Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

The winegrowing region of Yecla is located in the southwest of Spain, and it has historically been an important one producing vast quantities of well-regarded wine. The scourge of the phylloxera louse never reached the vineyards there, and so it provided large stocks of blending wines for French merchants after phylloxera devastated French vineyards in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. The vinyards dwindled in scope and fell into disrepair in the first half of the Twentieth Century, however, and the modern revival of Yecla began after 1950, and the region was granted Denominación de Origen (DO) status in 1975.

The principal red grape variety planted in Yecla is the Monastrell, better known by its French name, Mourvèdre. Monastrell apparently originated in Spain (Mourvèdre is a Francification of Murviedro, a town near Valencia), but its principal claim to fame is as one of the important grapes used in the blends of the Southern Rhone. It's known for its earthy, gamy character; and in recent years, it has gained popularity among New World Rhone Rangers.

Bodegas Castaño was founded in 1985 and is today one of the largest producers in Yecla. Their principal export markets are Germany and the Netherlands; but Eric Solomon and European Cellars do import Castaño wines into the United States. Solanera, a blend of 65% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Tintorera, is made for Solomon only, so it's impossible to find anywhere but the United States. It has achieved a measure of notoriety over the past few years, largely because of the favorable reviews given to it by Robert Parker in the Wine Advocate. When I first put my nose into the glass, I was afraid that it had been spoiled. I smelled mushrooms and wet ground. Some people like that sort of thing. I don't, and I suspected that the wine had been corked. I suppose it may have been, but the mushroom smell blew off after a couple of minutes to reveal an inky black, low-acid fruit bomb, high in alcohol and body. I enjoyed it, although I would have preferred something more acidic. It just was flabby.

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