The heat is on (Yecla, Spain)

I’d just like to point out a few things about myself and where I come from. It is true that I come from Australia, which is very hot and dry and is famous for the outback and the beaches, the latter I am familiar with but not the former. I’ve spent 29 summers in Australia, and I know how hot it can get. The part of Australia I am from is far from the hottest in the country, and is actually more famous for the rain. Particularly in winter it can get pretty chilly (rarely below zero), and doesn’t fit the image of Australia that most people may have. Thus I was somewhat unprepared for example, for the desert like conditions of Mendoza in Argentina, where the sun beats mercilessly down for 16 hours a day with very little respite or anywhere to hide. Nor was I prepared for southern Spain, particularly in the centre of the country, where you can easy go through six t-shirts in a day through sweat alone. Priorat and Montsant were pretty hot, but this was worse because it seems much drier. In a way it did remind me of some very well-known regions in Australia, and I wasn’t surprised that famed Barossa winemaker Chris Ringland is actually making wine in this part of Spain. What did surprise me is that there hasn’t been more investment in the Yecla region, as the potential to make the kind of wines the markets are crying out for is outrageous. With very little time to spend I was able to visit the cooperative winery, which is doing an outstanding job bringing Yecla to Spain and the world.
Sadly it is empty

La Purisima is a cooperative winery, this is true, but today the term cooperative is a buzzword for either over-commercialised simple wines, or virtually undrinkable traditional wines. This may be the case a lot of the time, but it is not in some, like the many I have visited on my trip. Like most cooperatives La Purisima make a lot of wine, as they have over one thousand members who grow and provide fruit to the winery. The commitment to quality is the most important thing here rather than the simple desire to make enough money to keep all the members comfortable and happy. The cooperative was established back in 1946 at a time when wine quality was pretty poor, and they were the driving force in the creation of the Yecla DO in 1973 . The oldest and largest winery in the DO, they are also doing an amazing job of innovation in a number of ways. They spent two years designing a computer program that maps every vineyard, separated by owner, and then track all the relevant information about each plot. In the winery they have the capacity and capabilities to easily handle the 14,000 tonnes of fruit brought in each year, utilising modern filtration, heat-change and fermentation techniques.

The La Purisima winery

The winery is led by a young and dynamic team of Yecla natives, who respectively handle the viticulture, winemaking and commercial side of the business. The three of them introduced me to their vision, starting with a tour of the extensive winery. We then headed out to some of the vineyards to look at some very old vines planted in bush trellising sytems. Thankfully it was late in the day as the temperature was dropping, but you could still see a haze sitting over the entire valley of Yecla. Most of the vineyards are planted to monastrell, but there are also numerous white varieties and other introduced grapes. Some of the vines are ungrafted, and are unlikely to suffer from phylloxera thanks to the very sandy soils they have here. The tasting back at the winery was entirely monastrell based, possibly because that is what is predominantly imported into Australia. In the evening my host Natalia showed me around the small but very old town, and I enjoyed a few local dishes like some more snails (a popular dish h in this part of Spain obviously). The winery was also generous enough to put me up for the night in the hotel, before I made the very long drive towards Malaga on the following day. Click here to read my notes on the tasting.

The La Purisima team in one of the vineyards

Click here to see more photos from my visit to Yecla, Spain. On the following day I visit the region where pedro ximinez is king, Montilla-Moriles.

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