Our September 2013 wine trip was blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine. Jumilla is one of the oldest DOs in Spain registered in 1966. After a comfortable coach journey our first call was at Bodegas Casa de la Ermita which was founded in 1999. It is situated 700 meters above sea level and has as its symbol the two hundred year old olive tree growing at the doors to the cellars.
The soil is dry and rocky, as we experienced when invited to pick and taste the grapes, their summers are hot and sunny and winters cold with little rainfall. During our visit the harvest was being gathered by hand and loaded into tractors for transport to the presses.
Here, with mid morning tapas, we tasted a Viognier 2012 Blanco, an Ecológico Monastrell 2011 Tinto, a Monastrell and Petit Verdot 2011 Tinto Roble and a delicious desert wine Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Tinto Crianza.
From here we made our way to Hotel Monreal in the centre of town and after a light lunch set off for Bodegas Bleda. Monastrell forms the base of their red wines blended with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. 98% of their 1 million litres production is for export.
Their right to use the Castillo de Jumilla brand goes back to 1950, and from this range we tasted; Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo and Airén 2012 Blanco, Monastrell-Tempranillo 2012 tinto, Monastrell-Tempranillo 2010 Tinto Crianza, and Monastrell-Tempranillo 2010 Tinto Reserva. We found all these wines pleasing and extremely good value for money.
The wine is aged in French, American and Hungarian oak and in the barrel rooms we could smell the wood. This bodega was the first in Jumilla to bottle wine, before 1930 the area’s total production was sold by tanker to France. Such is the quality of the vines, the bottling and export industry has grown into the largest part of the area’s economy. We were interested to learn that the gold net on some of the bottles at one time denoted a wine produced for nobility. Traditional Spanish produced cork is used for the bottling unless screw top is requested by customers.
That evening we were treated to a reception and sumptuous dinner at the Salón de Celebraciones of the Monreal Hotel. The staff had skilfully arranged the large room so that we didn’t feel lost in it.
The coach took us almost to the top of the 600 meter mount and clear skies afforded us panoramic views. The mount was fortified in the Iberian, Roman and Islamic periods, but the present layout was constructed by the Marquis of Villena in 1461 during the conflict between Aragon and Castile. The castle was abandoned for many years until restoration began in 1971, the completion of the project and laying of a tarmac road to the summit was completed in 2010. Today it is open to the public at weekends and holidays and concerts are performed there on special occasions.
Our last visit was to Bodegas Luzón whose roots date back to the region’s union of grape growers and wine producers in 1916. The last century saw much expansion and modernization and by the year 2000 it reached its current size. In 2005 the Fuertes Group acquired it and undertook major refurbishment. A very impressive and spacious building was added to the original cellars. Here too the harvest was underway and we watched as the grapes were being sorted by hand on a moving belt, any damaged by birds or insects were removed. The sorted grapes were then put into cold storage for the wine maker to decide on the process. After the tour of the production area we were shown the old cellars, an impressive area storing barrels and millions of bottles of wine stacked by hand. The Sanctuary is where the best wines are stored and the Cathedral is the oldest part of the cellar with row upon row of arches all full of barrels.
We tasted Macabeo 2012 Blanco, Luzón Roble 2011 Tinto, Castillo de Luzón 2010 Tinto Crianza and Portú 2005 Tinto in their impressive tasting room. Then we were treated to more excellence with lunch: Luzón 2012 and Altos de Luzón 2009 Tinto with the extensive and delicious entradas, and finally Alma de Luzón 2007 Tinto with the main course of paella or game gazpacho.
During the lull between the main course and sweet (a succulent coconut sponge with whipped cream) the shop was open and at a leisurely pace we were able to order and pay for our choices, so when coffee had been drunk the coach was loaded with our purchases. We enjoyed a peaceful siesta on the way back and arrived at Jávea exactly on time. Perfect.