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Bodegas Castano Solanera 2003
"... a beautiful blend of 75% Mourvedre and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache... possesses purity, suppleness, and balance. It is another example of why Spain is beating virtually every other viticultural area in the world when it comes to high quality wines that sell for a song."
Located in Southeastern Spain, the "lost" region of Yecla lies to the east of Jumilla and to the west of Alicante. Fortunately, this region was spared much of the wrath of the phyloxera plague, and many ungrafted and extremely old vines remain. The region's progressive leader Bodegas Castano has long been an advocate of the Monastrell varietal-also known as Mourvedre. The varietal is best regarded for its influence on the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape where the terroir and climate is not dissimilar to that of Yecla with both benefiting from a very warm, Mediterranean climate with warm days and nights.
Created by Ramon Castano Santa and his 3 sons, Bodegas Castano is not nearly as old as the vines it owns. Starting quite small, the family has nurtured these old plantings and re-planted other parcels and now owns 350 hectares of some of the prime vineyard land in Yecla. Today, Daniel Castano, one of Ramon's sons, runs the winery with the help of other members of the family.
The extremely talented Mariano Lopez has taken over the winemaker reins at the Bodega, and has turned the focus toward more balanced bottlings of older vine Monastrell. Both traditional and carbonic maceration techniques are used and all wines pass through malolactic fermentation. Daniel believes that the fruit and tannin structure of the Monastrell varietal stands up well to the use of oak, and as such, many of the wines pass (in varying degrees) through a barrel regime.
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.