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Exploring Jumilla

In association with DO Jumilla.

With its distinctive wines, regional gastronomy and unique visitor attractions, Jumilla has plenty to offer wine tourists. Andrew Black rounds up the highlights and recommends white, rosé and sweet wines to try.

As would-be travellers to Spain look forward to the post-Covid era, you may decide to shun the throngs of tourists on the coast and in the big cities. If it’s good wine, fine food and culture you’re looking for, the Jumilla region in southeast Spain offers a decidedly more tranquil option.

While the area is surging ahead with its quality aged red wines, there’s also a wide choice of rosé and white wines, as well as young vibrant fruity reds, to refresh the palate on a hot summer’s day, together with numerous restaurants offering local specialities to pair with them.

It is often assumed that the coastline stretching from Valencia to Alicante is the home of paella. But these rice-based dishes, known as arroces, are also the traditional speciality of the Jumilla region, some 100km inland. What’s more, in Calasparra, Murcia province boasts its own home-grown rice, an upmarket, round-grained absorbent type of rice, that’s ideal for paella and particularly sought-after in Japan.

Rice and rosés

Just as Valencia has its own version of paella, Jumilla has its variations, the most traditional of which is prepared with rabbit and snails, and cooked in huge shallow pans over the flames of burning vine shoots. The go-to place in Jumilla for this is Arroceria Fuente del Pino, 8km from Jumilla towards Yecla. As in most Jumillan restaurants, vegetarian and vegan dishes are also offered; after all, Murcia is the vegetable garden of Spain – so much so that restaurants have been created in the middle of its orchards.

Crisp local rosé wines pair well with these arroces. While some of them inevitably reflect the current trend towards the lighter, pale pink Provence-style wines, a number of Jumilla producers go for a deeper colour and more body, which is well-suited to food and most especially to rice dishes. Bodegas Carchelo, a dynamic, tourist-friendly winery 10km from Jumilla, uses the saignée method, leaving the skins in contact with the juice for several hours to produce a rosé displaying attractive fruit and floral notes on the nose, with structure and crisp acidity on the palate.

Carchelo is situated at the edge of the Sierra de Carche national park, close to salt mines dating back to Roman times, which are still in production. A number of other notable wineries are to be found in the Carche area, including Esencia Wine Cellars and Bodega Madrid Romero, which has brought out a complex white wine made from the Macabeo grape and aged in acacia wood. Pleasantly aromatic on the nose, the wine shows lovely finesse. This boutique winery houses a restaurant with a growing reputation for fine-dining.

Visiting Jumilla town

Good quality rosés are also made at the Olivares and Alceño wineries. The first produces a Garnacha rosé while Alceño’s is made with the local Monastrell. Both express the floral, red berry character of their grape varieties and can be enjoyed as a refreshing aperitif or with tapas. Alceño, the oldest winery of the appellation, is located in the heart of Jumilla town, which also includes the respected BSI and Silvano García wineries that are well worth visiting.

Excellent traditional food can be enjoyed in the town centre at Restaurante Reyes Católicos, while the 19th century De Loreto offers a spacious cool patio in which to enjoy great value tasting menus, including vegan fare, often featuring the house speciality: artichokes with a dark chocolate sauce.

In Jumilla town, apart from the obligatory tour of the Moorish castle, tourists can enjoy a visit to the archaeological museum Jeronimo Molina, where a pair of gold earrings found in a necropolis at Coimbra del Barranco Ancho and dating back 2,400 years testifies to the ancient grape-growing traditions of the Jumilla region. Each earring bears a tiny bunch of grapes.

Airen grapes

White innovation

Both Spanish and international white varieties are planted in Jumilla, and the jury is still out as to which one is best suited to the Jumilla terroir. The traditional Airén, a fairly neutral grape widely planted in southeastern Spain, appeared to have gone off the radar in favour mostly of Sauvignon Blanc. Bodegas Salzillo and Bodegas Luzón both offer fresh, crisp fruity Sauvignon Blanc that is delicious to drink on a shady terrace.

However, Airén is making something of a comeback. Two of Jumilla’s highly respected red wine producers, Viña Elena and Bodegas Cerrón, are breaking new ground with Airén. Both are achieving amazing results, though with very different winemaking techniques. Paraje Las Encebras at Viña Elena is fermented and aged for seven months in demi-johns, while Bodegas Cerrón’s El Cerrico is fermented in amphora and aged for 12 months in used oak barrels. Both are atypical Airén with Las Encebras showing floral, peachy notes and El Cerrico expressing a more refined, mineral, air-light character.

The Cerrón winery is located in the northeast corner of the appellation close to Fuente Álamo in Albacete province. Conveniently situated nearby – not far from the motorway to Madrid – Bodega Mainetes offers 3-star hotel accommodation in a rural setting with cool spacious rooms, a gîte, and a family-run restaurant that specialises in gazpacho. But guests beware, this is gazpacho jumillano and bears no relation to the well-known tomato-based dish. This is a vegetable and rabbit dish served on flatbread.

An alternative itinerary towards Madrid takes you to Hellín and past Jumilla’s iconic Casa Castillo winery. Close to Hellín is the superb Tolmo de Minateda archaeological park, which includes cave paintings dating back to 6,000 BCE. Further up the road is the Tobarra co-operative, which offers a fascinating value-for-money white blend of Airén and Pedro Ximénez.

Finally, a trip to Jumilla wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a glass of dulce Monastrell, a red dessert wine made in the Port manner. Pick of the bunch is the Silvano García 2016 which has a good tannic structure to counterbalance the sweetness of the fruit. On the same quality level is that produced by Esencia Wine Cellars. Both can be enjoyed with desserts or even better with the local Murcia goats’ cheese, the rind of which is soaked in red wine.


Jumilla white wines to try

Jumilla white wines

Cerrón El Cerrico 2016

Airén (ungrafted vines)

Pre-phylloxera vines have produced an outstanding, elegant Airén. A floral, creamy almost Burgundian nose with hints of almonds and gentle lemony citrus notes. A harmonious blend of finesse and energy on the palate. Complex and air-light – and very long.

Winery: vinacerron.com


Esencia Wines Lunático Blanco 2019

3 meses de barrica

An elegant nose with stone fruit coming to the fore, plus some honeyed notes. Good complexity and refreshing acidity on the palate.

UK: Myliko International Wines Ltd www.mylikowines.co.uk

US: TriVin Imports www.tri-vin.com


Juan Gil Blanco 2020

Muscat Petits Grains

A lovely expressive nose of apple, citrus fruit and intense tropical fruit such as lychees. Tropical fruit on the palate is nicely complemented by good acidity. Pleasant finish.

UK: Enotria & Coe greatwine.co.uk

 US: Blue Ventures Wine Marketing www.blueventureswinemarketing.com/gil-family-estates/


Luzón Colección Blanco 2019

50% Macabeo, 50% Sauvignon Blanc

Crisp minerality and gentle fruit with hints of dried flowers. Refreshing acidity and quite complex.

UK: The wine Treasure www.winetreasury.com

US: Aviva Vino www.avivavino.com


Madrid Romero Acacia 2018

Macabeo

Aged in acacia wood, this Macabeo shows complex aromatics of flowers and citrus fruit. Quite ripe and concentrated at first on the palate, then delicate and deliciously dry in the finish.

Winery: bodegamadridromero.com


Jumilla whites

Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación Ribera Alta del Mundo 2019

Airén-Pedro Ximenez

An interesting blend of grapes producing aromas of olives, nuts, vanilla and honey. Ripe fruit flavours come through on the palate, with lively acidity and a mineral finish.

Winery: www.bodegaencarnacion.es


Salzillo Güertana 2019

Sauvignon Blanc

A wine with personality and elegance, revealing nutty, tropical fruit aromas and a touch of salinity on the palate. Complex and quite long.

Winery: bodegassalzillo.com


Silvano García Verdejo 2020

Verdejo (organic)

An expressive nose of apple, citrus fruit and fennel. Quite full-bodied with medium acidity and good length of flavour.

UK: The Winery www.thewineryuk.com

Winery: silvanogarcia.com


Viña Elena Las Encebras 2018

Airén (vinified in demi-johns)

A fascinating orange-yellow colour. Aromas of very ripe peaches with hints of lemon zest, floral and white pepper notes. Stone fruit again on the palate with nice volume and a delicate dryness. Atypical.

UK: Alliance Wine www.alliancewine.com

US: The Spanish Acquisition (New York & New Jersey)  www.spanishacquisition.com, Wines Unlimited (Louisiana) www.winesunlimited.com,
Matinicus Wines (Colorado) www.matinicuswines.com, ¿Por qué no? Selections (California) porquenoselections.com


Jumilla rosé wines to try

Jumilla rose

Alceño Rosado 2020

Monastrell

A pale pink colour. Pleasant red berry fruit aromas with cherries coming to the fore. Clean and fresh on the palate with lively acidity. The perfect aperitif on a hot day.

UK: Vindependents www.vindependents.co.uk

US: Vinedos Selection vinedosusa.com


Carchelo Rosado 2020

Monastrell

A deeper colour, almost strawberry. Pretty aromas of rose petals, red berry fruit and pink grapefruit. A sweet attack followed by good structure on the palate with plenty of acidity and a fine, crisp finish. A great rosé to enjoy with summer barbecues.

US: Cordelina wine company www.cordelinawine.com

Winery: carchelo.com


Juan Gil Rosado 2020

Tempranillo-Syrah (4 meses barrica)

A very pale pink colour. Lovely floral nose with gentle fruit notes coming through. Crisp, mineral and refreshing on the palate.

UK: Enotria & Coe greatwine.co.uk

US: Blue Ventures Wine Marketing www.blueventureswinemarketing.com/gil-family-estates/


Olivares Rosado 2020

Garnacha

An attractive, aromatic rosé with mainly floral notes. Nice balance on the palate with a pleasant dry finish.

US: Rarewine www.rarewineco.com

Winery: bodegasolivares.com


Dulce Monastrell wines to try

Jumilla sweet

Esencia Wine Cellars Casa de la Ermita Dulce 2019

Monastrell

An elegant nose with notes of cherries in brandy, new leather and hints of pepper. The fruit is nicely restrained. Smooth and sweet on the palate.

UK: Myliko International Wines Ltd www.mylikowines.co.uk

US: TriVin Imports www.tri-vin.com


Silvano García Dulce 2016

Monastrell

A complex, balanced sweet red wine revealing ripe fruit with hints of orange. Good structure with coated tannins coming through, plus a long finish.

UK: The Winery www.thewineryuk.com


Head to our main DOP Jumilla page to learn more

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