The incredible, and high-scoring, Spanish duo - 2021 Casa Castillo Las Gravas and Pie Franco

The incredible, and high-scoring, Spanish duo - 2021 Casa Castillo Las Gravas and Pie Franco

'2021 was also an exceptional vintage at Casa Castillo'
Luis Gutiérrez,

2021 Las Gravas, Casa Castillo - £295 per 6 bottle case in bond
98 points, Luis Gutiérrez

2021 Pie Franco, Casa Castillo - £765 per 6 bottle case in bond
99 points, Luis Gutiérrez

If you are prepared to consider wines from less familiar origins, you can find some utterly outstanding wines at remarkable values. In this respect, Spain is a complete treasure trove – diverse regions, old vines and a growing number of inspirational winemakers. If you find these words encouraging, read on – the wines of Casa Castillo have been showstoppers for a number of years.

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’.
Las Gravas is a blend made up of around 90% Monastrell and 10% 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 high 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.
In terms of the vintage, 2021 follows 2020 as another exceptional vintage. The estate’s vineyards are naturally blessed with altitude and water-retaining soils that help them navigate the heat of the summer. The viticultural approach targets increased purity, precision and vibrancy, all of which is revealed in the bottle. This estate continues its upward trajectory with another set of wines that demonstrate the incredibly high quality possible in lesser-known regions when the approach of the producer is so intently focused on the minutiae. If you do not know these wines already, I encourage you to get to know them. If you do know them already, I imagine I will be hearing from you by return…
By way of support for our own view, please find below the notes of Luis Gutiérrez of

2021 Las Gravas, Casa Castillo

£295 per 6 bottle case in bond
98 points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate, January 2024
The 2021 Las Gravas contains grapes from a vineyard planted in 2006 (that already contributed to the 2020), and it has given the wine a fine-boned profile, with more freshness and varietal Monastrell notes, a rustic-elegant feeling. It keeps the incredible quality level of the 2020, with Jumilla typicity; it's Mediterranean, powerful and energetic, with balanced 15% alcohol and a chalky, rocky, stony sensation in the finish. This always contains some 8% to 12% Garnacha. Production has grown to 37,905 (numbered) bottles. It was bottled in June 2023, as they did a longer élevage. This matured 100% in oak foudre; they abandoned the 500-liter barrels for this wine and for Pie Franco. Drink 2024-2034

2021 Pie Franco, Casa Castillo
£765 per 6 bottle case in bond
99 points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate, January 2024
The 2021 Pie Franco is from ungrafted old-vine Monastrell planted on sandy soils. It feels incredibly balanced, elegant and harmonious, a little closed, subtle rather than showy. It's slightly riper, like most of the 2021s, reaching 15% alcohol, very Mediterranean, classical with fruit a tad darker than the one in Las Gravas and with a rounder palate but keeping the poise and balance. It matured in oak foudre for a longer time, as they found this to be a more powerful wine that required a longer élevage in oak. Another stunning Pie Franco. 8,297 numbered bottles. It was bottled in June 2023. Drink 2024-2036

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