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Details for Casa Castillo 'El Molar'


CountrySpain
Region
AppellationJumilla DOP
Grape
Grenache / Garnacha
(click to find out more)
Year2014
Producer
Casa Castillo
(click to find out more)
ABV14.5%


Jumilla

The best-known wine region of Spain’s south east, Jumilla (pronounced “hoo-mee-a”) rose to prominence in the late 19th Century, when it was one of the very few parts of Europe to escape the dreaded vine pest phylloxera.  For many decades most of its production was exported to phylloxera-ravaged France, and often used to beef up famous French reds.
 
That historical importance led to it being one of the very first DOs in Spain, in 1966.  Its luck ran out in 1989 when phylloxera finally struck, reducing production by 60% over the next five years while the vineyards were replanted on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks.
 
Jumilla is overwhelmingly red wine country.  About 85% of the vineyard area is devoted to just one black variety: Monastrell, which is perhaps better known under its French name of Mourvèdre.  There&rsquuo;s also a fair amount of Tempranillo (here called Cencibel) and international varieties like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.  White grapes barely get a look in.
 
The climate here is arid and continental, with hot dry summers where temperatures can reach 40°C and cold winters where it drops below freezing.  However, it isn’t quite as extreme as further inland; Jumilla occupies a transitional zone between the Mediterranean coastal lowlands and Spain’s high central plateau, with vineyards rising from 400 to 800 metres.  Widely-spaced bush vines are the norm, to cope with the aridity, and yields are naturally low.


Casa Castillo

Widely regarded as the best producer in Jumilla, Casa Castillo is quite recent, having released its first 1991 vintage in 1993.  The estate had historically produced wine but had been a rosemary plantation for over forty years when current owner and winemaker José María Vicente and his father began to replant the vineyards in 1985.
 
They planted Monastrell (by far Jumilla’s dominant grape), Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  One vineyard they didn’t have to replant was La Solana, which had been planted with ungrafted Monastrell in 1942.  From this comes the flagship Pie Franco (“French roots”, as opposed to the American rootstocks needed to resist phylloxera) which has been acclaimed as one of the best reds in Spain.
 
Almost as prestigious is Las Gravas, which comes from a particularly pebbly, high-altitude vineyard on a steep slope.  Today it is a blend of Monastrell, Syrah and Garnacha.  It used to contain Cabernet Sauvignon, but José has head-grafted that over to Garnacha, seeking later-ripening, more Spanish varieties.
 
The Valtosca vineyard is more chalky, and is planted exclusively with ungrafted Syrah to produce the wine of the same name.  Valle, the largest vineyard, rocky and hot, is entirely bush-vine Monastrell.  Since 2004 José has planted Garnacha on the highest, north-facing slopes on the estate, to produce El Molar.

about this wine About this wine


On the south-east fringe of Spain's high central plateau lies Jumilla.  It's a land of wide river valleys and rocky plateaus, set against a backdrop of mountains.  Uniquely for a Spanish wine region, it spans two administrative regions, Murcia and Castilla-La Mancha.  It once lay entirely within Murcia, before being split in two by a boundary change intended to reunify the historic La Mancha that Don Quixote would have known.
 
Casa Castillo lies in the Murcian half, about six kilometres west of the town of Jumilla itself.  Though the current owners released their first wine as recently as 1993, the estate has a long wine-producing history.  When it was bought by José Sánchez-Cereso in 1941 to grow rosemary, there were abandoned vineyards and a winery and cellar constructed in 1870 by French winemakers fleeing the vine plague phylloxera.
 
(Rioja was similarly boosted with French expertise at around the same time, but after a couple of decades the louse caught up.  Jumilla’s sandy soils proved resistant and the region enjoyed an extended boom, exporting most of its production to France right into the second half of the 20th Century.)
 
In 1985 José Sánchez-Cereso’s son and grandson, current owner and winemaker José María Vicente, began to replant their vineyards and restore the winery, just four years before phylloxera finally reached Jumilla and devastated its old, ungrafted vines.  Fortunately the father and son team had taken the precaution of grafting most of the new vines onto phylloxera-resistant rootstocks.
 
Most of these vines were the Monastrell that dominates in Jumilla, but there was also Syrah from the legendary Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, and some then-fashionable Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon which have since been replaced.  In 2004 José began to plant Garnacha on his highest, north-facing sites, struck by the similarity of their deep gravel-over-limestone soils to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Garnacha is native to northern Spain, but is very unusual in Jumilla and the south generally; this may be the most southerly Garnacha in Spain.
 
This wine comes from those Garnacha vines, planted 750 metres up on the slopes of the Sierra del Molar.  They are grown as bush vines, as is traditional in this arid region and to which Garnacha is particularly well-suited, but they are planted at higher density than normal to reduce yields.  They are farmed organically, hand-picked and then meticulously sorted.  Lots of sorting was needed in 2014 after an unusually cool and wet summer, resulting in less wine than in 2013 despite more young vines coming on-stream.
 
Only a small proportion of the bunches were destemmed before being fermented in traditional lagares, open stone vats lined with cement, using indigenous wild yeasts.  They were foot-trodden, too, rather than the cap of skins being mechanically punched down or pumped over.
 
After fermentation the wine was aged for almost a year in large 500-litre French oak barrels used many times before.  Big old barrels like this soften the wine without adding significant oak flavours.  2650 cases were then bottled in September 2015.


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