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Discovering the wines of Murcia • Ian
Discovering the wines of Murcia wein-plus.com
From Carsten M. Stammen
The Murcia region is located in the south-east of Spain on the Mediterranean coast. Surrounded by the regions of Valencia, Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucía, it is located in the Levante, and is also a province, while Murcia is also the name of the provincial capital.
Enjoying around 300 days of sunshine each year, the Murcia region is one of the driest regions in Europe. Water is scarce, as temperatures in summer can rise above 40 degrees, while the mild winters can see slight minus degrees. The southern Mediterranean coast features numerous small bays, each of which has its own microclimate and vegetation.
Murcia is the largest supplier of vegetables, fruit and flowers in Europe. In addition to agriculture, the construction, furniture and tourism are important sectors of the economy. There are three wine-growing regions with a protected designation of origin (DO), named after the cities they surround: DO Bullas, DO Jumilla and DO Yecla. The total vineyard area of the Murcia region is around 47,000 hectares.
The city of Bullas was founded by the Romans, and is located around 50 kilometres from the provincial capital of Murcia, on a high plateau close to the Mula river. The climate is Mediterranean, with an average precipitation of around 450 millimetres annually. Wine, almonds, peaches and olives are cultivated in and around Bullas. Viticulture dates back to Roman times, and there are more than 200 partially or completely functional wine cellars in the historical city centre, most of which were built in the 18th and 19th century. The DO Bullas has been in existence since 1994, the vineyards with a total area of around 2.300 hectares are located at an average altitude of 500 to 800 metres above sea level.
Monastrell is the leading grape variety in Bullas, with a share of 90 per cent. Other red varieties planted are Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Production is around one third red wines, the balance is accounted for by rosados. White wines are produced only in very small quantities, from the following grape varieties: Macabeo and Airén, as well as Chardonnay, Malvasía, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel varieties. The large variety of different soil and microclimatic conditions ensures the DO Bullas has a wide variety of wines to offer. New cellar technology is showing off, in particular, the potential of the Monastrell grape, which produces cool, fruity, well balanced wines.
Bodegas del Rosario, Bullas
Bodegas Begastri, Cehegín
The Bodegas Begastri is located in the commune of Cañada de Canara, which is part of the city of Cehegín. The name Begastri goes back tot he Roman community of “Begastrum” – There is evidence of viticulture in the Cehegín area in the first century A.D.. The vineyards of Begastri are located at an altitude of 600 to 1.000 metres, with southwesterly slopes. Hot dry summers, rain in spring and autumn, and cold winters characterize the climate.The soils are rich in limestone, and Monastrell ist he dominant grape variety, augmented by Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha. The Begastri cellar is built on three levels, and was dug deep into the rock. The wines mature on a surface of 350 square metres 15 metres below the surface, providing absolutely constant environmental conditions. The red flagship wine “Sinedie” is organically produced.
Bodega Tercia de Ulea, Moratalla
Bodega Balcona, Bullas
Bodega Los Ceperos, La Alberca
Bodegas Lavia / Molino y Lagares de Bullas, Bullas
The DO Jumilla has a vineyard area of 41,300 hectares, making it one of the largest in Spain. It is also one of the oldest regions, having been classified with DO status as early as 1966. Viticulture in this area can be traced back more than 5,000 years. It was in Jumilla that the oldest remains of a grape vine (vitis vinifera) in the whole of Europe were found, dating back to around 3000 B.C.. The landscape between the Mediterranean coast and the highlands of Castile is characterized by wide valleys and plains, surrounded by mountains. Apart from Jumilla itself, communes producing wine include Montealegre del Castillo, Fuenteálamo, Ontur, Hellín, Albatana and Tobarra. Vineyards are located at altitudes of 400 to 800 metres above sea level.
Jumilla has a continental climate, with summer temperatures frequently in excess of 40 degrees, long periods of drought and a low annual precipitation of around 300 millimetres. The soils contain limestone, iron oxide and clay, and have a low salt content. Water can penetrate the soil, and is stored. These climatic and soil conditions favour the planting of Monastrell, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of the vineyard area in the DO Jumilla. Other red varieties planted include Garnacha, Cencibel (Tempranillo), Tintorera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, with red grapes in total making up 96 per cent of the total vineyard area. White wines are produced from aus Airén, Macabeo and Merseguera as well as from small amounts of Malvasía, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel. There is a tradition of producing natural sweet wines from overripe Pedro Ximénez or Monastrell grapes.
Traditionally, the DO Jumilla was known for the production of simple wines with a high level of alcohol. They were often sold in bulk, and used in other regions to beef up the colour and alcohol level of their own wines. Even today, a few particularly dark, full-bodied and tannic red wines are made using the Doble Pasta technique. As Jumilla was spared infestation by phylloxera in the 19th century because of its special soil structure, this plague finally struck this region in the late 1980’s. When it became necessary to replant the vineyards, producers selected better grape varieties than in the past, and raised the quality standards of their production. The red wines today are characterized by an intense colour, any expressive fruity nose with notes of dark berries and cherries, as well as by structure, body and austere tannins. Rosé wines, which are made predominantly from Monastrell, are fresh and aromatic, with notes of roses, raspberries and cherries. The white wines are fresh and clear, fruit-driven, light and well balanced.
Propiedad Viticola Casa de Castillo, Jumilla
Bodegas Olivares, Jumilla
Bodegas Hacienda del Carche, Jumilla
The Yecla DO district includes only a single commune. In the west, the DO borders on Jumilla, in the north on Almansa (region Castilla-La Mancha) and in the east on Alicante (Valencia region). The vineyard area amounted to around 20,000 hectares just a few years ago, located on a plateau at an altitude of between 400 and 800 metres, surrounded by hills. Today, only 11,500 hectares are used for viticulture, of these only 4,600 are classified for the production of quality wine. The DO status has been implemented since 1975.
Deep limestone or clay soils ensure a good water permeability in the soil, while allowing water to be stored further down. The DO Yecla has a continental climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters, Precipitation is on the low side at 300 mm annually, while sunshine averages around 3,000 hours each year. Storms occur frequently in Spring and Autumn.
More than 90 per cent of the grape varieties planted in Yecla are red, dominated by Monastrell, which accounts for 85 per cent of the vineyard area, followed by Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cencibel (Tempranillo), Merlot, Tintorera and Syrah. The most important white varieties are Merseguera, Airén, Macabeo, Malvasia and Chardonnay. Yecla was largely spared from the phylloxera infestation, so that today a large part of the vineyards still consists of ungrafted indigenous vines.
The region is sub-divided into two sub-zones. At higher altitudes, the Yecla Campo Arriba is planted mainly with Monastrell, which produces full-bodied red wines with up to 14 per cent alcohol content. At lesser altitudes, the Yecla Campo Abajo produces wines with an alcohol content of 11.5 to 14 per cent. As is the case for Jumilla, Yecla has for many years contributed to the export volumes of the region. This only changed when the buying markets raised their quality standards. Today, many wineries in Yecla have been modernized, and are producing a lighter style of wine.
Bodegas Castaño, Yecla
Señorio de Barahonda, Yecla
Copyright by Wein-Plus; photos: CRDO Jumilla.