Whenever the year 1966 is mentioned, it always makes me think of one thing – The Football World Cup. England won it, if you didn’t know, and on home soil too. I was a young lad, annoying the family by noisily rotating my wooden football rattle (does anybody remember those?), whilst wearing my England scarf (it was June) and my World Cup Willy cap (who on earth came up with that name?!).

However, over on the Continent(!), to be specific in Spain, there was another event occurring –  Denominación de Origen Jumilla was founded. And henceforth I’m sure I’ll now remember the two in tandem! I love the wines from Jumilla!

When recently in Barcelona for the Barcelona Wine Week (BWW), a huge wine fair referred to in Cork Talk over the last two columns, the first organised tasting I went to was a presentation of the wines of DO Jumilla, by a member of the ruling council, the Consejo Regulador. It seemed that I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of wines made in this South Eastern region of Spain, inland from the Costas, as the designated Tasting Pavilion was full to bursting. I was pleased I’d arrived early!

There are 45 bodegas making wine in DO Jumilla, using 1,900 grape growers in the vineyards surrounding the eponymous town, whose name has its origins in the Arabic word meaning ‘strong wine’! Vineyards are between 400m – 800m above sea level and about 90% of them are certified as Organic. During the last 25 years or so, there has been a very successful move away from making just ‘strong wine’, with bodegas concentrating on quality bottled wines rather than the bulk wine for which Jumilla had largely been known.

There was a power-point presentation running simultaneously with the actual tasting, where we were told of the soils, temperatures, climate etc of the area (notwithstanding certain differences nowadays, attributed to Climate Change). I found it all fascinating, adding an extra dimension to the wines we had in our glass – perfectly poured by professionals, incidentally!

The first we tried was a Rosado – at 10:30 in the morning it was good to have a light, quite delicate start to a day’s tasting! Made with Monastrell, this wine was a lovely shade of pink, which actually matched my pullover perfectly! Rose petals on the nose, with a little pomegranate fruit, mixing with raspberry. Light, not particularly distinguished, but perfectly pleasant, and so fitting with the weather outside at the time, which was really Spring-like. Señorio de Fuenteálmo – inexpensive, easy drinking rosé!

The next wine, a red, reds being the style of wine for which Jumilla is most famous, came from a bodega I’ve know for many years now, though this one I hadn’t tasted before. The grey labelled, Luzón Monastrell Colección, is a 2018 young wine with no oak ageing. The lovely damson/plum fruit with which we associate this variety really comes to the fore. It’s a lovely juicy, giving, red wine, exemplary for unoaked wines of the area, with soft tannin and fresh acidity. Good on its own and with food too – try it with BBQ!

I remember that last year Bodegas Alceño won several medals in the DO Jumilla internal wine competition so I was keen to taste their Aleño 12. I enjoyed the wine, I think it would have been very good with meat dishes and cheese too. However, as drink alone wine, I thought it a little too tannic.

It was the 2016 vintage, made with Monastrell (clearly the darling variety of the DO!) and it’s had 12 months (hence its name) in oak, French and American, but the fruit was beginning to fade, and, in truth I wondered why they hadn’t brought with them perhaps the 2017 version. I’m certain that the grapes will have been ripened perfectly in 2016 – there is intense heat and many hours of sunshine during the growing season in Jumilla, but I wonder if the wine might have come from vines allowed to crop too much? Let’s say it’s a food wine!

The final wine we tasted was one of a style that in fact I first tasted from DO Jumilla, though not from this wine’s bodega. The style to which I refer is actually quite prevalent down here in SE Spain – and I love it! Red dessert wines, made with Monastrell, whilst quite common here, are a rarity elsewhere.

Such wines are harvested late. When their buddies have long gone, the grapes for dessert reds are left on the vine for a while longer. The climate is such that sunshine is more or less guaranteed so the grapes have plenty of sunshine, which over time mans that the water content of the flesh inside begins to evaporate. When eventually harvested there is far less juice, but it is far, far richer and sweeter.

These wines are usually found in half bottles as they are necessarily from a limited production. They can be a tad on the expensive side, but they are so often worth it! Silvano Garcia Dulce Monastrell has lovely, plumy, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours and aromas and a long finish. It will be lovely with chocolate desserts as well as, for example dark fruit pavolvas, but try this also with cheese, mature and blue too!

N.B. My programme on Tuesday 3rd March, 5pm – 6pm Spanish Time, covers what to drink on St. Patrick’s Day as well as Las Fallas, plus there’s a fascinating interview with Oxford Uni educated, Andrew Halliwell, who changed from engineering to winemaking and, though much travelled, is currently making sublime wines here in Spain! Plus, I’ll be raising a glass to toast World Book Day – it’s all happening in March!

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