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!

Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness Youtube Colin Harkness On Wine Instagram colinharkness53

First Published in Costa News Group, April 2010

Filming with Daniel Castaño, Bodegas Castaño



 It must have been a difficult decision but, perhaps because of three generations worth of roots, Bodegas Castaño opted to take a stand with the DO Yecla at the recent Alimentaria wine fair in Barcelona. In fact they could have done the same with DO Alicante and indeed, nowadays with DO Jumilla. Bodegas Castaño has become a triumvirate!

 Bodegas Castaño (aka Bodegas Sierra Salinas and the most recent addition, Bodegas Altos del Cuadrado) is very much a rise, and rise story. During filming for Viva Vino, the Viva TV series last August, Daniel Castaño and I stood in the original Yecla vineyards (80+ years old, that’s the vineyards, not Daniel!) where his grandfather had planted the gnarled old Monastrell vines that surrounded us, which then were in the flush of youth. His faith in this indigenous variety has been born out as the wines that these vines produce is nothing short of excellent.

 In DO Alicante the following September Daniel’s father and I stood, again in an old vineyard, but this time in the valley of the mountain range, Sierra Salinas, where Señor Castaño taught me some of the skills of vine pruning – again for the TV series. The Bodegas Sierra Salinas portfolio of wines is expanding, their four award winning red wines (90+ Parker and Peñin Guide points) have been joined by a rosado (lovely raspberry fruit) and a fruit driven, aromatic fresh and clean white.

 80 Year Old Monastrell Vines of Bodegas CastañoI’ve yet to visit the vineyards of Altos del Cuadrado in DO Jumilla, but if the wines I have recently tasted are anything to go by, I can’t wait to meet up again with this wine-passionate family! It will be different soils, a different micro-climate, some different grape varieties (but never losing faith with the noble Monastrell) – however the one constant will be their determination to produce wines of top quality but with consumer-friendly prices.

 The charming Raquel sent me two of their new wines. Jumilla also is a Monastrell area (given the Castaño’s love of, and belief in, this grape variety it would be hard to imagine them further developing their empire in an area where Monastrell was not one of the approved varieties!) so as you might imagine both wines have Monastrell in the blend.

 The first has perhaps the most minimalist front label I’ve seen in Spain, simply called Monastrell 2008 it also sports the Altos del Cuadrado logo and that’s all you get! However on the back label, whilst not expansive, there is a little more information and we find that in fact there is also 10% Petit Verdot and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a semi-crianza wine resting in barrel (American and French) for just 4 months – sufficient time to add a touch of vanilla flavour but also some depth.

 I’m interested in the blend. I love Monastrell, be it a partner in a wine or the sole variety used. I’m less partial to those wines that are made entirely of Petit Verdot. However, when judiciously used in a blend (and that for me is well less than 50% of the mix) they add a certain silkiness to the moutfeel and a richness to the flavour. Therefore as expected this one fits the bill nicely, with the addition of a tiny, but nevertheless significant, amount of Cabernet which adds colour, complexity and an almost imperceptible touch of blackcurrant.

 Triple V 2006 is a step up the quality ladder. Made from Monastrell (claro!) and 15% Petit Verdot the vines that furnished the grapes for this wine are old. If you want an example of the difference between old vine wines and more youthful ones you couldn’t do much better than tasting this wine. As many readers know, older vines mean fewer grapes and therefore a more limited production – however those grapes a far richer than the young upstarts and the consequent mouthfeel and depth of flavor is easily noticeable.

 It’s the case with Triple V. It’s a well rounded juicy, chewy wine whose damson and blackberry confiture flavours linger after swallowing. There’s a touch of burnt wood about it too as if the barrel toasting lasted a little longer than the usual medium time, or maybe the ancient wood of the scorched vines has some how been transmitted into the wine! But you have to look for it as it rests in your mouth vaporising and sending flavour messages to the brain via the olfactory passage. It’s a lovely wine, like its stable-mate above – and makes me ant to look out for more from this third arm of the Castaño dynasty.

 Finally, I wonder if any readers remember our tasting at Bodegas Castaño

Grupo Castaño's Head Winemaker, Marciano, talks us through the new vintage wines.

 last December? We tasted the 2009 vintage of their lovely Chardonnay Macabeo white wine before it went on the market in the New Year, having drunk a bottle of the 2008 at home the same week. We all felt that the oak ageing and the two different varieties were not quite in harmony at that time.

 Well they certainly are now! This creamy green apple wine is a delight and I’m be looking for more!

Dear Colin,

It is great to see the development of your website after these years of so close a collaboration. Your knowledge on wine and viticulture as well as your passion to communicate it, has been of great help to both promote our wines and spread what Monastrell means to the Castaño family. It has always been a pleasure to count on you for tastings in the province of Alicante, specially focused on introducing our Monastrell-based wines to English speaking people, or to bring over such lovely groups to our three wineries and vineyards: Bodegas Castaño in DO Yecla, Bodegas Sierra Salinas in DO Alicante and Altos del Cuadrado in DO Jumilla.

Thank you for having us mentioned in your articles and for introducing our wines to so many people over the years. We hope to be able to have your highly esteemed collaboration in the future and we also hope that many other can benefit of it too!

Good luck in this new enterprise!

M. Carmen Puche Ortega

Marketing & Communication

Telf. 968 79 11 15 – Fax. 968 79 19 00

Ctra. Fuenteálamo, 3 – Apdo. 120

30510 – YECLA (Murcia) ESPAÑA

An octogenarian Monastrell vine in Bodegas Castaño's oldest vineyard, and the super wine it produces!