I’ve mentioned before in Bristol Wine Blog how much Spain has improved the quality and diversity of its wine over the last couple of decades. Yet, I regularly meet wine lovers who, with the likely exception of Rioja, have still not caught up with the change and continue to think of Spain as just producing simple, mass market wines.
And, I’m guessing the one region of Spain that, they believe, this comment most applies to is the hills in the south-east of the country overlooking the Mediterranean. It’s an area that, in the past, was the source of much cheap ‘plonk’ sold to undemanding tourists holidaying along the beaches of the Costas and, no doubt, these bottles still exist. But, look a little more carefully and there are some delicious wines – mainly reds – produced from old vineyards of Garnacha (also known as Grenache), Monastrell (Mourvedre) and the very local Bobal. DO names (Spain’s equivalent to France’s AC) including Jumilla, Yecla and Utiel Requena are among those to seek out.
Unde Vinum (Waitrose, £13.99), a Bobal from the last named DO is a typical example of all that’s best from this area. Soft and harmonious and full of attractive black fruit flavours, there was also a lovely freshness about the wine reflecting, perhaps, the fact that the grapes were from vineyards some 800m (2500ft) above sea level; the altitude nicely offsetting the extreme summer heat often found in this area.
Interestingly, the wine was aged in a mixture of barrels and tinajas (clay pots – see below on the right of the cellar).
I saw these pots in use in Burgundy a couple of years ago where they were thought to age the wine more gently and preserve the fruit flavours. They’re certainly not a cheap option and their use in Unde Vinum shows the sort of wine the producers of this wine, and others in this still unloved part of Spain, are aiming for.