Spread out across wide valleys and flat plains is DO Jumilla, a small and one of the oldest wine-growing regions located inland from Spain's central Mediterranean Sea, in the southeastern regions of La Mancha, Albacete province, and part of Murcia.

The continental climate of the area results in extremely hot summers and cold winters. With a significant reduction in temperature as altitude climbs between 400 and 800 meters. The altitude is optimal for this type of environment, contributing to a cooling influence in the vineyard. In addition, the large diurnal range with cool nights contributes to producing wines that are fresher and more aromatic.

The land of the Monastrell

Along the wine route to Jumilla, one can enjoy the spectacular scenery of prehistoric rocks, mountains, and ample pine woods that nestle the vineyards. The soils in this region are composed of sandy limestone soils that store water well during dry spells and are suited for extreme temperatures. Jumilla's low annual precipitation benefits from the water-retaining properties of limestone, which is composed of organic matter and fish bones from ancient seas. The quality and longevity of wines produced on limestone soils are well known. You can also find small parcels of clay soil that retain moisture. These soils are also known to produce exceptional, bold reds. Due to low annual rainfall between 250mm and 300mm, grapes are planted at very low density, allowing the roots to penetrate deeply into the ground and obtain enough moisture to survive. Most of the vineyards in Jumilla are dry-farmed, meaning they don't use irrigation. Because of the hot, dry weather, less treatment is required to prevent grapevine diseases, making organically certified wines easier to produce.

Quality and quantity

The Spanish Mediterranean coast is home to the Monastrell grape variety, a late-ripening, black-skinned grape that thrives in warm weather. It is also referred to as Mataro in Australia and Mourvédre in France. Eighty percent of the grapevines in the Murcia DO come from the DOs Yecla, Bullas, and Jumilla, these regions offer ideal growth conditions for Monastrell wines. Previously, these areas were known for their large quantities of inexpensive, sweet, and potent wines that were exported.

Following the catastrophic spread of phylloxera, most of these regions were replanted in the 20th century with an eye toward better wine quality and advancements in wine-making techniques, embracing new ideas and wine styles. Jumilla offers excellent Monastrell examples, with its finest wines going up against some of the world's most exceptional red wines.

Memorable wines

I had the pleasure of visiting a winery in Jumilla, Bodegas Carchelo, located near the natural park Sierra del Carche. The vineyards sprawl across multiple parcels throughout the broad local territory, minimizing the risk that hailstones may destroy an entire crop and providing a wider range of soil types, elevations, and orientations on hillsides and valleys. Some of the vineyards dominate the slopes of the Sierra del Carche, benefiting from cool breezes and lower temperatures, with north-facing slopes for gentler sunshine. Old vines that have not been affected by phylloxera make up a portion of the vineyards of Bodegas Carchelo, yielding low yields but excellent concentrated grapes that produce exceptional wines.

Here, natural wines are created—boutique wines that are crafted with love and care, embodying the essence of this Mediterranean region in a bottle. Extremely expressive wines, carefully sealed and stored, are made to evolve with age. At Bodegas Carchelo, I've sampled some outstanding wines that rank among my most memorable, and I'm pleased to share two of these examples.

  • Carchelo Rosé, 2022 | Monastrell: 100% Monastrell old dry farming vines, 2 months on fine lees. 5525 bottles were produced.

Pale redberry color, on the nose aromas of strawberry, cranberry, floral, cream, and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavors of watermelon, strawberry, and ripe peach, with some notes of cream and biscuits. Lovely fresh tannins and minerality, well-balanced wine. Best enjoyed with seafood dishes or goat cheese.

  • Muri Veteres, 2020 | Monastrell Pie Franco: 100% Monastrell ungrafted old vines, 12 months French oak, and a minimum of 12 months in bottle. 2090 bottles were produced.

Deep ruby color, very expressive on the nose, red fruits, floral, aromas of thyme, rosemary, and some pepper. On the palate, flavors of red fruits, leather, thyme, and cacao. Rich and rounded tannins, nice body, a slightly spicy finish, very elegant wine. Best enjoyed with grilled meats or mature cheeses.

The aromas of these wines are so exquisite that you could spend minutes just enjoying the scent out of the glass, and savouring them is somewhat delightful, especially when paired with local culinary delights that match perfectly.