Alicante Monastrell

Toward the southeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula, about halfway between the fabled centers of orange-growing València and the Carthaginian-established port of Cartagena, a sub-region called Alicante has been producing wine for an eternity. Also striking is that it’s a rocky and arid zone in a province that otherwise enjoys a mild continental climate, fertile soil and the beguiling benefits of being close to the Mediterranean seashore. Blessed with these factors since the time of Argaric, Bronze-age settlement, it also attracted the wine-interested Phoenicians who passed on their agricultural knowledge and secrets to thirsty Romans. It was undoubtedly part of the appeal for Moors as they expanded north from Morroco, establishing Arab taifas (fiefdoms) in the 8th century. The bounty of these lands meant that they prospered for over 700 years, all-the-while cultivating grapevines simply to delight in its fresh fruit. They did so right until the 15th century when the fiercely competing kingdoms of Castille and Aragon managed to put aside their ambitions long enough to supplant the Moorish occupation. The celebrating Christians immediately began fermenting wine again!

 Monastrell is a resurgent star in Alicante, despite taxing the grower’s patience with its slow arc of reaching full maturity. Typically harvested in mid-October, the prolonged growing period of the thick-skinned grape pays off by providing a broad profile of flavour and structure for fashioning single grape, full-bodied varietal wine. Spanish Monastrell also requires less help from other varieties to round out the balance when used in blended versions. Perhaps better-known in French as Mourvèdre, it’s long been a partner to Grenache and Syrah in the classic GSM recipes of the Rhône region. Given the often overly-warm growing conditions in this southern Spanish terroir, the low-lying vines are trained as bushes so that the leaf canopy helps to shield the grape clusters, as well as, provide shade for the vine’s surround of heat-reflecting, rocky soils.

Throughout the first half of the 20th-century, and not uncommon in the wine world of the age, Alicante’s vintners were mainly producing bulk wine with high alcohol content. Despite many examples of their reds still hitting close to the 15% mark, the quality of wine finishing has markedly evolved–part of Spain’s overall quality revolution in the 21st-century. One of many adjustments in their winemaking range is to produce youthful versions (Jovan) that have spent little time in oak barrels. Retaining more of the vibrant spiciness that’s directly referenced in the source region’s name, Alicante, this week’s feature of Tarima Monastrell 2015 is a delightful example of the style.

Prompted by this short introduction, I suggest you immediately check the LCBO’s online search (see link in the left margin) for the availability of this limited release, then sprint to the location and buy as much as you can afford. It’s ready now. Decant for an hour and serve at room temperature for a fuller-bodied experience, or dare to serve slightly chilled on the patio this summer. The 2015 bottling will cellar for another year or so, though you’ll find it hard to hold onto!

TARIMA MONASTRELL 2015
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #310151 | 750 mL bottle
Price $14.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Alicante, Spain
By: Bodegas Volver
Release Date: July 7, 2018

Tasting Note
This Cherry-coloured bottling ripe with dark berry flavours also has subtle herb, licorice and chocolate notes. It’s best served alongside richer food fare such as braised duck or 
beef short ribs, steak au poivre or spicy pork sausages with a wild rice blend and grilled portobello mushrooms.

Yecla Monastrell

Toward the southeast corner of the Iberian Penninsula, about half way between the world renowned orange groves of Valencia and the gothic/baroque facades of Murcia, lies a tiny sub-region called Yecla that’s producing 7 million litres of wine annually. As striking is that it’s a rocky near-desert zone in a province that otherwise enjoys a mild continental climate, fertile soil and the benefits of being close by to the Mediterranean sea. It’s been blessed with these factors since a time of Argaric Bronze-age settlement. Its allure attracted the wine-interested Phoenicians, who passed on their agricultural knowledge and secrets to thirsty Romans. It was certainly part of the appeal for Moors as they expanded north from Morroco, establishing Arab taifas (fiefdoms) in the 9th century. The bounty kept them around for about 700-800 years, all-the-while cultivating grapevines simply to delight in its fresh fruit. They did so right up until the 15th century when the fiercely competing kingdoms of Castille and Aragon managed to put aside their other ambitions long enough to supplant the so-called Moorish occupation. The
celebrating Christians immediately began fermenting wine from grapes again!

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, not uncommon in the wine world of the age, Yecla was outputting bulk wine with high alcohol content. As part of a 50-year transformation in Spain’s winemaking, Bodegas Castaño is a regional leader among 11 family estates that comprise the Yecla DO. Here in the high, dry zone of Campo Arriba, traditional practice is being re-energized by innovation such as cold processing. Their mastering of a difficult terrain with low organic content and arid 40° climate presents obvious challenges, but it also reveals an underlying strength: gnarly, old bush vines, whose rootstock was less-affected by the Phylloxera scourge that wiped out most of Europe’s vines in the late 1800’s. In being both aged and stressed by the conditions, the vines produce low yields of quality grapes, lending a regional distinctiveness to the wine.

yecla

To craft the 2013 vintage of their Solanera specialty line, the Castaño vintners blend 70% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) with 15% splashes of both Cab Sauvignon and Garnacha Tintorera (Grenache). Monastrell is the star here, despite taxing the grower’s patience with its slow and long arc of development before reaching maturity. Typically harvested in mid-October, the prolonged growing period of the grape pays off by providing a broad profile of flavour and structure for the base wine; requiring less help from other varieties to round out the balance. As referenced in the wine name’s byline, Viñas Viejas, the fruit clusters are being drawn from some of the oldest stock in the vineyard, resulting in an appealingly rustic wine style that’s purposefully bottled unfiltered.

With this introduction, I suggest you immediately check the LCBO’s online search (see link in the margin) for the availability of this limited release, then sprint to the location and buy as much as you can afford. It’s ready now. Decant for an hour. It will cellar for another year or so, though you’ll find it hard to hold past New Years!

solanera

CASTANO SOLANERA VINAS VIEJAS 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #276162 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Yecla, Spain
By: Bodegas Castaño
Release Date: November 26, 2016

Tasting Note
With substantial aromas and flavours of acacia flower, berries, and black currant, try serving this fulsome and slightly smoky wine with richer food fare such as braised duck or 
beef short ribs, steak au poivre or spicy pork sausages with a wild rice blend and grilled portobello mushrooms.

Monastrell Alert

Toward the south-east corner of the Iberian Peninsula, about halfway between
the world-renowned orange groves of Valencia and the gothic/baroque facades
of Murcia, lies a tiny sub-region called Yecla, and it’s producing 7 million litres of
wine annually. As striking, is that it’s a rocky near-desert zone in a province that
otherwise enjoys a mild continental climate, fertile soil and the benefits of being
close by to the Mediterranean sea. It’s been blessed with these factors since a
time of Argaric Bronze-age settlement. Its allure attracted the wine-interested
Phoenicians, who passed their agricultural knowledge and secrets onto thirsty
Romans. It was certainly part of the appeal for Moors as they expanded north
from Morocco, establishing Arab Taifas (fiefdoms) in the 9th century. The bounty
kept them around for 700-800 years, all-the-while cultivating grapevine simply
to delight in its fresh fruit. They did so right up until the 15th century when the
fiercely competing kingdoms of Castille and Aragon managed to put aside their
other ambitions long enough to supplant the so-called Moorish occupation. The
celebrating Christians immediately began fermenting wine from grapes again!

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, and fairly common in the wine world
of the age, Yecla was mostly outputting bulk wine with high alcohol content. As
part of a 50-year transformation in New Spain winemaking, Bodegas Castaño is
a regional leader among 11 family estates that comprise the Yecla DO. Here in
the high drier zone of Campo Arriba, traditional practice is being re-energized by
innovation such as cold processing. Mastering a difficult terrain of low organic
content and arid 40° climate presents obvious challenges, but it also reveals an
underlying strength: gnarly old bush vines, whose rootstock was less-affected by
the Phylloxera scourge that wiped out most of Europe’s vines in the late 1800’s.
In being both old and stressed by the growing conditions, the vines produce small
yields of quality grapes, lending regional distinctiveness to very characterful wine.

To craft the 2013 vintage of the specialty Solanera line, Bodega Familia Castaño
blends 70% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) with 15% splashes of both Cab Sauvignon
and Garnacha Tintorera (Grenache). Monastrell is the star here, despite taxing
the grower’s patience with its slow and long arc of development before reaching
full maturity. Typically harvested in mid-October, the prolonged growing period of
the grape pays off by providing a broader profile of flavour and structure for the
base wine; requiring less help from other varieties to round out the balance. As
referenced in the wine name’s byline, Viñas Viejas, these fruit clusters are being
drawn from some of the oldest stock in the vineyard, resulting in an appealingly
rustic wine style that’s purposefully bottled unfiltered.

With this introduction, immediately check the LCBO’s online search (see link in
the margin) for the availability of this limited release, then sprint to the location;
buy as much as you can afford. It’s ready now. Decant for an hour. It will cellar
for another 2-4 years though you’ll find it hard to hold much past New Years!

solanera

CASTANO SOLANERA VINAS VIEJAS 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #276162 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Yecla, Spain
By: Bodegas Castaño
Release Date: November 28, 2015

Tasting Note
With substantial aroma and flavours of acacia flower, berries and black currant,
try serving this fulsome wine with richer food fare such as braised beef ribs, pork,
hearty gazpacho, seasoned paellas or wild rice and Portabello mushrooms.

Monastrell Alert

In the southeastern corner of Spain, not far from Valencia, the emerging region
of the Yecla DO is producing some highly distinctive wines crafted by using both
newer and traditional wine-making methods. With the beginning of a viticulture
dating back to the Phoenician period, followed by Roman development and finally
a near-contemporary golden period in the 18th century, the region’s reputation is
being re-energized by a generation of younger vintners engaged in mastering this
difficult terrain. Low organic content soils and arid conditions, counter-intuitively,
are yielding up very characterful grapes and their resulting wines.

Ramón Castaño, subsequently his 3 sons and now international consumers are
reaping rewards from the investment that began in the 1950’s and then slowly
began coming to fruition in the 80’s – with a shift away from bulk wine production
to the pursuit of quality bottlings based on the strength of local varieties.

To create this 2012 vintage of their special, limited production Solanera line,
Bodega Castaño is blending 70% Monastrell (better known in neighbouring
France as Mourvèdre) with 15% splashes of Cab Sauvignon and Garnacha
Tintorera (Grenache). As suggested in the translation of the wine name’s byline
Viñas Viejas, the fruit is being drawn from some of the vineyard’s oldest, most
mature vines. The unfiltered wine is then bottled after aging for 10 months in a
balanced combination of French and American oak barrels.

Monastrell is the star here and is so in spite of requiring a significantly longer
period of grape cluster maturation, often meaning that harvest doesn’t take
place until mid-October – though this does translate into a broad flavor profile
requiring less help from other varieties to round out the recipe.

After reading this introduction, check the LCBO’s online search engine for local
availability of this limited release, then immediately sprint to the nearest location
and buy as much as you can afford – it will happily cellar for another 2- 4yrs.

Solanera

CASTANO SOLANERA VINAS VIEJAS 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #276162 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.00
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Yecla, Spain
By: Bodegas Castaño
Release Date: August 30, 2014

Tasting Note
Try serving with richer food fare such as beef ribs, barbeque pork shoulder,
lentils, wild rice and shitake or portabello mushrooms. Also with dishes spiced
with rosemary and thyme.