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NEW: The 2020s from Casa Castillo - 'World class, the best wine produced in the Mediterranean' - LG

November 2022

The 2020s from Casa Castillo

'World class, the best wine produced in the Mediterranean' - Luis Gutiérrez

2020 Las Gravas, Casa Castillo - £295 per 6 in bond
2020 Monastrell Pie Franco, Casa Castillo - £675 per 6 in bond

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Earlier this year, I offered the outstanding 2019 Las Gravas from Casa Castillo, a wine which I have tasted three times now, and each time I continue to be impressed by its poise and complexity. I have since also tasted its big brother, the 100% Monastrell, Pie Franco, which is a remarkable wine. Sadly, stock is so difficult to access and strictly allocated that I was unable to offer the 2019 Pie Franco.
 
Thankfully, however, I have managed to source a very limited quantity of the 2020 vintage of both of these great wines. Although I have, as yet, not had the chance to taste either in 2020, you will see from Luis Gutiérrez’s scores and notes below, that these are nothing short of spectacular, and the best expressions of each wine ever made, in his opinion, the 2020 Pie Franco having been awarded a perfect 100-point score, if that interests you.
 
But first, a bit of background…
 
Casa Castillo is based in the DO (Denominación de Origen) of Jumilla, which lies within the Murcia region in south-eastern Spain. Like much of Mediterranean Spain, Jumilla focuses on wines based on Monastrell (Mourvèdre in French), a thick-skinned black grape variety well suited to hot, dry climates. Although lying near the coast, much of Jumilla is situated on an elevated central plateau, so the region in fact gets very little cooling influence from the sea. Instead, altitude is an important factor in moderating summer temperatures that can reach 40 degrees Celsius; most of the vineyards can be found lying between 400 and 800 metres above sea level. Jumilla has in the past had a reputation as a source of inexpensive, bulk wines, however, thanks to improvements in viticultural and winemaking techniques, as well as an increase of highly skilled, quality-minded producers, the region is slowly starting to gain recognition for top-class Monastrell. This is where Casa Castillo comes in.
 
When it was purchased in 1941 by the grandfather of current owner José Maria Vicente, Casa Castillo was comprised of a winery, a cellar and some scattered vineyards planted to international varieties dating from the 1870s, established by French refugees fleeing the plight of phylloxera. In 1985, José Maria and his father began to replant the vineyards with native varieties, focusing on Monastrell. They bottled their first vintage in 1991 and have been improving ever since, with Luis Gutiérrez commenting in 2020 that the estate is making ‘very high quality wines that I consider the best in the region and among the best in Mediterranean Spain, producing world-class Monastrell’.
 
The 2020 Las Gravas is a blend made up of 92% Monastrell and 8% Garnacha from vineyards with gravelly top soil over a base of clay and limestone, a soil base that allows for some water retention which helps in particularly dry years. The vines for Las Gravas are planted at an altitude of 750 metres, helping freshness and aromatics to be retained despite high summer temperatures. Practices employed in the vineyard and winery at Casa Castillo demonstrate the estate’s focus on quality; low-yielding bush vines are hand harvested, grapes are foot-trodden and fermented in small underground stone tanks with a high proportion of whole bunches, and indigenous yeasts are used. The wine is then aged for around 16 months in old oak barrels before being bottled.

The Pie Franco comes from the oldest vineyard on the property, the vines having been planted in 1942. The vineyard is south-facing, on gravel and limestone slopes at around 750 metres above sea level. The wine is produced similarly to the Las Gravas, using 50% whole bunch and ageing for 16-19 months in large old oak barrels. Production is small, with only 1,300 cases produced.
 
Of the 2020 vintage at Casa Castillo, Luis Gutiérrez had the following to say:
 
“2020 was a classic Mediterranean vintage, with a rainy spring and very dry and hot summer…Their 2020s represent the finest wines they have produced since they started in 1991. Even the musts showed balance and elegance, and that continued throughout the fermentation and upbringing of the wines that are elegant and fine, with less color and extraction than normal but with great character and depth. It has the Casa Castillo style, austere, mineral with an absence of fruit, with depth and character. Furthermore, all the labels also changed to a more stylish image with the 2020 vintage. 2020 is an exceptional vintage here, the finest they have ever produced.”
 
Although it is not the usual practice for us to offer wines we have not yet tasted ourselves, I feel confident in offering these world-class wines, given my knowledge of the wines and the estate along with their rarity and Luis Gutiérrez’s comments, knowing they are among the finest wines produced in the whole of Spain.


2020 Las Gravas, Casa Castillo
£295 per 6 bottle case in bond

98 points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate
The phenomenal 2020 Las Gravas was produced with 92% Monastrell from 30- to 40-year-old vines on north-facing gravel soils (hence its name) complemented with 8% Garnacha. It fermented with 30% full clusters and indigenous yeasts in underground stone lagares and matured in a combination of 500-liter barrel and 5,000-liter foudres for 16 months. It has classical parameters, 14.5% alcohol, a pH of 3.47 and 4.87 grams of acidity per liter. The wine is super perfumed and floral, really showy, elegant, nuanced and refined, with the notes of pine needles and wet soil much subtler than in the 2019. There is an ethereal character to the 2020s that I haven't found in any previous vintage here, but at the same time, the wines are very mineral and have lots of energy and light. There is precision, cleanliness, definition and elegance like I hadn't seen before and refined tannins with a pungent mineral sensation in the textured finish. This is an incredible wine for the price asked. 35,500 bottles produced. There was a single bottling in February 2022. Drink 2022-2035

 

2020 Monastrell Pie Franco, Casa Castillo
£675 per 6 bottle case in bond 

100 points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate

I had tasted the 2020 Pie Franco during its upbringing in barrel and couldn't wait to taste the bottled version. The wine comes from the ungrafted Monastrell vines planted in 1942 by the current generation's grandfather on a south-facing slope rich in limestone and gravels. In this dream vintage, they achieved a wine with 14.5% alcohol, a pH of 3.47 and almost five grams of tartaric acid per liter of wine. The wine matured in 500-liter oak barrels for 16 months. There is precision; it's like laser cut, with symmetry and nuance, and it feels ethereal with lots of inner strength. It has the aromatic herbal notes but they are a lot subtler, and the wine is a lot more elegant and floral. The 2020s are wines of texture, silky, fine and elegant. This is the essence of the Mediterranean. Truly outstanding, world class, the best wine produced in the Mediterranean and the best wine from Casa Castillo ever. I was trying to find reminiscences with previous vintages, and it's different from 2017 and 2018, maybe a mixture of the two, but overall the 2020s are unique and have a combination of Mediterranean character and freshness more intense than any other previous vintage. José María Vicente told me the only vintage that could be compared a little with the 2020 could be 2010. I've seen this wine evolve every year since the initial vintage of 1998 to reach world class. Bravo! 7,800 bottles were filled in February 2022. Drink 2022-2040


Stock is extremely limited, so please let me know of your interest.
 
Best wishes,
 
Laura 

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Casa-Castillo-Pie-Franco-HR
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