The Juan Gil Monastrell is my favorite wine under $15. I certainly hope that the price is the same next year, but I imagine that the tumbling dollar will take its toll. Many of the wines we regularly see from Spain are poised for price increases. This winery is located in Jumilla, on the central plateau called the Meseta. The region is a virtual desert, which makes for interesting wine production.
Usually vines are trellised to allow air to flow over the grapes, which prevents mold from growing on them. This is not an issue in arid Jumilla, so they have bush vines (like the one on the label). The dry conditions prevent diseases from thriving in the area, so the vines grow to be very old. Older vines produce less grapes and more concentrated wines. The lack of water also restricts yields, so these grapes are packed with flavor. The Monastrell grape is native to this area. It has a very thick skin, so it requires abundant sunshine to become fully ripe. In France it is called Mouvédre, and is mainly used as a blending grape in the wines of the Southern Rhone and Provence.
The wine is opaque violet and its fruit profile reminds me of dark-skinned berries like blackberry and black cherry. The wine has some oak influence, mainly with used barrels. The used barrels impart earthy flavors in the wine – a damp, autumn forest and mushrooms. There are chalky, mineral flavors in the wine as well. The tannins are very soft and the acid is low, so the wine has no edges; it coats the entire palate without focusing on one area, which is the mark of a well-balanced wine.
This is the second wine from Spanish Importer extraordinaire Jorge Ordoñez that I have covered. He does not have a website.
Over the past couple of decades, the market for fine wine has increased dramatically. What has not increased is the size and production capabilities of the world’s best wineries, which leaves most customers priced out of the classic, great wines. So what are we to do? Should we resign ourselves to the idea that we cannot afford to be intellectually stimulated by our wines? Certainly not! We simply have to be better informed than our fellow drinkers.
The best wine under $50 that I have come across is Finca Sandoval. For those who know me, it will come as little surprise that this wine is Spanish, as I am obsessed with the country’s wines. Now is the time to buy the wines of Spain. Demand for their product is rising and the Euro is killing us. I can’t imagine that this wine, currently $37 a bottle, will be under $50 much longer.
Finca Sandoval hails from a sub-region of Castilla-La Mancha called Mancheula. It is the only wine from the region I have ever come across. The wine is a Syrah-based blend, with a variety of other grapes used from year to year including Bobal, Tempranillo and Monastrell. I discovered the wine over two years ago during a Syrah tasting. There were excellent Syrahs available from around the world. The Finca was the last of the night and it was the best of the tasting, regardless of price.
Since then I have had wines from the ‘02-‘05 vintages. It throws a great deal of sediment, even in its youth, but it ages gracefully. I am currently revisiting the 2005. For those familiar with with Syrahs of the Northern Rhone, which are earthy and peppery, and those of Australia (Shiraz), which are bold and rich, you will find a combination of the two in the Sandoval. The climate in Manchuela is much warmer than the Northern Rhone, which results in a riper, fuller-bodied and more fruit forward wine akin to the Aussie Shiraz. But this is a high quality producer in Spain growing grapes in arid conditions, which makes the wine highly concentrated, and aging the juice in French oak barrels, which softens the wine and imparts additional spice character. The palate is lush and full. The alcohol is well integrated and does not burn. The finish is very long, the wine hangs around. All in all, it is the complete package and worth snapping up if you can find it.
Importer: Jorge Ordoñez