After struggling for years to shrug off their reputation for being plain plonk, it seems that the wines of the Jumilla Designation of Origin, produced in Murcia's Vega Alta, are well-deservedly beginning to make a name for themselves both in Spain and abroad thanks to their much-improved quality.
The uniqueness of the Jumilla wines is no secret to wine critics, sommeliers and well informed amateur enthusiasts, but members of the general public remain rather prejudiced, since they still remember when these wines were exported to Europe, with a very high proof, to be mixed with weak local wines in countries such as Germany and Switzerland. Nearly two decades ago, Murcia’s wine producers stopped bulk selling and committed themselves to producing quality wines, both balanced and rich, and bottling them and marketing them themselves.
And the results are visible to all. Even the renowned American guru Robert Parker has included approximately thirty Jumilla wines on his prestigious list, awarding them the highest ratings. For instance, the 99 points obtained by the El Nido brand, the same rating it was awarded in 2007, or the 96 points obtained by Sierra Carche, of Casa de la Ermita.
The 40-odd wineries – such as Juan Gil, Luzon, Castillo de Jumilla and Pedro Luis Martinez – forming a part of the Jumilla designation of origin are responsible for this wine quality revolution. But there is yet another protagonist that deserves the acclaim of the Spanish and global wine industries: the native Monastrell grape. This variety, which adapts to an oftentimes harsh climate, with plenty of sunshine and little rainfall, has succeeded in producing powerful, expressive wines with a unique softness and roundness very difficult to beat.
Undoubtedly, Jumilla is now producing many up-and-coming wines that are well worth discovering and enjoying. And for those who want to discover them firsthand, this D.O., one of the oldest in Spain, offers quality wine tours including towns and cities such as Albacete, Murcia, Albatana, Fuente Alamo, Hellin, Ontur, Tabarra and Jumilla itself.
Jumilla, which the Arabs called "The Beautiful", is not only home to a large proportion of the wineries belonging to this D.O., but also a charming place to visit and live in, a tranquil and beautiful city that come to life at the Harvest Festival (“Fiestas de la Vendimia” ), the Moors and Christians Festival, and Easter Week. In addition to the city – which posses a splendid cultural and historical heritage – outdoor enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to visit the Sierra del Carche, a protected regional park with a rich and varied flora and fauna, where one of the wineries that has obtained the best results from the Monastrell grape variety is located.
The Casa de la Ermita Winery is a regional yardstick for the production of high quality wines and innovation. Besides having an experimental vineyard for producing grape varieties that have not been cultivated in this part of Spain, or anywhere else in the country, it is also a pioneer in the production of organic wines, and currently of wines with a low alcohol content, which allows the winery to adapt to new consumption habits and national regulations, without losing the body or flavour of the real McCoy.
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