Elo Monastrell (Single Vineyard)
Elo is the ancient name of today's capital of Murcia, built in the 7th century. It is also a nod to what was once part of the vinification history of Yecla and its neighboring areas. Historically, the winemaking area of Alicante made wines that were fresh and bright with lower alcohol levels and restraint that made them easy to consume (and in large quantities, especially during the hot summer days). With the rise of production in the 80s, more recent elaborations in this area of Spain have, unfortunately, gone to excessive maturation levels in order to achieve maximum extraction and concentration. Monastrell has a distinctive tannic character, and when overripe, lacks acidity and reaches excessive alcohol levels that deteriorate the freshness of Monastrell's deep red aromatics. When picking Monastrell with higher ripeness levels and using new oak, the sweetness of the barrels and the higher alcohol levels contrast the tannin structure in the wine and the inherent bitterness of the variety. These types of overly-friendly commercial wines have become the norm, and are almost expected, in the area of Alicante. However, it is possible to make an elegantly fresh and juicy Monastrell wine, which we think is much needed in the category. This is the inspiration behind Elo.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? What doesn’t make this wine unique? You've never tasted Monastrell like this before. Elo comes from a high altitude, single vineyard planted since 1973 in Yecla. The vines are harvested early, often one whole month before their neighbors, to maintain freshness and avoid over-maturation. Cement resting, untouched, for one year before barrel.
RATING HISTORY: 2013 93WA & JS; 2012 91IWC; 2011 93RP; 2010 92IWC
GRAPE: 100% Monastrell (ungrafted original rootstock). Vines planted since 1973. Tended in rocky, chalky and limestone soil at 770 m (2,526 ft) elevation.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: This is a Monastrell to enjoy, savor and sip. Due to its restraint and balance, Elo is an incredibly food-friendly wine. Ideal pairings include pastas with sausage, octopus, dishes heavy in green vegetables and lean meats. This wine also pairs perfectly with cheeses.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: The harvest takes place approximately 25 days earlier than what is customary of the region, at the moment when the grapes are most flavorful and balanced. They fill open stainless steel tanks with whole clusters for a slow press and 28-day maceration which then goes to 2-3 year-old 500 liter French oak barrels for one year, followed by a rest in a 2000 liter cement tank. Once bottled, Elo spends a minimum of 8 months ageing in the cellar before being released to the market. Monastrell needs more time than most varieties to achieve and express its full potential. It is amazing how the wine evolves once aged for more than two years.
PRODUCTION: 430 cases (6 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: The Denominación de Origen, Yecla, is a plateau surrounded by mountains in the southeast of Spain nearing the Mediterranean in the Alicante region, where average temperatures from April to October are 19 Celsius (66 Fahrenheit). Elo is from an arid, single vineyard (El Alterón) from the Highlands where the days are sunny and the night air is fresh. The annual rainfall averages 11.8 inches. Elo is planted at 770 m (2,526 ft) elevation in rocky, chalky limestone soil. The cool, coastal Mediterranean influence sweeping these plateaus allow the nighttime temperatures to drastically drop and cool the vines following the sweltering afternoons of summer, where temperatures sit comfortably at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This vast shift in temperature helps concentrate the ripe fruit, while maintaining bright acidity.
TASTING NOTES: Opaque ruby. Cherry, cassis and lavender on the fragrant, spice-accented nose. An appealingly sweet midweight that offers juicy red and blue fruit flavors and hints of vanilla and fruitcake. Closes smooth and broad, displaying very good clarity, smooth tannins and a late suggestion of candied licorice. -- Josh Raynolds.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold