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Bodegas Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2003
The heat-loving Monastrell is known as Mourvedre in France's Rhone valley. Jumilla records show that Monastrell was used at least as early as the 15th century. Like the Rhone, Jumilla gets extremely hot during the summer days, but because of the 1500 foot elevation, nights are very cool. This allows the grapes to become physiologically ripe, yet maintain their acidity.
For Jumilla, the key to its vineyards' survival was their sandy soil—which is anathema to the Phylloxera insect. As a glorious consequence, Jumilla not only has some of the oldest vines in the world, but also the largest number of ungrafted vines. Most of these vines are Mourvèdre, or Monastrell as it is locally known, one of the most prized varieties of Mediterranean Europe. And Jumilla's summers boast hot days and cool nights, perfect for ripening grapes, while maintaining acidity.
Today, Jumilla is awakening to its vast potential, and a winemaking revolution has followed — led by growers like Olivares' Paco Selva. He owns 65+ hectares of ungrafted old vineyards in the northern part of the appellation, called La Hoya de Santa Ana. It is the coolest sub-zone of Jumilla, with sandy, lime-rich soils that yield intensely aromatic wines, while protecting the ungrafted vines from Phylloxera.
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.
Full of color, ripe fruit, plenty of texture and earthy goodness, Mourvèdre is an important grape in many key regions in the south of France, as well as in Spain and the New World. Mourvèdre is actually of Spanish provenance (there known as Monastrell or Mataro) and is the key variety in Alicante, Jumilla and Yecla. It truly thrives, however, in Provence’s Bandol region, where it shines on its own as a single varietal red and in Southern Rhône where it palys a major part in blends . It is also of great importance in the Southern Rhône alongside Grenache and Syrah—and in California and Australia, as a single varietal wine or in Rhône blends.
In the Glass
At their finest, Mourvèdre wines are robust and full of brambly red and black fruit, and aromas and flavors of herbs, leather, earth, dark chocolate and licorice. Well-aged examples can show an impressive degree of elegance and an attractive perfume. In blends with Grenache and Syrah, Mourvèdre provides fleshy texture, tannic structure and deep color.
This earthy Mediterranean variety loves rustic food—think cassoulet, wild boar ragu or smoky ribs. Mourvèdre’s tannins are bold but not bitter, lending both weight and texture.
Mourvèdre used to have significant plantings in California, but the vine lost popularity during the 20th century in favor of other varieties. However, in the 1980s, a group of California winemakers inspired by the wines of the Rhône Valley have been working to bring the variety back into the spotlight. Plantings have since increased and Rhône blends are now a highly-regarded specialty of the Central Coast.