Thursday, July 18, 2013

From Jumilla to the World: Luzon Wines

“We’re an old-style winery producing new-style wines,” says Isidoro Pérez de Tudela, Export Manager for Bodegas Luzon.

I visited the Luzon winery when I was in Spain in 2011, and their wines are distributed in Saskatchewan by Doug Reichel of Fine Wines Sask. I met up with Isidoro when he was in Saskatoon for Top of the Hops, and we discussed the history of wine-making in Jumilla and the Luzon wines.

Isidoro Perez de Tudela at VinExpo, June 2013
Jumilla was first settled, and the first grapes were turned into wine over 4500 years ago by the Iberians. Wine from Jumilla became popular with the Romans when they settled in the Iberian Peninsula, and it is still being produced and sold around the world today.

Monastrell is the primary grape variety grown in the region, linking Jumilla to other wine-growing regions of the Mediterranean where Monastrell, also known as Mourvedre, is grown. Isidoro says that it spread throughout the region because, “If it works for your neighbour, you try it.” However, the grape has evolved somewhat differently in each region in response to different geography and climate. 80% of the Monastrell grown in Spain is grown in Jumilla, which is known as the Monastrell Kingdom.

Luzon Organic
Bodegas Luzon prides itself on being the first winery in Jumilla to produce organic wine with 100% Monastrell grapes.

Jumilla has a very dry climate, which lends itself to producing organic wine as there is no call for pesticides or herbicides. It is, however, necessary to harvest the grapes before the fall rains, so the organic vineyards have been established at the base of hills with a southern exposure. As a result, the grapes are ripe when they are picked around August 15.

“We’re different from other organic wines as we’re able to obtain the sweetness of ripe fruit,” Isidoro explains.

There is no industry around the vineyards and native plants grow between the rows of wines. Luzon currently sells half a million litres of organic wine. They balance how much organic wine they produce with what sells as organic certification costs time and money.

Luzon Red 
Isidoro describes Luzon Red as a “good value wine for drinking on a regular basis.” Made from 70% Monastrell and 30% Syrah, it’s a young, fruity wine with lots of spice and no oak. The Monastrell provides structure and both varietals offer complementary spice notes.

Luzon Selección 12 
Selección 12 is a blend of four different varietals and has been aged in oak (50% French, 50% American, first and second year oak) for 12 months, so it’s a more complex wine. Isidoro says it’s like breakfast as there’s a well-balanced blend of vanilla, roasted, creamy, toasted and cocoa flavours.

All Luzon wines have a minimum of 50% Monastrell as it represents their roots in Jumilla. The Monastrell provides lots of fruit and spices. There is also 20% Tempranillo, another Spanish varietal, with a powerful tannin structure. Isidoro says it provides finesse in the finish. The 20% Cabernet Sauvignon adds a flavour that is familiar, while the 10% Merlot adds roundness and is a good complement to the other varietals.

Selección 12 2007 is only available in Saskatchewan and Doug Reichel says it is like drinking a glorious and much more expensive Rhone or Bordeaux wine.

Altos de Luzon
Now we come to my favorite – Altos de Luzon. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth it for the rich, well-balanced flavour. Isidoro describes the wine as being “from Jumilla to the world” as it is a blend of 50% Monastrell (Jumilla), 25% Tempranillo (Spain) and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon (world). The grapes are hand-picked and represent the best of the crop.

Isidoro believes that Altos pairs well with food because it has a solid after taste that lingers on the tongue even as you eat your meal.

Luzon Dulce 
The very last grapes to be harvested, at the beginning of November, are the Monastrell grapes for the Luzon Dulce dessert wine. Unlike many dessert wines, Luzon Dulce has the consistency of a regular wine and is not at all syrupy. And there is no need for added sugar as by the time the grapes are harvested, they are almost like raisins with a natural sweetness and minimal moisture.

Isidoro recommends pairing the Dulce with a chocolate dessert. “The chocolate coats your tongue and the wine isn’t heavy, so it’s a good combination,” he says. “Plus, there is a bitter note that complements the sweetness of the chocolate.”

Regional Pride
The Luzon winery was established in 1916 but produced primarily bulk wine until 2000 when they decided that it was a shame not to bottle their own wine as it was so good. In 2005, they built a new facility for the top-end wines, Selección and Altos.

The grapes are grown locally; there is a minimum of 50% Monastrell, the local varietal; and the winemaker, Luis Sanchez Sanchez, is also local. After working in Riojas for a number of years, Luis came to Luzon as he is from Jumilla and proud of Monastrell. It is his talent in balancing the different grape varietals that enables Luzon to proudly present their Jumilla wines to the world.

Photo Credit: VinExpo and vineyard: Bodegas Luzon, wine bottles: Fine Wines Sask


Sue - Over 60 and Over Here said...

I enjoyed reading this post about one of my favourite bodegas. Unfortunately we had to miss Bodegas Luzón's event in this year's Música entre Vinos as it clashed with my niece's wedding in the UK! However we will be able to sample their wines at the Miniferia del Vino on 10 August: we'll drink your health there!

Penny McKinlay said...

Sue, have you tried Luzon's white wine? It's not available in Canada so I'm curious. Enjoy the Miniferia del Vino - such fun!