The Yecla region, in southeast Spain just slightly inland from Valencia, is known for its very expressive Monastrell grapes. For those not familiar with Monastrell, that is the original Spanish name for what is better known as Mourvedre which is part of the "GSM" blends from the Southern Rhone. The Yecla Monastrells, however, have even more deeper flavors from the rocky soils and harsh growing conditions of the region (if there was a PETA-like organization focusing on grape vines, they would head first to Yecla!).
The harsh growing conditions are a factor of the elevation of the vineyards (ranging between 1,500 feet and 3,000 feet above sea level), very rocky "soils" with very low amounts of organic material, and the unrelenting summer sun in this region of Spain. The overall combination results in very concentrated flavors from the grapes grown each year which then produce wines with character, color, and intense flavors.
As mentioned above, although Mourvedre is more widely known as a grape of the Southern Rhone, Monastrell is actually an indigenous grape of the Yecla/Valencia region. The quality and power of the varietal had been first mentioned in the viticultural history of the region as early as 1500. The better known name of Mourvedre is from the one of the original vineyard areas in which the grape emerged which was the "Camp de Morvedre" (Field of Morvedre). As a very old indigenous grape of the region, however, Monastrell is uniquely suited for the very difficult growing conditions in the area.
I've selected a very interesting range of five Monastrells from La Purisima to show the range of wines that can be made from this very wonderful grape. If five Monastrells from a less known region sound like I am not being selective, the opposite is actually the case. As I've described in other parts of my website, I let the wines discover me as you never know what delightful surprises you can encounter along the way. And so, the reason that five Monastrell's were selected was from a combination of that all were interesting and well-made along with each of them being probably at least 20 percent undervalued relative to their quality and characteristics.
As I also hope to broaden overall appreciation of different wines, I also believe that all five will present a very interesting opportunity for exploring the great wines of this less well known area.
The rocky harsh landscape of Yecla with its traditional bush vines
La Purisima Monastrell 2017
This wine is the "joven" of the range of wines and is made from hand harvested grapes from vineyards of at least 25 years old. Six days of maceration and then fermentation is then followed by three months of aging in previously used oak barrels. After barrel aging, the wine continues to mature in stainless steel tanks until reaching optimal maturity.
Initial aromas are very pleasant and include cherries, plums, and fresh baked bread. The most prominent flavors are of cocoa and dried cherries but with an enticing freshness and soft balanced mouthfeel. Interesting tannins complement the flavors and balance and there is a long, elegant, and velvety finish.
Food pairings are extensive and versatile and include New York Steak, Rib Eye, short ribs, BBQ ribs, burgers, veal chops, pork chops, salmon, grilled tuna, paella, duck, grilled chicken, Mexican food, medium red curries, grilled vegetables, eggplant, beans such as black beans and lentils, and both rich and hard dried cheeses.
Iglesia Vieja Crianza 2015
The grapes for the Iglesia Vieja Crianza come from the higher elevation "Campo Arriba" area around Yecla where the most concentrated flavors are produced. Vineyards are over 30 years old and all grapes are hand harvested. The harsh growing conditions result in rarely more than one kilo of grapes being harvested per vine.
The Crianza is a blend of 75% Monastrell, 18% Syrah, and 7% Garnacha. Maceration lasts ten days and then following fermentation the wine is aged in used oak barrels for 12 months. There is then an additional 18 months of bottle aging before the wine is released. Although drinking beautifully at release, the high quality of the grapes in this wine should enable at least six to eight years of aging potential.
Aromas include cherries, plums, and old roses along with some hints of spice from quince and vanilla which all complement fresh flavors of red plums and tart cherries. The overall progression across the palate is what is most notable with this wine, however, as there is some limestone underneath the vineyards and the initial entry has refreshing minerality. That then builds to fully saturating the entire palate with soft and round tannins before evolving into a very balanced and memorable finish.
Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, New York Steak, Rib Eye, Roast Beef, short ribs, beef stew, Veal Chop, lamb chops, rack of lamb, sausages, grilled tuna, jambalaya, Asian beef dishes, Mexican food, pasta with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables, gazpacho, beans such as pinto and black beans, and Manchego cheese.
Old Vines Expression 2014
The grapes for the "Old Vines Expression" come from vineyards that are over 35 years old and all grapes are hand harvested. This wine is a blend of 85% Monastrell, 10% Syrah, and 5% Garnacha. Maceration lasts ten days and then following fermentation the wine is aged in used oak barrels for at least 12 months. There is then an additional 12 months of bottle aging before the wine is released. Aging potential is at least eight years if not longer.
Aromas include cherries, plums, and an interesting hint of aromas from soy and freshly baked hard rolls along with nuances of many other rich fruit aromas that result in a beautiful aromatic profile. There is then an interesting flavor profile which includes very ripe and juicy yellow peaches complemented with dark cherries. The really fun aromas and flavors are then balanced with a medium to full mouthfeel which is perfectly balanced across the palate. The finish then builds with long, rich, and powerful sensations along with some interesting hints of cinnamon and cloves.
This is a very versatile wine with food and pairings would include Filet Mignon, New York Steak, short ribs, BBQ ribs, Veal Chop, lamb chops, rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, salmon, grilled tuna, paella, grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, Mexican food, Indian Tandoori dishes, Asian Beef, Pork, and vegetable stir frys, fried rice, and cheeses such as hard cheeses and sheep cheeses. My hosts grew a bit impatient with me concerning this wine, however, as I also found it absolutely delightful to just sip on and so this would also be fun for a wine bar.
La Purisima Premium 2014
The grapes for the "Premium" come from vineyards that are over 40 years old and all grapes are hand harvested. This wine is almost a pure Monastrell at 95% but there is 5% Garnacha for additional richness and smoothness. Maceration is for 15 days for a very rich concentration of flavors and then after fermentation the wine is aged in used oak barrels for 18 months. The strong core of fruit and the structure of the wine results in at least eight to ten years of aging potential.
Primary aromas are of rich dark cherries along with subtle hints of spice and vanilla. The flavor profile is lush, rich, and well integrated and includes ripe plums, dark cherries, and very ripe and juicy blackberries. The initial perception is of a perfectly balanced medium mouthfeel but that then evolves across the palate into a rich and full finish along with perfect balance and acidity.
Although the fresh rich flavors of most of our red wines pair very well with beef and other grilled meats, this is definitely my "steakhouse" wine as there would be a lot of very happy diners if this was the "house red" in every steakhouse across the country! From those comments you then won't be surprised that it pairs very well with Filet Mignon, New York Steak, Rib Eye, Roast Beef, Veal Chops, lamb chops, rack of lamb, and roast/grilled pork but also with game such as duck, elk, and venison. The rich core of fruit creates versatility, however, and other pairings would include salmon, grilled tuna, grilled shrimp, paella, grilled chicken, coq au vin, Mexican food, and Asian Beef and Pork dishes, Indian Tandoori, desserts with chocolate and/or black fruits, and medium, hard, and rich cheeses.
From my comments about the previous wines, I guess you can see that I really enjoyed the La Purisima Monastrell's that I have described so far. But, the real star from this producer is its Trapio. The wine is 100% Monastrell and only made in exceptional years. The vineyards are at least 50 years old and consist solely of ungrafted vines. Grapes are hand harvested and then go through an additional selection process.
Vinification uses cold soak maceration for three days, fermentation for 12 days, and then an additional 18 days in a stainless steel tank. New French Oak barrels are then used for 14 months and malolactic fermentation occurs during the barrel aging. The rich concentrated flavors and the structure of the wine should enable at least ten to 12 years of aging potential.
Although this is 100% Monastrell, there are some interesting initial aroma hints of dill and fennel that are similar to aromas of very high quality Carinena from the Priorat. Those aromas then evolve into an array of rich fruit aromas of plums, blackcurrants, blueberries, and cherries that continually delight the senses. The palate is rich with dark fruits and hints of cocoa, mint, and licorice along with a medium to full mouthfeel and perfect balance and acidity. The finish continues the delightful experience of this beautiful wine as it is long, smooth, and memorable.
Food pairings are a bit more elegant than my "steakhouse wine" (the Premium) described above and would include rack of lamb, lamb chops, Filet Mignon, Roast Beef, Pork Tenderloin, swordfish, salmon, lobster thermidor, Asian pork dishes, pasta with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables, and soft and rich cheeses. If this sounds more limited than the other La Purisima wines described above, I guess you can say that in terms of absolute numbers of food pairings but the overall experience of enjoying this wine does show how successful La Purisima has been in creating a top-quality pure expression of Monastrell.