Sunday, May 14, 2006

Casa de la Ermita creates interest for Jumilla

By Emilio Saez van Eerd

Just outside the town when you leave Jumilla you take a small road along the mountain El Carche, and after some 3 kilometers a small sign indicates at your right hand the medium sized modern winery of "Casa de la Ermita". An old olive tree characterizes the entrance. I recognize the olive tree from the label that Casa de la Ermita uses.Javier Alvarez and Ana Martinez Terol welcome us on a cold and windy day at Casa de la Ermita, one of the wineries that invested heavily in the region long before the international markets knew about the existence of the region as a producer of high quality wines.

The owner, Pedro Martinez, recently managed to attract some more investors into his company to keep up with the speed of his wine sales. In 2005 Mapfre, a Spanish insurrance company took a 10% stake in Casa de la Ermita after in 2003 Ibersuizas, a capital investor, injected € 5 million in the winery. According the company´s press release announcing the expansion palns of Casa de la Ermita “the investment was necessary to renew the production plant in the D.O. Jumilla and to expand the Valle de Salinas winery in the D.O. Yecla”, one of the latest projects of Casa de la Ermita.

Javier and Ana explain us that the region has poor quality soils that are stony and limey, which is ideal for the vineyards. The climate is extreme, the 300m³ of rain per year, with temperatures that fall below zero in the winter and easily reach 40º C in the summer. In one day the temperature can vary 20º. Of course these conditions result in very low yields. The vineyards are planted around the winery at an avarage altitude of 700 meter. Not only monastrell but Casa de la Ermita is also a promoter of some foreign varieties. Cabernet sauvignon 22 hec, merlot 10 hec, syrah 20 hec, petit verdot 21 hec and viognier 2 hec are the most succesfull foreign varieties. The Spanish grapes monastrell 47 hectares and tempranillo 17 hectares provide the rest.An experimental vineyard of three hectares provides more knowledge about the posiblities that this wine area has. Casa de la Ermita does tests varietals like malbec, touriga nacional, egiodolá, rousanne, garnacha, gewürtztraminer and many other grapes from all over the world to see how they adapt to this particular region. The harvest is done by hand, to secure the selection of the best grapes. As the winery is built at the foot of the mountain Carche, the advantage is that during the production de winemaker can use the gravity. At eight metres height the grapes enter the winery to be de-stemmed and pressed. The must is then passed along pipes to the tanks. The winery has 75 tanks of stainless steel with different capacities. Once in permanently temperature controlled tanks the vinification takes place at a temperature of between 10 and 15 degrees. Later the wines, if necesarry, pass on to the cellar where Casa de la Ermita has more than 4000 mainly American oak barrels (60%) and 40% French oak barrels. The cellar in winery we visit ahs some 1000 barrels, and in the other production plant Casa de la Ermita stores the 3000 barrels more. All the wines allways are a blend of American and French oak. The barrels are used for a maximum of 5 years. The total avarage anual production of the wines of Casa de la Ermita is: White wine 200,000 bottlesRed Organic Wines 350,000 bottlesYoung red wine 400,000 bottlesCrianza 1,000,000 bottlesSemi-Crianza 400,000 bottles.
The harvest of 2004 was lower with a total production of 1,5 million liters

En Casa de la Ermita two lines for the wines from Jumilla, Monastrerio de Santa Ana for the varietal wines and Casa de la Ermita for all other wines. Casa de la Ermita has another brand for the wines from Yecla, Valle de Salinas, and a wine called Caracol for the retail.We taste the wines ons the first floor. A natural lighted tasting room is the perfect location to taste:Casa de la Ermita Blanco Viognier 2004 Joven, colour gold yellow, hints of peach and ripened and dried fruit, spicy. Good acidity, juicy. Alcohol well integrated. I´m interested to taste the 2005 when it is ready. Casa de la Ermita Monastrell 2004 joven, 14º Vol. The typical wine that you would expect in the region. But this wine is frutier than many other monastrell wines. The aroma is spicy, with pepper and fruity in the mouth. Good balance acidity, alcohol and tannins. The winemaker has achieved to extract more fruit from the monastrell. Casa de la Ermita 2004 JovenTypical mediterranean nose, fruit, cherries, well structured wine, comercial wine, perfect for tapas of all kind.Monasterio de Santa Ana 2004, 14 º Vol. Made of monastrell. Inviting smell, some oak, fruity in the mouth, perfect for a rich meal, well structured, perfect balance. Casa de la Ermita Crianza 10 months 2002, tempranillo 20%, cabernet sauvignon 20%, monastrell 60%. 13,5ºVol. New French oak, typical cherry pie aroma (if you ever have the oportunity to eat the Dutch freshly made cherry pie “Kersenvlaai met Slagroom”, than you understand the typical aroma of a wood ripened fruity monastrell) Very good balance, mature tannins, fruity aftertaste.Casa de la Ermita Petit Verdot 2002, pago del Carche, 12 months oak. Thick inky colour, licorice, fruity, mineral taste and also floral. Fresh fruity taste, good balance in the aromas and taste, a lot of everything, acidity, tannins and alcohol.(14,5º Vol). Elegant tannins. Although the wine still has to stay in the bootle for a while, the Petit Verdot 2002 shows a great potential.Casa de la Ermita Dulce, fruity nose, creamy, fresh red fruit. Still some powerful tannins present, a good contrast for the sugar. The acidity is elegant. Pleasant closure of the tasting.The latest projects that we could not taste at that moment are Viognier Dulce, the Monastrell/Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Blend 2002 and a Rosé wine for which the laboratory is looking for authoctonous yeasts. The ecological wines are also succesfully introduced. Casa de la Ermita makes a “joven”, “crianza 10 months” and tempranillo/monastrell. Even KLM the Dutch Airline company of Air France has selected one for its wine card. Photo left first winery of Casa de la Ermita seen from the road. Photo right, second production plant seen from the roof of the first winery. For more background information about Casa de la Ermita please have a look at the information that Casa de la Ermita has added to the www.worldwinedatabase.comFor more information about Emilio Saez van Eerd´s activities in Spain, click at contact directly or visit