Wine Road Less Traveled

Exciting wine regions you’ve never heard of

We are all familiar with the popular and famous wine producing areas around the world, or at least many of them. In France, Burgundy and Bordeaux top the list; Chianti and Barolo in Italy; California in the US, Rioja and Ribera in Spain.

However, over the past two decades or so, wineries in lesser-known areas have moved from producing bulk, uninteresting table wines to making refined, good to great quality wines, much cheaper than the more famous areas.

Today I would like to introduce you to Yecla on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

Located 96km away from Murcia, the capital of the region, Yecla has been producing wine for over 2,000 years. Long, hot, dry summers, mild winters, and the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea makes Yecla ideal for grape growing and wine making, with vines planted between 500 and 800 meters above sea level

There are 15 authorized grapes grown in Yecla, with the most popular being Monastrell, also known as the “grape of the Mediterranean.” Tempranillo, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot for reds, as well as Macabeo, Airén, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for whites, are some of the most commonly planted grapes.

The wines produced in the area of Yecla are regulated by Yecla Origin Denomination. Although the planted area is rather big, there are only seven wineries producing wines in Yecla. Of them only one, Bodegas Castaño, has its wines available in Vietnam.

Castaño wines are a great example of amazing wines, produced in a wine region that not many people know about, and sold at low prices, making them some of the best value-for-money wines.

Hécula, the star of the middle range portfolio, and continuously awarded between 90 and 92 points by Spanish and international experts, delivers a beautiful expression of the local grape Monastrell (Mourvedre). It’s a powerful wine, with good complexity and length, and definitely one of my favorites when I discovered it in Spain a long time ago.

However nowadays, Solanera, also from the Castaño winery, tends to be my favorite wine from Yecla. Another fantastic, inexpensive wine, it has been chosen by expert Robert Parker as a top three best value-for-money wine in the world, and is given 92-94 points. The blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, made from grapes coming from old vines, delivers a beautifully complex wine, elegant and charming.

A Bordeaux or Barolo with 90+ points would probably break the wallet for most of us. But this family-run winery brings us two fantastic wines at a ridiculously low price, so that we can have premium wine every day without worrying about the cost; one of the beauties of making wine outside the famous producing areas!

BIOAlfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and has published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at www.wineinvietnam.com.

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