Located in Spain’s warm, sunny southeast, Alicante DO, founded in 1957, is home to one of the country’s most distinctive red grapes, Monastrell.
While Mediterranean Spain’s enchanting Valencian Community region has long been known for its beaches, seafood, and even its oranges, its unique wines haven’t always won the easy notoriety of regions like Rioja or Priorat—but once and for all moving past its former reputation as a producer of bulk wines, it’s fast becoming a region to watch for its spicy, uniquely Spanish reds.
Located in Spain’s warm, sunny southeast, Alicante DO, founded in 1957, is home to one of the country’s most distinctive red grapes, Monastrell. Known in France and the United States as Mourvèdre—and in Australia as Mataró—this full-bodied, spicy, tannic grape shows intense black and red fruit supported by secondary earthy flavors of dried herbs and meat. A popular blending partner of Grenache and Syrah in France’s Rhône valley, Mourvèdre/Monastrell sees one of its most sui generis varietal expressions in Alicante’s Mediterranean terroir, where hot days allow for optimal ripening, dry conditions challenge the vines and concentrate the fruit, and limestone-dominant soils ensure acid structure and ageability, which also balance the grape’s tendency towards muscle and high alcohol.
Thought to have been brought to Spain in Ancient times by the seafaring Phoenicians, Monastrell remains one of the country’s most planted grapes, claiming a full 150,000 of the world’s 190,000 acres of the grape. In Alicante it can be found in two subregions: La Marina in the north, where the area’s intense heat is tempered by the cooling influence of the sea, and in Clásico, inland to the southwest, which includes the region’s namesake city. Further away from the Mediterranean, this latter sub-region is marked by very limited rainfall and borderline-arid summers—a situation in which Monastrell thrives, especially in its bush vine incarnation.
Big and burly—and always a bit wild—Alicante’s Monastrell is a wine practically made to be enjoyed with full-flavor, heavier dishes like roasted pork shoulder, smoked short ribs, and umami-rich rice and lentil preparations. And in a wine category where cost has thankfully yet to catch up to quality, ageable examples of the grape can be had at prices that may seem shocking for their craftsmanship and character.
Curious to pair Alicante Monastrell with your next foray into grilled ribs or savory, herb-infused risotto? Check out these three examples and add a new pairing to your arsenal:
A fully-rendered blend of Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon, this concentrated, deeply-hued example shows intense black and blue fruit, deep layers of savory spices, and an uplifting, fresh acidity that keeps it all in balance. One vineyard boasts ungrafted Monstrell vines planted in 1925.
This 100% Monastrell is considered one of Spain’s great value examples, showing deep black fruit, Mediterranean herbs, and notes of balsamic. Try subbing it in as a next-level move for your usual weeknight Napa cab.
Bodegas Enrique Mendoza “Estrecho” Monastrell 2017
Aged in French oak for a full year before release, this 100% Monastrell expression from Enrique Mendoza comes from head-trained vines planted in 1947 at 2,300 feet of elevation. The wine shows explosive plum and cherry aromas supported by a strong vein of minerality.
Text: Wines from Spain