13 March 2008

Murcia, Murcia me

[old vines]A tasting of the wines of Murcia in Southeastern Spain. That means monastrell (mourvèdre), and lots of it. I go into such a tasting with trepidation, because while Spain’s historical precedence with the grape has to be acknowledged, I’ve tasted very few that I’ve liked. Whatever terroir or clonal differences may or may not apply, I’ve always preferred the versions from across the Pyrenées. So I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2005 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 85% monastrell, 15% syrah. Hot, showing blackberry, licorice, raw coffee bean, and bitter chocolate, with a layering-on of toast and more chocolate on the finish. The finish is dominated by coffee in both bitter/burnt and raw/green forms. Pretty nasty. (10/07)

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla “Selección” (Levant) – 50% monastrell, 40% syrah, 10% tempranillo. Even more charred than the previous bottling. Fuller-bodied, chocolaty, and over-toasted, with a green finish. Lousy. (10/07)

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla Syrah (Levant) – 85% syrah, 15% monastrell. Violets and espresso, with a thick, plastic-wrapped and blueberry-flavored coffee finish. Absolutely synthetic-tasting; a horror-show of unfruit™. (10/07)

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla Monastrell “Dulce” (Levant) – From 375 ml, 100% monastrell. Highly concentrated plum, blueberry, and black cherry syrups, with chocolate and a brief shower of herbs. Very, very sweet – not PX level – with a light rancio note to the finish. Anonymous, but reasonably pretty. (10/07)

The only wine I’d even consider here is the Dulce, and even then there are a lot of dessert wines I like more. The rest are…regrettable.

[vineyard]Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Delaín” (Levant) – 70% monastrell, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 10% syrah. Charred cherry, black and blue fruit – obvious and darkly attractive – but turning into the very definition of “dead fruit” on the palate. Gets increasingly tarry as it airs, with biting tannin. No good. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Denuño” Monastrell (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% cabernet sauvignon. Green and red bell pepper forced into an arranged marriage with thick blueberry and oak. Very, very dry. At least this has some character, off-putting though it may be. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Denuño” Cabernet Sauvignon (Levant) – 100% cabernet sauvignon. Peppery with hints of tobacco, a healthy dusting of black pepper, and a candied tar finish. Momentary promise is thus destroyed at the conclusion. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2003 Jumilla “Omblancas Selección Especial” (Levant) – 85% monastrell, 15% cabernet sauvignon. Roasted walnut, cocoa, earth, and spice with an unpleasant intrusion of dill. There’s chocolate here, too. This is the roundest and fullest wine yet, with some actual generosity – but let’s not overstate; it’s still doing its best to put me off with that dill – and a breezy, leafy finish that inexplicably turns into drinkable goat cheese. What the hell? (10/07)

While nothing here is particularly appealing, these wines are at least bad in recognizable ways. Well, except for that goat cheese…

[monastrell]Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2004 Jumilla “Crianza” (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% tempranillo. Freshly-stripped tree bark, moldering fall leaves in a slightly humid breeze, but otherwise fairly hollow on the nose. The palate shows dark, charred soil and pepper dust. The wine starts balanced, but it’s impossible to tell if this continues as the wine simply vanishes on the finish. Poof! It’s gone! (10/07)

Bleda “Divus” 2004 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 95% monastrell, 5% merlot. Polished and fruity, with good, chewy berries a bit lacerated by herbal, weedy notes. There’s a lot of earth, though, and hen-of-the-woods mushroom as well. Good acidity. Long and fairly zingy on the finish. This is actually quite drinkable, though I’d keep a close eye on those weeds. (10/07)

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2001 Jumilla “Reserva” (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% tempranillo. Big, nutty, milk chocolate and sweet tea with a fat underbelly of blackberry and boysenberry, plus a little hint of verbena. Good acidity, slightly green tannin. Decent all around. (10/07)

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2006 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 100% monastrell. Raw fruit and some pepper (both bell and seed), with huge clods of earth, sour dill, and a spiky, agitated aspect. The finish is puckery. I don’t like it, but it seems honest and forthright. (10/07)

Well, well, well. Actual wines. Who knew? With acidity and everything!

[label]Casa de la Ermita “Monasterio de Santa Ana” 2005 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 100% old-vine monastrell. Served too cold, even were it a crisp white (which it most definitely is not). All I can access are a difficult nose and a palate full of weeds, herbs, and peppers. But the wine is so frigid I can’t stand around, cupping it in my palms, long enough to draw anything else forth, and when I return later for a retaste, the wine is once more bathing in ice. Thus, consider this anti-rave highly conditional. (10/07)

Casa de la Ermita 2006 Jumilla Viognier (Levant) – 100% viognier. God, what a relief it is to taste a white after all these brutal reds. As such, I might be slightly more favorably-inclined towards this wine than it deserves. Anyway, there’s a big, almost lurid quality to the wine, but it nicely dances away from the edge of soup, showing honeysuckle and fruit salad with a dry minerality at its core. Good acidity persists a little too long, watering down the limey finish, which tightens up more than I’d like. Still, I have to admit that given a choice between this and a goopy, oaky, overwrought Condrieu (like Cuilleron), I’d take this in a heartbeat. (10/07)

Casa de la Ermita 2003 Jumilla “Crianza” (Levant) – Old-vine monastrell, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. Also served too cold, but this time not so frigid that I’m unable to coax out a few suggestions of character. Shy and somewhat elegant – words you don’t read about monastrell-based wines very often – showing some bitter chocolate, French roast coffee beans, tightly puckery cranberries, and good acidity. The tannin is shaded slightly green. Some nice ideas here, but the wine is incomplete. Again, see above, re: serving temperature, making this yet another conditional note. (10/07)

Casa de la Ermita 2003 Jumilla Petit Verdot (Levant) – 100% petit verdot…and isn’t varietal petit verdot from Jumilla what a jaded wine world has been clamoring for? There’s a prickle of sulfur on the nose, but it blows off fairly quickly, exposing some sort of breakfast cereal with dried blueberries and a dusty, chalky texture. Austere and extremely arid. I haven’t tasted a lot of petit verdot on its own (and what I’ve tasted has almost exclusively come from barrels prior to blending), but this seems to represent the generally incomplete nature of the variety with which I’m slightly familiar. So how do I judge it? As varietal petit verdot, it seems successful…an interesting intellectual exercise, though lacking any sense of fun. As a wine, however, the lack of fun becomes the majority report. I’d like to try this from a less extreme vintage, though I have no idea if it would make a difference; for all I know, it would exacerbate the problems. (10/07)

This is a producer with which I’m familiar, at least to an extent, so it’s interesting to see the wines in a greater regional context. As this is still a fairly young winery (some of the vineyards are six times the age of the estate), there’s obvious room for improvement…though of course, there’s also room for increasingly internationalized distortions. Or possibly both. The future will tell.

[sheep]Casa de las Especias 2006 Jumilla “Joven” (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah. Organic. Goofy, synthetic strawberry with a tiny tannic bite. Otherwise, soft, short, and indifferent. (10/07)

Casa de las Especias 2004 Yecla “Crianza” (Levant) – 40% monastrell, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 25% syrah. Organic. Goofy strawberry of a darker hue, mint syrup, and red licorice. A faint suggestion of earth. Turns fairly supple on the finish. Still, it’s mostly too late. (10/07)


Valle de Salinas 2005 Yecla Roble (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% tempranillo, 20% syrah. Chocolate-draped orange candy, herbal cough drop, and bitter coffee. There’s structure, but it too is herbal, and the chocolate morphs into a nasty sort of Hershey’s-style “dark chocolate” horror show on the finish. Avoid if you value your palate. (10/07)

Valle de Salinas 2005 Yecla “Joven” (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% merlot, 20% syrah. Dill and other herbs, shoe polish, tin, and awful stewed fruit. Perhaps the stewed fruit comes from a tin can. The metallic scrape of the wine on the palate does not, unfortunately, remove its own taste. Whatever…this is all too much thought for a wine this God-awful. (10/07)

Valle de Salinas 2004 Yecla “Crianza” (Levant) – 40% monastrell, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah. Sour dill, dead cherry fruit syrup, corn starch, and synthetic vanilla. Nasty, nasty, nasty. (10/07)

These are some really horrible wines. I mean really horrible. I can’t even see the road forward here; they’re that bad.

[Yecla cupola]La Purísima “Valcorso” 2006 Yecla Monastrell (Levant) – Organic. Sour fruit, herbs, freshly-crushed cherries and raspberries with wildflowers. Fuller on the palate than many of these wines. There’s some deadening nastiness on the finish, but the wine is not entirely horrible. High praise, I know. (10/07)

La Purísima 2005 Yecla Monastrell “Barrica” (Levant) – Shy, spicy fruit and dark, chewy red fruit bark. Turns sour (but a good kind of sour) on the finish. Fairly long. Not bad. Not particularly good, but not bad. (10/07)

La Purísima 2006 Yecla “Old Hands” (Levant) – Simple baked fruit, dark berries, dark chocolate, and an underripe, papery finish. 2/3 of a chuggable wine, but the finish renders it useless. (10/07)

La Purísima 2006 Yecla “Organic” (Levant) – As the name suggests, organic. Mixed chocolate powders, freshly-ground nutmeg, hints of other spices, and a sort, squinty finish. What’s the point? This is like drinking a Penzey’s catalog. (10/07)

La Purísima “Trapío” 2004 Yecla Monastrell (Levant) – Sophisticated blueberry, grey earth, mushroom, and mixed meadow flowers form the nose. Lightly vegetal, but in a way that will only offend those with extreme Kermitophobia. Very big and fruity, with huge, juicy blackberries tumbling across the palate, plus a little chocolate. It coalesces into a package with a firm, tannic structure and dancing acidity. Long and balanced. Very good; probably the best red in this entire tasting. (10/07)

La Purísima 2003 “Enesencia” Yecla Monastrell “Dulce” (Levant) – Sweet bell pepper, plum, and tangy candy. Very crisp, and very odd. Is it repellent or fascinating? Quite possibly both. I have no idea what to think of this wine. (10/07)

…and we finish on what, contextually, passes for a high note. Reasonable work is being done at this house, though of course there’s unevenness to spare, and I’m still struggling to understand the paradigm of sweet monastrell.

[grapes]Overall, this is a pretty dismal tasting. I’d happily drink the viognier and the Divus, and I’d probably actually buy the Trapío in a pinch, but everything else ranges from indifferent to torturous. I have no idea what the problem is; that, in general, I wouldn’t like hot-climate monastrell is no surprise given my northern-oriented palate, but there’s a vast gulf between disliking a wine and thinking that it’s horribly made. Which, in regard to far too many bottles in this tasting, I do. In fact, the wines I gravitate towards are those with more fruit, which is the reverse of my usual preference; when bad, these wines seem to show all the signs of underripeness and extractive winemaking (though the latter may not even be necessary) without any of the compensating outsized fruit that usually accompanies such wines. That may just be a function of monastrell, which is no shrinking violet nor fruit bomb of a grape even in the best of circumstances, and certainly doesn’t lack for structure, but I have a hard time believing that better wines aren’t possible.

In any case, let the savage bilingual attacks on my parentage commence.

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