The Tale of Four Juan Gil’s

jumillaSometimes catastrophes are a good thing. Really.

Now before you start saying I’m callous and heartless, let me explain the circumstances. Just over 20 years ago, the region of Jumilla in southeastern Spain was hit (finally) by the phyloxxera epidemic that had long since decimated the world’s vineyards. In case you haven’t met phyloxxera, this little louse ran rampant through Europe a century ago and wrecked havoc on the economies of Europe’s wine-producing countries. Vineyards were replanted, but at great cost to wine producers.

So when Jumilla grape growers saw their vineyards curl up and die, they took a bold approach. They not only replanted, but chose different varieties for their vineyards that promised to produce better quality wine. They also invested in modern technology, so they could produce wines that would compete on the world stage.

And compete they did. Wineries such as Bodegas Juan Gil now earn high ratings, and have been aided and abetted in their penetration worldwide by my favorite negociant, Jorge Ordonez. But more about him later. Let’s look again at Jumilla.

Tucked away in southeastern Spain, Jumilla has a warm continental climate that’s prone to drought. But wine grapes like a warm, arid climate.

The vineyards are situated on a plateau 2000 feet or more above sea level, and grapes like the slightly cooler temperatures combined with plenty of radiant heat. It helps create intense flavors in the grapes.

The area also sees a large Diurnal Temperature Shift, which is techie-talk for “big difference between day-time and night-time temperatures.” Grapes like this, too, because it brings tannins and structure to the wine.

So you can see — Jumilla represents the Perfect Storm for wine grapes.

Bodegas Juan Gil has taken full advantage of that. They replanted mostly with Monastrell, a grape native to the area. This grape is no stranger to the wine world — it’s known as Mourvedre in France and elsewhere, and is often blended with Grenache (Garnacha in Spain) to make bold red wines.

So cut to Bodegas Juan Gil. The winery has been in business for nearly a century, and the fourth generation of Juan Gils is now in charge.  (Every generation had a son named Juan Gil Something.) Their focus is on quality, and it starts in the vineyard. They produce very low yields, which translates to higher-quality, more concentrated fruit.

And now the wine. I recently tasted Juan Gil Monastrell 2008, which in past vintages has won 90+ ratings from the Wine Experts.

The color suggests a young wine, a deep cherry/purple. The nose needed time to open, and then showed nice plum and blueberry fruit with smoky undertones. The palate is rich and smooth, with more rich dark berry, vanilla, and soft tannins. The overall impression is of balanced richness: fruit, alcohol and oak all dancing happily and taking turns being the lead.

I’d suggest you try this Spanish red, and anything with the name “Jorge Ordonez, Importer” on the back label. These Spanish reds are good wines, and great value. What more could you ask? ¬†Cheers…

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