In honor of Wine Blogging Wednesday (this time around hosted by Alder), I broke out the bottle of 2002 Casa Castillo Monastrell from Jumilla.
I've been enjoying this wine (well, starting with the 1999 vintage anyway) since 2001. It was originally packed for me as part of a sampler case by Sheryl at Amphora Wine Merchant. Back then, they were my wine purveyor of choice, and Sheryl always packed some really interesting cases for me.
First, a note about Monastrell. Basically, in other parts of the wine drinking world, it's known as Mourvèdre, that very dark and dusty grape that most often used for blending. On its own, it produces a dark, almost black, wine with lots of tannins and acidity. Whether the wine is drinkable is, well, a sign of the talent of the vintner.
Now, a bit about Jumilla. The area has long been a producer of grapes for "bulk" wine. Its location in the south of Spain puts it on a dry, hot latitude, and the vineyards situated on dry, rocky/sandy soil. In the past few years, more effort has gone into making fine wines, and I personally think the Casa Castillo is the best value out there at under $15. (Side note: After doing more research, I learned that the replantings are actually due to a bout of phylloxera that hit the region in the late 1980s. Ironically, Jumilla was one of the only regions spared from phylloxera in the 1800s, when much of France was devasted)
The 2002 Casa Castillo Monastrell is Monastrell with some Syrah. It's aged for a few months in French and American oak. I actually think that, if held at proper temperature, this bottle could have withstood another year or two of cellaring, but my conditions haven't been ideal so I think that the maturation was a bit sped up.
The first pour on the bottle was very tight - this wine REALLY needs some air to open up and soften. It also really cries out for food, which I hadn't finished cooking. After about 10-15 minutes, it really started to show beautifully.
Almost immediately you could pick up the slight gaminess that comes from the addition of the Syrah (which actually distinguishes the '02 from prior vintages quite dramatically). Dusty and earthy on the nose with what I perceived as a bit of licorice...
On the palate, this wine is BIG. It's muscular like you expect mourvèdre to be, but with a beautiful finish and roundness - it's not overly tannic or acidic but it stands up to even a rich braised pork loin beautifully.
There's a rustic quality to this wine that begs to be served with warm, braised, earthy foods - it's not meant for nouvelle cuisine.
It would also be lovely with a selection of Spanish cheeses (Manchego or Iberico, Drunken Goat... you get the idea) served with some Marcona almonds and membrillo. I think I'd avoid serving jamon serrano with this one, though.