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What our expert thought of Casa Castillo, Monastrell




the tasting

The Tasting


In the glass this is properly red: a deep vibrant ruby with a youthful purple rim.  It’s perhaps not as black as, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon, but is more colourful.  I was expecting an even darker wine from this variety, and I suspect Casa Castillo have employed a very gentle maceration to avoid extracting too much tannin from the skins.
 
Monastrell is prone to reduction, and when I first pulled the cork the nose was obscured by strongly meaty, animal scents.  With sufficient air those faded (so your pouches should be fine) revealing an intensely deep, spicy nose of dried black fruit (especially damson), cocoa powder and alcoholic liqueur.  It smells like a combination of raisins in dark chocolate and brandy-soaked prunes.
 
There are dried Mediterranean herbs here too: bay leaf and thyme.  The nose still has a savoury quality to it, but it’s more a hint of Marmite than the raw meat reduction it had at first.  What it doesn’t have is any significant oak.  Still it manages to be complex, resonant and fine.
 
The palate is undoubtedly full-bodied but not excessively so, thanks largely to unexpectedly fine acidity.  Its spicy flavours are intense but well-integrated, so that they’re hard to separate.  Again there’s the impression of raisins in bitter chocolate, along with other dried black fruits, but without any of their sweetness: this wine is fully dry.
 
Alcohol tastes sweet; I would expect a 15% wine to be more sweet-fruited than this.  Big tannins keep it dry, but they’re so rounded and ripe that you taste their savoury bitterness (reminiscent of black coffee) rather than feel that mouthpuckering, drying sensation.
 
That fine balance between tannin, acidity and alcohol works particularly well on the peppery, slightly smoky finish, which is dry but not drying and warm but not hot.


Assessment


Casa Castillo have tamed the Monastrell monster: this wine is only two years old yet is dangerously drinkable and remarkably elegant despite its scary alcohol level.  Or perhaps because of it: phenolic ripeness (when tannins soften) occurs after sugar ripeness, and the effect is particularly pronounced for this grape.  Small amounts of Garnacha (10%) and Syrah (5%) in the blend have also contributed finesse and complexity.
 
Aging in large, old oak barrels has also smoothed the tannins without adding any obvious oak scents or flavours.  They’re not missed; there’s enough complexity here already, and the fruit-forward style really shows off Monastrell’s character.  Round and generous yet dry and food-friendly, this red is very easy to like and even easier to afford.



Tasting notes

Appearance
clear deep ruby, purple rim
Nose

Intensity medium++

Aromas spicy, savoury, part-dried black fruits (damson, prune, raisin), dark chocolate, dried herbs (bay leaf, thyme), alcohol (liqueur)

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness fully dry

Acidity medium(+?), v. fresh given the nose & ABV

Body full, but light for 15%

Tannins medium+, round & ripe, taste them rather than feel them

Intensity medium+

Flavours ripe black fruits (damson, black cherry), dried fruits (raisins), chocolate, coffee (esp. on afterpalate)
Finish

Length medium(+?), cooler and dryer than expected

Flavours as palate, spice (pepper), hint of smoke (oak?)
Other notes
Barely detectable oak. Flavours v. well-integrated. Lovely acid/tannin/alcohol balance, esp. on finish. Strongly reductive at first - needs air. Very good value.


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