Well our first and last “wine of the week” was posted two weeks ago, which means that, after just two weeks, I can already tell that our pledge for a weekly “wine of the week” series will probably not be happening at all…which, of course, is what makes this series so special.
Not that we didn’t try, mind you. The other day we pulled out a Monastrell from D.O. Jumilla and struggled to come to terms with the fact it wasn’t meeting our expectations. We will be kind and not mention the name of the wine or its bodega because the jury is still out on that one. Either it was a powerful kick-in-the-butt wine that got out of hand, the way Jumillas can sometimes get, or a bottle that went awry in the shop, which can sometimes happen too. In any event, if we give it another try, we’ll let you know.
Monastrell, by the way, is the Spanish name for the Mourvedre (a.k.a. Mataro) variety, if that means anything to you. And if it doesn’t, don’t sweat it. All you need to know is that it’s a heavy-duty red wine grape, and its popularity abroad has soared thanks to the versions from D.O. Jumilla, an appellation located in Murcia and the province of Albacete, but mainly associated with the former. So synonymous have grape and D.O. become that people often think they are one in the same.
This week we went back to this variety, partly because Lorena was very disappointed with the previous choice. It wasn’t her fault, but that didn’t matter. When she gets that determined look on her face, it’s best to step aside and let her take care of things on her own.
She picked one out from a winery called Bodegas Ponce, which is based further north in the province of Cuenca. This was surprising because, though Monastrell is planted in those parts, its current fame, as we now know, has mainly come from D.O. Jumilla. No one thinks of Monastrell up there. Just what was up with that?
The wine is called Depaula and the author here is a winemaker named Juan Antonio Ponce. He has garnered fame on the international wine scene for taking an otherwise obscure Spanish variety known as Bobal and turning it into something classy and worthy of your dinner table. This also gave the somewhat unnoticed D.O. Manchuela where it was made a bit of recognition out there. La Manchuela is a zone that covers vineyards in the south of Cuenca and northern and eastern Albacete.
The thing is, Ponce clearly seems like a person who enjoys exploring. His first incursions into Monastrell territory actually came from Jumilla, which explains why the bottles up to 2014 denote that D.O. But more recently, the winery is reported to be getting its raw material from a few vineyards near Tobarra (Albecete), a town which is technically within the limits of Jumilla. Apparently these particular vineyards are just outside the border, meaning that even though they are more less from Jumilla, they can’t be called Jumilla, and because they aren’t Manchuela because they are nowhere near Manchuela, they can’t go by that moniker either.
The answer? VT Castilla. It’s the all-encompassing appellation from Castilla-La Mancha that wineries often go to when they find themselves in these situations. This issue represents just another example of the Great Spanish Wine Region Mess, on which I will comment further when I have more time…and when I feel like it.
The fact that Depaula’s source comes from land with slightly different soil and at a higher altitude is important because it may have had a hand in why it is so distinct from the usual meaty Monastrells you get from the variety’s cousins a little further down south.
Depaula, which is named after his first-born daughter, is noticeably softer and fruitier. We thought it had a delicate aroma (which is no small feat for a Monastrell) and was a well-balanced and elegant wine. Consistent. No funky surprises going on once it reached your mouth. Ironically, I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried.
On top of that, the price was incredible. I think we purchased our bottle at one of those over-the-top shops in the fashionable Madrid neighborhood of Chueca, but it generally goes for anything between 6.50 and 10.00€, which is close to a steal for what you get.
We paired it with grilled white tuna ventresca (belly) and Spanish jamón ibérico mainly because that was what was lined up for dinner. I had nothing to do with it. Lorena did the honors this time and was spot on. The meal was a success and the wine, well, I think we are going to give it a well-deserved four stars out of five.