Even before you see the welcome sign to Jumilla, the Ciudad del Vino, it’s pretty obvious that Jumilla is a wine producing area by the numerous vineyards on either side of the road. There are olive groves, almond trees, orchards of peaches and pears as well, but it’s the vine that dominates the landscape.
Wine has been produced in Jumilla since Roman times from which I gather – though history isn’t one of my strong subjects - that Jumillanos have been making wine for a very long time.
When phylloxera devastated vineyards in France in the middle of the 19th century, there was a resulting boost to Spanish winemaking and particularly in Jumilla where the monastrell grapes were unaffected. French wine-making immigrants brought their expertise to the area, which was a turning point for Jumilla wines, even though they too were affected by phylloxera at a later date.
Early exports of Jumilla wine were in barrels and, as they were taken by train to Alicante and shipped from there, the wine was designated as Alicante wine. The next important stage in the history of Jumilla wine therefore was on 22nd January 1966, when it was granted the right to have its own D.O. Currently there are 42 bodegas within the D.O. Jumilla and, contrary to rumours, John and I haven’t visited them all. At the time of writing our total is 13 – lucky for some!
The creation of the Ruta del Vino Jumilla, which is certified as one of the Wine Routes of Spain, was an important step for wine tourism in Jumilla. Twelve bodegas, two wine shops, one specialist food and drink shop plus seven restaurants are amongst the associates, who all work hard at promoting Jumilla and its wine.
Last year the Ruta del Vino won a special mention in the national awards for best enoturística initiative for its popular and successful Música entre Vinos events. Los Chilines vinoteria was also shortlisted, which didn’t surprise us after attending their many excellent winetasting events, including La Gran Cata, one of the year’s highlights, which we will be going to next week.
Times are hard, so Jumilla isn’t resting on its laurels. One of its biggest export markets is the USA, helped no doubt by the fact that Robert Parker has given 90 points or more to many Jumilla wines over the last few years. He has recognised that Jumilla wines are extraordinarily good value and commented on their superb price-quality ratio. Last year the main markets for Jumilla’s bottled wines were the UK, USA and Germany.
However there are new markets out there and local bodegas are also looking to increase their exports to other countries such as Japan, Russia and Canada. In spite of the world-wide recession, over 8 million litres of wine were sold in 2010, with a slight increase in the amount of bottled wine, although figures for bulk wine were down.
This year Jumilla celebrates its 40th Fiesta de la Vendimia, where wine flows from one of the fountains in the city centre, much wine is drunk by both Jumillanos and visitors, and on the last night lots of wine is thrown over the participants. Not surprisingly, John and I consider that a bit of a waste!
So let’s raise our glasses to Jumilla wine – Salud!