It's unusual, but in the case of the 2008 Hécula Monastrell from Spain, the importer is of as much interest as the winemaker. He is Eric Solomon, founder of European Cellars and a wine aficionado of distinction. His imprimatur on a label carries heft and is widely trusted, one good reason being that his philosophy as an importer emphasizes sense of place over technique.
Robert M. Parker, no slouch as a wine critic himself, says of the importer: "Solomon's wines are intense expressions of terroir, and are frequently bottled unfined and unfiltered. The quality of his selections is remarkable."
The Hécula Monastrell is a fine example of the sorts of wines he seeks out. It is made by the family winery Bodegas Castano of 100 percent monastrell grapes grown on old vines (35 to 65 years old) in a single non-irrigated vineyard. The result is a well-priced wine (about $14 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets) of character and distinction.
The wine's aroma is earthy and inviting with just a hint of meadow flowers. On the tongue dark fruits, especially blackberry and currant, are to the fore, along with pronounced black tea and a beguiling trace of gunpowder. Its long, vibrant finish is dry and clean. Serve it with grilled meats — we tasted it in conjunction with a pan-seared ribeye steak and blue cheese dressed potato salad — or with a cheese flight featuring assertive cheeses like Stilton.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.