Sunday, November 27, 2005

Three from Spain

Jumilla is a hot, dry little wine factory just inland from Spain's Mediterranean coast. Until recently, it was mostly known for powerful jug wines. After the phylloxera louse arrived in 1989, the area was largely replanted and reinvented. The emphasis is still on power and alcohol levels are high enough to make you laugh (even before you start drinking). But there are little bursts of refinement creeping through and prices are still quite low as winegrowers fight for market share. In the meantime, if there's a place at your holiday table for some extra-dense big boys, here are three to consider.

Panarroz Jumilla 2004- A thick cherry nose with a distracting streak of green pepper and raw alcohol. You'll want this wine around for the incredible density in the palate. Grown-ups will enjoy the way the tannins on the finish make it compatible with spicy and fatty foods. $8

Wrongo Dongo 2004- The name and the label are obviously intended for the post-modern American market. Its 14% alcohol is balanced by an abundance of super-ripe berry fruit and a whiff of earthiness. There are plums and berries in the mouth and some hints of chocolate as the flavors develop. This wine is remarkably smooth and so is a good choice to serve your wine novice friends. Unfortunately stoppered with one of those resin plugs, you may need a turbo-assist from your corkscrew to get the bottle open. At $7-8 a bottle, it's a great case purchase for entertaining.

Juan Gil 2003- This is 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre) and a whopping 14.8% alcohol. The wine is made from 40 year-old vines. The intense cherry-berry nose has a touch of vanilla and earth. It is so round on the palate that it needs its moderate load of tannin and its hint of black pepper to stay in balance. The finish is persistent and sharp lasting longer than the typical super bowl half-time show. At $15 this is a rarity and a great bargain if you have a soft spot for really big wines.