Posted by: tomciocco | April 6, 2013

THE LIGHTER SIDE OF…MONASTRELL

If ever there was a grape variety that belonged in the “Deep, Dark, and Delicious” club it’s Monastrell, along with fellows like Portugal’s Touriga Nacional, Sicily’s Nero d’Avola, and Croatia/Puglia/California’s Zinfandel, to name just a few. But like any club anywhere, there is real difference within the similarity, and indeed none of the grapes could easily pass for any of the others in the glass.

One thing nearly all of the members of the club do have in common however are their origins in very sunny and very hot climates, and Monastrell’s preferred terroirs are near the very top of that list. Monastrell craves buckets of sun, scorching temperatures, and it ripens exceedingly late in the season (often as late as late October), and if it doesn’t get all or most of those elements, its fruit can put off some unpleasantly high levels of vegetal and animal aromas, so not only intense sunlight and heat is necessary to fully ripen Monastrell, but a long, slow, warm slide into Autumn as well.

This wine is produced near Valencia (and indeed that’s the official name that this wine carries on its label), and this southeastern segment of the Spanish coast checks all of the climatic boxes on Monastrell’s wish list, and then some. And the name(s) tell the full story…Monastrell (whose etymology seems rooted in the tem “monastary”) has two common aliases. One of these A.K.A.s is Mourvedre, (as the grape is known in southern France), a name which bears a very strong similarity to the name of a little town near Valencia called Murviedro where the grape still thrives. The other common alias for this vine is Mataro, and the name by which Monastrell typically goes in California, which also happens to be the name of another town a bit further up on the Catalan coast, and another area in which the grape excels to this day.

In addition to the greater climate, other factors like individual vintage, soil, elevation, and cellar techniques can all markedly effect the size and shape of a wine. Precisely what combination of these factors is at work with this wine I’m not sure, but whatever makes it so, this is undoubtedly one of the most lifted, feminine, and “clearest” pure Monastrell wines I’ve come across anywhere…and it’s made by a co-op no less (gasp)…

The menu was as might be expected –  Valencian: a very typical romaine lettuce, tomato, green olive, carrot, hard-boiled egg, and scallion salad, and then a one pot baked rice dish with chorizo, chick peas, potatoes, a head of garlic, green peppers, tomatoes, and saffron, with some light, crusty bread to go along with everything…

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Castillo de Fuente Valencia Monastrell 2011

Bright, just translucent crimson/purple color. Graceful but certain nose of sloe berries, spicy plum, fresh meat, charcoal embers, malted cocoa, and brook water. The medium body has fairly voluptuous texture, but is still well-toned with soft but pervasive tannins, surprisingly fresh acidity, and chewy flavors of fresh blackberry and mulberry, currant jam, new leather, sliced radish, mixed herb pesto, and black licorice. Soft, echoing blueberry pie finish.

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