Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wines of Jumilla: Bodegas Juan Gil

As we drive north from Jumilla, the vineyards stretch out to the rock faces of the surrounding hills.

It’s mid- April and the fields are brown and stony with only hints of greenery on the gnarled vines pruned close to the ground.

It’s a stark landscape that reminds me of my home on the Canadian prairies. The climate, the soil and the geography are harsh and demanding. They bring out the best in the people and in the wines.

The vines
Bodegas Juan Gil is a fourth-generation family winery that has earned a world-wide reputation for quality wine. At 700 to 850 metres in altitude, their vineyards are harvested much later (end of September to middle of October) than the vineyards at a lower altitude (and warmer temperatures) south of Jumilla.

The winery has over 350 hectares of vines. 120 hectares immediately surround the physical plant, which was constructed in 2000. The rest of the land has been purchased, one parcel at a time, from neighbouring farmers.

The vast majority of the land is planted with Monastrell grapes. The oldest vines are 60 years old, with many more that are 40 to 50 years old. Young vines, which are less woody, produce a great deal more fruit. Old vines produce less fruit and smaller grapes, but they have intense, concentrated flavour.

The vineyards are constantly being renewed with new plants replacing old, worn-out vines.

Individual attention
Many of the principles of mass production don’t apply to winemaking. The best grapes are collected in small baskets and sorted by hand. The grapes from each parcel are fermented in separate containers.

The older vines, with a low yield but rich flavour, are used for the wines that will be aged in barrels. The Juan Gil Monastrell, which has been aged for four months, comes from vines with an average age of 40 years. The vines used to make Juan Gil Monastrell 12 months are all over 40 years old.

Big red wines
Ripe Monastrell grapes, particularly from older vines, are full-bodied and high in alcohol. It’s the nature of the grape and a sign of a good quality Jumilla wine.

As a result, Juan Gil wines are very popular in California as they have the big flavour that consumers are familiar with from local, Californian wines.

The winery
Ten years ago, when the winery employees were designing their new plant, they very deliberately chose to focus their resources on the production facilities rather than more superficial features, such as the building façade.

The result is a clean, modern, efficient plant. It is air conditioned throughout with computers tracking every stage of the wine-making process.

There is tremendous attention to detail because details, such as cleanliness, will determine the quality of the final product. For example, the floors are white so that it’s easy to tell if they are truly clean at all times.

Coming soon to Saskatchewan
Juan Gil wines are sold extensively throughout Canada and the United States. They are readily available in Ontario and Quebec and will be available very, very soon in Saskatchewan.

Bodegas Juan Gil has chosen to offer a limited range of wines in order to ensure the quality of each one. Juan Gil 4 Months and Juan Gil 12 Months are both 100% Monastrell from older vines so you can expect full-bodied wines with lots of flavour. They go well with a meal.

Pedrera is also 100% Monastrell, but it comes from younger vines with an average age of 25 years and it has not been aged. As a result, it’s lighter and fruitier. It’s a good sipping wine – or, as the Spanish would say, it’s a good tapas wine.

Thank you
My sincere thanks to Loren Gil, the bodega’s Export Manager, for taking the time to give me an informative and enjoyable tour of the vineyards and winery.

Photo Credit: Bodegas Juan Gil

Jumilla, Spain: 5,000 years of growing grapes and making wine


Mary said...

Sounds so fun - we are planning to go in September but were curious about your transportation in Jumilla. Were you on a tour, did you rent a car or can you rent bikes and do a bike tour? the town of Jumilla is pretty small so we are having problems figuring it out on trip advisor. Thanks!

Penny McKinlay said...

I was on foot so chose nearby wineries. There are quite a few in the downtown area – Vina Campanero, San Isidro and Silvano Garcia for sure, plus some others. Bodegas Luzon is within walking distance although I took a taxi to save time. Bleda is quite close. Juan Gil doesn’t normally offer tours as they are quite remote.
There is a big wine festival in the fall, but I’m not sure of the dates.
The castle is definitely worth a visit, and there are some excellent museums. There are also some good restaurants serving authentic Spanish food.
I highly recommend contacting Sue Walker of Walker’s Tours. Sue and John are a retired British couple, and they offer free tours and great advice. Check out and Sue’s blog even has a list of local restaurants.
Enjoy your trip! I would love to go back.

Matthew Thie said...

we stumbled on Jumilla on the way to Barcelona from Granada. Juan Gil had been recommended by fellow diners in Seville, so we drove out to the hard to find Bodega. By very good luck there was a group arriving who had called ahead to arrange a tour and we jumped on board. Really great story of the winery, great tour and tasting. We love their wines. Keep your eyes peeled for Monastrell, and especially Juan Gil. We also had a great meal at Reyes Catolicos and they serve excellent local wines :)

Penny McKinlay said...

Sounds great, Matthew. I had a good time in Jumilla and very much enjoy its wines.