From Rare Wine Co:
As Spain’s winemaking revolution continues to flourish, one of the next hot spots promises to be Jumilla, 150 miles southeast of Madrid. Along with Quinta do Noval’s Nacional vineyard and Bollinger’s Vignes Françaises, Jumilla was one of the few places in Europe spared during the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800’s. Virtually everywhere else on the continent, vineyards were devastated and, to this day, can only be planted when grafted onto American rootstock.
Jumilla’s Secret. For Jumilla, the key to its vineyards’ survival was their sandy soil—which is anathema to the Phylloxera insect. As a glorious consequence, Jumilla not only has some of the oldest vines in the world, but also the largest number of ungrafted vines. Most of these vines are Mourvèdre—or Monastrell as it is locally known—one of the most prized varieties of Mediterranean Europe. And Jumilla’s summers boast hot days and cool nights, perfect for ripening grapes, while maintaining acidity.
Today, Jumilla is awakening to its vast potential, and a winemaking revolution has followed—led by growers like Olivares’ Paco Selva. He owns 65+ hectares of ungrafted old vineyards in the northern part of the appellation, in La Hoya de Santa Ana. It is the coolest sub-zone of Jumilla, with sandy, lime-rich soils that yield intensely aromatic wines, while protecting the ungrafted vines from Phylloxera.
Harvesting Late. Prior to 1998, the Selva family’s business was in bulk wine, but each year they made an ambrosial dessert wine (“Dulce”) for their own consumption. To produce this nectar, they left a few acres of vines to hang late into the Fall. Even in normal vintages, these vines achieved spectacular ripeness. But, in favored years, morning fogs caused botrytis to form, concentrating and intensifying the sugars, while giving the juice a honeyed richness.
This wine was never sold. However, on a 1998 visit to the estate, Spain’s top sommelier was given a glass of this astonishing elixir to taste. He was bowled over by it and urged Paco to release the Dulce commercially. It was an immediate sensation in Spain, with top restaurants and shops rushing to feature it.
Inspired by the Dulce’s success, Paco turned his attention to producing sumptuous red table wines from his priceless old vines. His first release came in 2000: Altos de la Hoya. Made exclusively from old, ungrafted vineyards, it is a phenomenal value.
As its experience with these new wines grows, and with a wealth of old vineyards to draw from, there is no limit to Olivares’ potential.