Located in Spain’s southeasterly corner and bordered by Andalucia and Valencia, Murcia is one of Spain's smaller wine producing regions made up of three DOP appellations (Yecla, Jumilla and the largest Bullas). In recent history its well-crafted and robust Monastrell-based reds were known and reputed throughout the world.
It is purported that many of the region's vines were introduced by the Ancient Phoencians. Then in the second half of the 19th century the region came back into prominence, when the vineyards of France were devastated by phylloxera and French producers turned to other winemaking countries to help with the gap, Murcia was a natural choice due to its favourable conditions and thriving Monastrell grape. It provided the wines with high levels of tannin, flavour and maturing potential.
Old ”Pie Franco” vines, a treasure hidden in the region’s unique soils
By the mid 1890s, the phylloxera louse arrived in Murcia, though some lucky areas, (Jumilla in particular) were spared due to highly acidic lime subsoils, where the louse was not able to survive. A blessing to the region, which remains proud of their old and ungrafted (”Pie Franco”) Monastrell vines. Though there has been some larger scale, lower quality wine in the region, many producers have worked to continue yielding highly appreciated wines with great structure and complexity.
The Monastrell revolution
In the last few decades, highly-trained and well-travelled groups of producers have shifted the focus to terroir and the region’s vines heritage, extracting the best of Monastrell’s great potential. This has thankfully shifted focus from quantity focused vineyards.
The key for quality lies on inland altitude vineyards
The region’s climate is Mediterranean, with scarce rainfall (300-350mm) falling unevenly throughout the year, and then aggressive with torrential downpours and hailstorms nearly every autumn.
The three DOPs in the region are located further inland, with higher elevations and a noticeable continental influence, resulting in considerable seasonal and diurnal temperature shifts.
Some of the best vineyards from Murcia are located in a high plateau between the Meseta and the Mediterranean Sea (“Altiplano de Jumilla-Yecla”), reaching close to 800m of altitude in some areas. This provides significant cooling influences, which allow for slower ripening and well-kept acidity, resulting in fine, complex, and long-life wines.
Monastrell, a signature grape
Monastrell (Mourvedre) is the most planted variety in Murcia though another grape
Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) is often included in the blends, adding complexity (savoury aromatics) and helping to tame Monastrell’s strident tannins and rustic character.
DOP Jumilla: old “Pie Franco” Monastrell vines
The vineyard land is shared (bordering both) between Murcia (40%) and Albacete in Castilla-La Mancha (60%), even though 70% of wine production is crafted in the town of Jumilla. 92% of wine produced is red, with Monastrell accounting for 80% of the plantings.
Other authorized grapes include Garnacha Tintorera and the international Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Syrah, brought to the area by French winemakers seeking refuge from phylloxera in the late 19th century.
Jumilla’s Monastrell style is typically full-bodied and deep-coloured, with high concentration and tannins (blended at times with other varieties to soften) and considerable ageing potential.
Designation “Tinto Monastrell” (vs generic “Tinto”) on the label means the wine is made from a minimum of 85% Monastrell.
DOP Yecla: an ancient Roman winemaking heritage
Yecla has some of the oldest winemaking history in Spain with some wine-cellar ruins dating back to the 1sth century. During the Roman occupation winemaking flourished, continuing on during the Moorish occupation until today. It is the smallest and most northern wine area in Murcia with a fierce dedication to history and tradition.
92% of the wine produced is red and from Monastrell (85% of the vineyard area). The style is similar to Jumilla, but slightly more fruit-driven and lower in alcohol, which results from a slightly higher altitude location on the Altiplano.
DOP Bullas: fresh Monastrell from altitude. Divided into two subzones (Yecla Campo Arriba and Yecla Campo Abajo), Bullas is the most southerly and newest appellation in the region. It also features some of the highest elevations in the region, between 400 and 800 metres above sea levels.
80% of wine produced is from Monastrell. Its high altitude and limestone soils help to produce wines with fresh fruit, low alcohol (11 – 12) and higher acidity, when compared to wines from the other two DOPs in the region.
Here you can find some of the best and most distinctive varietal expressions of global grape Monastrell (Mourvèdre). The region's best producers are extracting the grape’s great potential from the region’s unique old vines’ heritage (”Pie Franco” vineyards).What are the most popular grape varieties in Murcia ?
Monastrell is the region’s signature grape but often Garnacha Tintorera helps to tame its tannic and rustic character, adding savoury aromatics and complexity to the blends.What types of food works well with wines from Murcia ?
Monastrell full-bodied reds pair well with grilled red meat dishes, roasted lamb, game stews, charcuterie. When visiting the region, try it with “Arroz con conejo” (rice with rabbit meat), Imperial de Lorca (local sausage) or Murcia al Vino goat cheese (popularly known as “Drunken goat”).