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Jun 26, 2006 05:29 PM

Spanish Red Wines & Monastrell

For years, I drank few Spanish wines as I didn't understand their regions or grape varietals. And, to be honest, the Spanish wine that I had most experience with is Marques de Riscal (Rioja), a widely distributed wine with one of those labels boasting about all the gold medals the wine won - years ago. And it's a wine that generally (imho) sucks. But I figured if that's the best Spain can do, I didn't want to drink the worst.

But recently I have been drinking more Spanish wines, and I have found several that I like. While the standard red grape in Spain is tempranillo, I have been especially enjoying wines made with other grapes, like the wines from Priorat (made with garnacha and carignan). But the ones I tend to like the most are made with the monastrell grape, mostly from Yecla and (expecially good) Jumilla. My favorite so far was a Juan Gil from 2002 or 03 that sold for about $15, but was deep and rich in flavor with a long slow finish. Then I read that monastrell is the Spanish name for mourvedre - and my preference made more sense as I have always enjoyed wines made with that grape, hard as they are to find sometimes.

Anyway, do you have Spanish wine favorites? Do you know of any ones made with monastrell that you like? And (since I am just a community college prof) do you know of any great values in Spanish wine?

ed (the poster formerly known as e.d.)

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  1. Casa de la Ermita is an up-and-coming estate in Jumilla. Their basic red blend, made from tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and mourvèdre (aka monastrell) and seeing some oak, is a fine buy. If it has a fault, it is that it is somewhat internationally styled.

    The Spanish wine that most excites me these days is the aromatic white Rias Baixas, made in Galicia from the albariño grape. The 2004 Pazo de Senorans is delicious (about C$24 here); the more affordable Martin Codax is also good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Casa de la Ermita is fantastic, IMHO. The first bottles I had (actually first tasted in a restaurant) were the blend, I beleive, and retailed around $13. There is now another bottle which I believe is strictly Monastrell and named as such. It's around $10, and is also good.

      I used to get a Rioja called Diezmo (sp?) but I can't seem to find it now. It was my revelation about Spanish wine.

      1. re: carswell

        I think you mean the white variety Albarino, which is most often from the Rias Baixas region in Galicia. The Burgans version, at $10, is quite tasty and perfect with many summer foods (it is THE match for peruvian style ceviche).

      2. I've been enjoying the Muga rose so far this summer - about $11.99, though I've seen it cheaper. Not a fine wine ... though Muga is a good house ... but refreshing.

        1. Mourvedre is a bad version of Monastrell. Its so hard to find mourvedre's b/c the grape doesnt usually hold up on its own, but you'll see it blended. Jumilla is known for top notch Monastrell's b/c they provide perfect climate. But here are other choices for spanish wines you may want to look for.

          For Rioja:
          Muga 2001 (good luck finding)
          Casa Castillo 2001
          Marques Arienzo 2001 Crianza

          Ribera del Duero
          Ereal 2003 roble
          Emilio Moro 2001
          Pesquera 2002 crianza

          Altos de Luzon 2001 and 2002 (Monastrell Cabernet blend)
          Juan Gil 2003

          Alzania 2001

          Castilla y Leon
          Mauro 2001 and 2002

          Priorat: (good luck finding a cheap one here, if its too cheap dont touch it, kind of like the pinot noir rule)
          Vall Llach Embruix 2003
          Pasanau Finca la Planeta 2001
          Les Terrases 2001 and 2003 (2002 good too but not as)

          for whites

          Rias Baixas:
          Pazo Senorans 2004
          Nora 2004 good deal
          Valminor 2004 another good deal

          Jose Pariente 2004 (AMAZING CHOICE)
          Naia 2004

          3 Replies
          1. re: cleveland park

            Regarding "Mourvedre is a bad version of Monastrell."

            Just to clarify, Mourbedre and Monastrell are exactly the same grape. Just different words in different languages. Perhaps you are comparing typical French wines made from Mourvedre versus typical Spanish wines made with Monastrell, which are different from one another because of differences in climate, soil, other grapes added to the wine, etc.

            1. re: cleveland park

              Thanks for the list. I will have to print this out and save!


              1. re: cleveland park

                Have you ever tried Bonny Doon's Old Telegram? I don't know if it is still made, but it was 100% Mourvedre and very tasty on those few occasions when I could afford it. I was living on the Monterey Peninsula about the time Bonny Doon (just across Mty Bay) started drawing attention. So a lot of what I initially learned about Rhone-style wines and varietals (including Mourvedre) came from tasting at the winery and then buying some of the wines.


              2. My favorite "plonk" is Abrazo del Toro Riserva, a grenache tempranillo blend that sells for $5 a bottle at Trader Joe's. Goes great with anything grilled, burgers, pizza, roasted vegetables, etc. Also very good with basque cheeses and romesco sauce.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Notorious EMDB

                  Also at TJ's for $5 is Castillo de Jumilla a 50/50 monastrell/temranillo blend that is flawless plonk.


                2. Head to your nearest wine merchant or Whole Foods Market and look for a Yecla monastrell bottling by Bodegas Castano, imported by Eric Solomon (European Cellars). It comes under two labels, the first is simply "Castano" Monastrell and is carried by alot of Whole Foods Markets, the other is labelled "Hecula" and is more likely to be available at smaller wine shops that carry some of the Eric Solomon (European Cellars) import portfolio. Either wine should be in the $7-$10 range, and will benefit from some aeration (45 minutes in the glass or decanter).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: DonnyMac

                    I second the recommendation of Castano Monastrell. It's usually $5 or $6 at Sam's in Chicago. You will not find a better wine for under $10. Parker gave the 2002 90 points.

                    K&L has it for $3.99:

                    1. re: DonnyMac

                      Thank you. Thank you. Just got back from San Diego where I tried a bottle of the stuff (2003) and was impressed. Bought a case. $5.98 apiece. Wonderful value.