One of the leaders of the
Levante pack is most certainly D.O. Jumilla, spread out
across the northern stretches of the province of Murcia.
For years it specialized in nothing-special reds made from
a grape variety called Monastrell, which is none other
than the Spanish name for the variety Mourvèdre. I have to
hand it to Monastrell; it sure proves the old theory that
grape vines do well basically where no other vegetation
will. Not even sagebrush would enjoy this arid land. The
wines used to be so packed with alcohol they would
frequently break the 15% barrier without the aid of
anything. All you had to do was turn the bottle over by
its neck and you had a hand-grenade. Starting in the early
1990s, a marked turnaround took place and Jumilla has
enjoyed the fortune of reaching fame both internationally
and within Spain. Reds from Monastrell are still the main
fare here. They are dark and earthy in aroma and full and
meaty in flavour. Foreign varieties like Cabernet, Merlot
and Syrah have found a nice home here too and are marketed
on their own or used to blend with the Monastrell. On a
winery-to-winery basis, Jumilla is probably the strongest
wine region in Levante.
Murcia actually plays
home to two other regions. One is D.O. Yecla, a small
region north of Jumilla. Historically similar in business
philosophy to its neighbour, Yecla has also come out of
the woods thanks to the magnificent efforts of the minute
number of wineries there. Yecla's wines are also heavily
based on Monastrell. They are delicious and go for a
really nice price. Setting out in another direction from
Jumilla, we enter D.O. Bullas, an old region and a
familiar name in the bulk wine business. Bullas wines are
rich and can have a mineral taste. They are as fascinating
as they are peculiar.
Moving into the Comunidad
Autónoma de Valencia, we come to three more regions.
Starting in the south, the first geographically would be
D.O. Alicante. Alicante was prominent hundreds of years
ago for making a thick, rich aged wine called Fondillón.
It was strong and sweetish, just the way many wines along
the coast were made. Though still highly coveted among
experts, today they are about as common as caribou, and
Alicante has had to contend with a modern foe: its
reputation as a no-frills mass-wine producer. As usual,
its potential is very high and the marvellous results in
the last few years have backed that claim up. Reds made
from Monastrell are the most traditional, but foreign
varieties do well too.
Then there is D.O.
Valencia, the wine region. Valencia's real forte is its
sweet muscatels. A delicious and perfect way to cap a
dinner, they remain among its most interesting offer. It
also makes all kinds of regular wines, whites, rosés and
reds, for ridiculously low prices. Rarely outstanding, but
Further inland we come to
D.O. Utiel-Requena, a kind of legendary wine region in
Spain. The grape variety of choice was Bobal, which stood
out for its fine rosés. They can still be found, but the
future holds in store for Utiel-Requena a different fate:
red wine. More reliable and reputable grape varieties have
crept into the vineyards and have adapted very well to the
favourable climate. If managed correctly, Utiel-Requena is
a real region to watch in the future.
The best thing about
Levante wines is that, as far as modern wines go, they are
still in their infant stage. That means the wines just
keep getting better and the prices are extremely
What more can you ask
Feature written by Brian
Murdock, author of the book "Let's
Open a Bottle". You can
contact Brian at email@example.com.