Somontano is an isolated wine-growing region at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains in Aragon, Spain. Moristel is one of the traditional wine grapes of this area, accounting for about 20 percent of vineyards, but outside investors and the government of Aragon, in an effort to boost sales, have recently been encouraging the introduction of more well known wine grapes such as Temperanillo (used in Rioja wines). Moristel, however, is a perfect fit for this cool mountain climate, with exotic aromas and textures not quite like those of any other wine. I've had this wine twice at tastings and was enthralled each time.
It is a very bright ruby red with youthful aromas of dark berries and flowers. The flavors and textures remind me somewhat of a Beaujolais or a young red Burgundy. But really they are unique--unlike those of any wine I've tasted. Like the Chinon, it's a wine you can just keep drinking, and it gets cooler and more refreshing with every sip. "Silky" and "tender" are adjectives that come to mind. And at the end there's that refreshing, haunting flavor of a berry you've never tried before.
Moristel, I discovered, is a mutant clone of Mourvedre (or Monastrell, as it's known in Spain). But this wine has litte resemblance to the Yecla Monastrell of Castana I reported on last month. Actually, Alquezar Moristel is an example of collaboration between the cooperative that made this wine for decades and the importer from the United States. Modern wine-making methods introduced over the past 15 years include: 1) fermentation of de-stemmed whole berries, 2) whole bunch fermentation (also known as carbonic maceration) and 3) bleeding of the must to increase the skin-to-juice ratio. The wine then undergoes malolactic fermentation in new oak casks.
I'm a traditionalist, but having tasted it, I approve of whatever it took to make this wine so enchanting. And I've finally found a place where I can purchase it: Salut Beverages on Gull Road in Kalamazoo, MI. The price nationally ranges from $12 to $15.