A smarter man than me once asked, “Is it better to climb one mountain 100 times or climb 100 mountains once?” Me, I don’t climb mountains, too freaking old for that stuff, but the question is intriguing when applied to wine. Is it better to drink one wine all the time, or drink many wines as often as possible?
It is estimated that there are 24,000 named grapes known in the world—with 5,000 truly different verities–and 150 are planted in commercially significant amounts. With that being said, why do we only drink wine from about nine grapes? The classics whites: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon; and the reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah; constitute only a fraction of the grape world yet are the primary wine-making grapes.
I know people who only drink Cabernet or Chardonnay that are very knowledgeable about the wine. They know its nuances, its strengths and weaknesses, its varieties; good years and bad years, in short they KNOW the wine. They’ve climbed the same mountain 100 times and have mastered all the trails.
For me, my adventurous spirit leads me to want to drink new and unique wines every opportunity I get. I don’t need a challenge like golf; my life has enough aggravation in it without paying money to smack a little white ball all over some guy’s lawn. I prefer the challenge of finding that new varietal in the air-conditioned comfort of a wine shop!
So, with today’s wine let me invite you to BOLDLY GO WHERE YOU HAVEN’T GONE BEFORE, TO SEEK OUT NEW WINES AND NEW VARIETALS, TO BOLDY DRINK WHAT YOU HAVEN’T DRUNK BEFORE! (By the way, while I was writing this they introduced a Star Trek wine, stole my idea, sons of B, ah guns!)
Today’s wine comes to us from Spain. The wine maker is Australian Chris Ringland, if they had wine maker cards like baseball cards Chris Ringland would be a collectors card. Juan Gil 2010 Monastrell comes from 40 year old vines, aged in French oak barrels. This wine has a clean fresh nose that will make you smile ear to ear. The color is a deep bright ruby red. This wine is no shrinking violet; it’s powerful with 15% alcohol, okay, closer to 16% but they can’t put that on the label, great taste, and a long, finely-tuned finish. This is a masterpiece of a wine.
The vineyard was founded in 2002 by the Gil Vera family, who can trace their wine-making roots back to 1916 and their great-grandfather, Juan Gil. The vineyard is located just North of the town Jumilla in South-eastern Spain, which resides in the North-eastern corner of the Murcia region near the towns of Cieza and Yecle. All of this is south of Barcelona on Spain’s East coast.
But while the Gil family serves as the director of this fine feature, the real star of this production is the Monastell grape. Monastell, which is also known as Mourvedre in France and Mataro in Spain, has a reputation for making wines with a very high alcohol content and is the high-octane in the super-charged blend of GSM wine (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre). For you Rhone Rangers out there, this is your favorite brew.
I love the winemakers’ comment about the Monastell grape, “it likes it face in the hot sun, and its feet in the water,” meaning this grape grows best in very warm weather, but with a bunch of irrigation to produce its intensely flavored fruit. It likes an arid environment to grow.
The grape is a world traveler, and it isn’t sure if it’s French or Spanish. It was first used by the Phoenicians to make wine around 500 BC. The name Monastell is a compromise between Mataro, and Morvedre. No one knows when, why, or how this compromise was reached probably it was a neutral name chosen so neither French or the Spanish prides were offended.
Monastell arrived in the United States in the 1860’s in California. They called it Mataro and it was used in making jug wine. Bonny Doon Vineyards and Cline Cellers are the major US makers of wine with high concentrations of Monastell. Australia started growing Monastell in the mid-19th century and used in mostly as an anonymous blending grape in fortified wines.
Guys this is a great wine wherever it comes from and by any name it’s called. Try the Juan Gil. If you want a U.S. wine of the same style, Cline Cellars has one. Drink nothing but French wines? Try a Bandol. But please get out of the nine-wine rut, there’s a lot to explore, and drinking wine is far easier than climbing a freaking mountain!