permitted, rich Chardonnay and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel varieties as well as Macabeo, Airén and Malvasía, interesting, flavoursome and fragrant white wines can also be made.

Such white wines would add to the DO Bullas portfolio and give Spanish and international buyers the one-stop shop opportunity that so many  other DOs enjoy. Again, investment and maybe some maverick winemakers employing modern viticultural methods, are needed.

I’d also like to see the DO Bullas producers stop using the name Mourvedre on their labels, perhaps phasing it out as some may be doing by writing Monastrell/Mourvedre with a brief explanation that the latter is the French name for the Spanish variety, Monastrell. In nearby DO Yecla, for example, the bodegas champion the correct name with ambassadors taking top Monastrell wines all over the world and calling them exactly that!

Such bodegas have already done the hard work from which DO Bullas can take advantage. I’m Monastrell and proud, say it loud!

I really hope that I am asked to return next year for this will also afford me the opportunity to see how this, starting to be ‘born again’ DO Bullas, has progressed in a year. I can only see improvement on an already impressive foundation – with investment this improvement will be rapid, reaching greater heights!

I hesitate to add (but this has never stopped me before!) that, at the risk of seeming to have a hidden agenda, I would also advice that a number of the top bodegas in DO Bullas consider entering this year’s International Wine & Spirits Competition.

Medals won in this, the oldest international wine competition in the world and one of the most prestigious, will have great advantages for the bodegas which wine them, but also for the DO as a whole. The wine world takes note of IWSC medal winners, and of their areas of production. Thus the spotlight would be on DO Bullas and this would increase the possibility of the much needed investment!

DO Bullas Wine Competition

BULLAS DO LOGO vino-do-murcia-bullas

So, here I am in a rather quaint Casa Rural, five minutes from Bullas, preparing for this evening’s entertainment, prior to judging tomorrow’s DO Bullas Annual Wine Competition. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Hospedería Rural El Molino de Abajo

The Casa Rural above is one of the member Hotels/Casas Rurales in the DO Bullas Ruta del Vinos @RutaVinoBullas and the bucolic, converted water mill is atmospheric and comfortable.

Tonight there is a wine tasting where invitees will be able to sample an array of quality wines from all the producers operating under the auspices of DO Bullas, as well as having the opportunity to chat with winemakers. It will be held 5 minutes away from where I’m staying, in the Museo del Vino, which is the most pro-active, dynamic Wine Museum I’ve come across here in Spain. Bravo!

I was disappointed to note that in Dia Supermarket opposite the Museum I could not see a single DO Bullas wine, and this in the heart of Bullas! Shame on you Supermercados Dia! There are some excellent wines made here, across the full price spectrum so there really is no excuse! Local wines deserve representation!

As I’m judging in the morning I’ll need to keep a clear head tonight, so I should be back at the Casa Rural in time to add to this on-going blog. We’ll see!