Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Wines of Jumilla: Bodegas Juan Gil
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.
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.
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.
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.
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