A Monastrell from Yecla, was one of the first wines that I tasted when I arrived in Madrid in the late Summer/early fall of 2002. The place where I bought it was a tiny well stocked wine shop near the Retiro park. I explained to the owner of the shop, a man in his late 50’s that I was learning about Spanish wines. He showed me a reccomendation and I said, that the wines from Yecla are one of the best kept secrets of Spain. The man explained to me that the old Monastrell vines from Yecla yielded magical wines and that Robert Parker was going crazy for them. To this day, i do not remember that producer but I think that it was Bodegas Castano.
After picking up the bottle, I went to the food market section of the Corte Ingles to get myself some mushrooms ” Trompeta de los muertos” and some beef cubes. I did a stew to have with the wine. I will never forget that supper of that evening in my apartment in Madrid. That Monastrell had a heady scent of blue fruits with fascinating scents of earth and flowers. The wine was bringing out the flavors of the mushrooms and they in turn were communicating with the wine. The experience reminded me of the short story of Julio Cortazar, the aquarium. I was converted…
What makes the Monastrell from Yecla so special?. First is the altitude where the vineyards are located. Yecla soils are located between 400 meters and 800 meters. In addition,They are deep with good drainage and with a high content of chalk. Furthermore, the climate is continental with mediterranean influence. Temperature oscillate between -7º in the winter and 42º in the summer, with an average of 3.000 sunshine hours a year. This is a grape that loves important differences in temperatures. More important, it likes hot weather and cold winters. Its the reason why it develops thick skins and produce those fascinating heady flavors.
Yecla is pretty small appellation making big wines. There are 11 wineries in which 9 of them bottle their own wines and the rest sell in bulk. This is small wine region with an international clientele. Most of the production is exported, being USA, Canada and Germany, their biggest markets.
The Castaño family has been participants of the Yecla wine scene for many generations. In the 1950’s Ramon Castaño Santa founded the winery. Deemed an avant-gardiste , he modernized the winery with a passion for Monastrell.
Castano has 500 ha of vineyards scattered in the yecla denomination. Campo Arriba in the northern part of the d.o is richer in limestone while Campo Abajo is richer in Clay. This gives the wine the perfect combination of power, structure and aromatics.
Their Hecula is their classic entry level wine. The wine spent 6 months in inxox cuves and another 6 in wood barrels ( 80% french and 20% american). SAQ#11676671. $13.95 Here are my tasting notes:
A fantastic value from Yecla. Aromas of ripe black fruits with complex barnyard nuances. On the mouth, full body with notes of caramelized expresso beans and blue fruits. Rustic, brambly but well made.
On the other hand, Solanera is a custom made wine for key markets such as the North American one. It is a majority blend of old vine Monastrell (70%) with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Garnacha Tintorera ( 15%). Here are my tasting notes for the 2013 vintage. SAQ #11664902. $20.95
Rich and inviting bouquet. Deep notes of ripe blue fruit such as cassis jam and blueberries. In addition delicate notes of dry mint and licorice with a background of different leathers and other animal nuaces. All this in a cloud of violets, roses and other aromatic flowers. In the mouth, full body, powerful and structured. Balanced by a cool acidity. Retronasal flavors of dark chocolate blueberries, wood and dark raisins. Noble tannins with a pencil lead, mineral fennel streamlined finish. Will age for the next 5-7 years