Jumilla: The other Spanish wine
by: Vino Joe
Usually, when people think of wine from Spain, they think of Rioja. Some of the more advanced wine snobs scoff at Rioja as "pedestrian" and look to fill their cellars with Ribera del Duero. A handful of ultra-geeks will tell you the "real" cellar-worthy wines from Spain come from Priorato. However, there is a lot more to Spanish wine than these three places, and the joke is on the snobs!
In fact, there is excellent wine being made all over Spain, and most of these "other" wine regions are relatively unknown and undervalued. Bonus for you, as the prices are much lower -- yet comparable in quality -- to the wines with the cachet. Hence, you are able to find a number of outstanding values from other Spanish wine regions.
Take Jumilla, for example. Jumilla is a "DO" -- Denominacion de Origen -- which means that it is a region demarcated by the government specifically for growing grapes and making wine, and thus must adhere to strict regulations and restrictions (short answer: there are rules to ensure high quality). The main grape grown in this mountainous region north of Murcia is Monastrell, which is capable of producing full-bodied, rich, fragrant red wines not unlike Shiraz/Syrah and Cabernet. Taja Reserva 1998 follows that comparison to a "T," showing a rich, open nose full of black fruit such as cassis, as well as hints of earth, tar, band-aids and menthol -- very similar in aroma to a Rhone syrah. In the mouth, ripe blackberry and overripe cassis flavors dominate, and are held together with ample acidity, medium ripe tannins and appropriate alcohol. The tannins are more prevalent in the finish, and the tannin level definitely begs for protein; therefore, try this wine with beef, game or cheese.
This wine is well structured and, for less than 10 bucks, it has remarkable complexity, depth and staying power. Thrown into a blind tasting of expensive Rhone Valley wines such as Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph (costing two to three times the price), I might have a hard time spotting it as a wine from Spain. It's a super value, and well worth seeking.
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