As Spain’s winemaking revolution matures, Jumilla continues to produce some of the world’s great wine values. The region’s native Monastrell—Mourvèdre elsewhere—is one of the most prized varieties of Mediterranean Europe. And on account of the reliably hot, dry summers, ripeness is rarely an issue.
Yet Jumilla has a diversity of terroirs, certain of which clearly transcend mere “value.” And the wines of Paco Selva’s Bodegas Olivares have done just that, thanks to a singular terroir and the perspective necessary to give it a meaningful voice.
Olivares’ estate vineyard, Finca Hoya de Santa Ana, is located in Jumilla's northwestern quadrant, whose unique characteristics distinguish it from the rest of the appellation. For example, this special zone lies at over 800 meters elevation, where nights cool down quickly, resulting in wines with astounding freshness and equilibrium.
But, perhaps more importantly, Paco’s 65 hectare here boasts incredibly sandy soil and ungrafted vines, of which this may be the world’s largest individual holding. The former provides the wine with a rich perfume; the latter depth and complexity.
These same sandy soils that give Bodegas Olivares’ wines their perfumed aromatics were also anathema to the Phylloxera root louse that devastated all but a handful of Europe’s vineyards in the late 1880s.
And so Paco’s holdings form an important part of an elite group of vineyards that survived on their original rootstocks, including Quinta do Noval's Nacional vineyard and Bollinger's Vignes Françaises.
Prior to 1998, the Selva family's business was in bulk wine, but each year they made an ambrosial dessert wine, or 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.
This wine was reserved solely for the family until 1998, when they began to commercialize it. 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 vineyard already yielded fruit with tremendous aromatics and deft balance, and he was loathe to hide that with cosmetic oak. From the beginning he has employed used barrels purchased from other estates for aging the wine.
His first release came in 2000: Altos de la Hoya. Made exclusively from old, ungrafted vineyards, it is certainly a phenomenal value, but also shows the breed and restraint that are the hallmarks of great wine.
And as their experience with these new wines grows, and with a wealth of old vineyards to draw from, there is no limit to Olivares’ potential.
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