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Through the Grapevine: A flamenco on the palate, a glass in the afternoon

Castaño 2014 monastrell. Photo by Alan Bennett, Culture Editor.
Castaño 2014 monastrell. Photo by Alan Bennett, Culture Editor.

Castano 2014 Monastrell

Rating: A

A whole new world of wine opens up in springtime. It’s the time when crisp whites and sweet roses begin to crawl their way out of the abysmal depths of winter and cleanse our palates with their refreshing bite. But for those of us who love red wine, with its high alcohol content, rich flavor and complex profile, spring can be a confusing time.

This is why the Castano family’s 2014 monastrell from Southeastern Spain is the perfect accompaniment to the change of season. The Castano family owns 300 hectares of this varietal in the Denominacion de Origen (D.O.) of Yecla, Spain, where they have been producing wine since 1950 and bottling since 1980. According to their website, the family has been experimenting with the monastrell varietal for both wide commercial distribution in addition to challenging the conservative wine attitudes of the region.

It’s easy to see how this wine challenges the norm — with a sanguine complexion and legs like a sprinter, this wine is a stunner in the glass. Aromas of fresh cherry and plum, raisin, dried tobacco and quality leather rise from the vessel in an earthy embrace. Notes of sulfur linger after the glass is pulled away, ashy and enticing.

A sip gives way to crushing, assertive berry flavors that quickly yield to strong tannins and spicy notes. Warm flavors of stone fruits, oak, and vanilla and black pepper couple with an acidic tang. Its finish is buttery and smooth, a comforting touch of richness and satisfaction. It’s a well-rounded glass of wine, with a structured and balanced mouthfeel.

This 2014 monastrell will make you feel alive. The complex flavors dance elegantly on the palate in an awe-inspiring performance. In an instant, you’re transported to the city squares of Murcia, just south of the Yecla D.O., where flamenco dancers in vibrant dresses twirl in enchanting displays of artistry and markets flourish with tourists and townspeople alike. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

What month is it again? A wine like this almost makes me want the cold weather to stick around. It would be fantastic mulled with classic winter spices. But, should the warm weather ever come, I could easily see myself using this wine to make a classic sangria for a barbecue on my deck, chock full of citrus and peach to complement its fruity demeanor, or just enjoying a glass out in the sunshine. It’s that versatile.

This wine drinks much a tempranillo, another well-known Spanish wine, albeit much classier. While it could pair with really anything, break out the bottle (which is typographically gorgeous, by the way) for a juicy steak or an hours-long braised short rib. For a romantic dinner in, serve it with an Italian osso buco and mushroom risotto. Vegetarians would find it excellent with vegetable stews or lentil dishes. For a less-romantic night alone, pair it with a large, empty glass.

Castano 2014 monastrell is available at The Store Ampersand in Orono for $8.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

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