"There is no 2012 Pie Franco so I tasted the 2013 Pie Franco, the leading old-vine, ungrafted Monastrell wine from Casa Castillo. This is an indigenous wine showing the character of the place, grape and vintage quite transparently. 50% full clusters were foot trodden and fermented in cement vats and aged in used 500-liter barrels. I had the chance to taste the wine a mere week before bottling...
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"There is no 2012 Pie Franco so I tasted the 2013 Pie Franco, the leading old-vine, ungrafted Monastrell wine from Casa Castillo. This is an indigenous wine showing the character of the place, grape and vintage quite transparently. 50% full clusters were foot trodden and fermented in cement vats and aged in used 500-liter barrels. I had the chance to taste the wine a mere week before bottling and it was showing truly superb. It reminded me of a hypothetical blend of 2010 and 2006, perhaps more elegant at this stage, with subtle earth and tree bark aromas under notes of violets, red and blue berries, aromatic herbs (thyme, rosemary) and fennel (even aniseed and licorice). It shows no traces of oak only distant spices and even more timid hints of graphite. The palate is medium to full-bodied with a truly Mediterranean character, as it should be, along with density and tannin to keep the balance and freshness. It is quite poised and noble with great depth and a backbone of acidity that will keep it for many years.
This is a model of what Mediterranean wines could (should) be; a wine that retains the character while being really drinkable and pleasant. This is approachable already, but should age for a long time. Since 2010 he’s bottling the wine a little bit earlier, after 16-18 months rather than 22 months. This on top of the fresher vintage also seems to contribute to a livelier wine. I revisited the wine in early January once bottled, and surprisingly it didn't show any signs of fatigue from the operation, and all the character I saw in it earlier seems to have made it into the bottle, and the flowers are still there (roses). This is plain great, up there with the 2006, but made in a different style that is perhaps a little atypical from Jumilla. It is a little fresher and not as classical as the 2006, but at the same quality level. Although you can drink this now, I'd keep it for a couple of years and drink earlier vintages while this one develops more complexity and tertiary notes in the bottle. This has to be one of the most affordable world-class wines from Spain. 6,000 bottles were filled in January 2015 and the wine will be released toward the end of 2015.
2013 is a great vintage for Casa Castillo. While 2012 was very dry with some rain during the harvest, for José María Vicente it's still better than 2011 but clearly below 2010 and 2013 which he favors as his best recent vintages. I agree completely. Talking to him he was quite disappointed with the Jumilla appellation and some decision to allow five-liter bag-in-box for appellation wines and might take his single-vineyard wines out of the appellation. Not only great, but very affordable wines." 97 point
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Casa Castillo is the leading producer of southeastern Spain, and their pure, un-grafted Monastrell Pie Franco is one of the greatest wines from Spain. Jose Maria Vicente is the third generation associated with the bodega, and is in charge of the winery today. The property was purchased in 1941 by his grandfather who was in the wood and esparto grass (jute) business. There were vineyards and other cultivars, but only as a side business. It was Vicente’s father Nemesio who in 1991 fermented and bottled the first Casa Castillo wine, so their wine history is still quite short. The property is quite big, over 400 hectares, and besides the 170 hectares of vineyards (70% Monastrell, 15% Syrah and 15% Garnacha), there are also almond and olive trees. All the vineyards are strictly dry-farmed.
The Mediterranean-influenced continental climate has very cold winters with low temperatures often below zero and dry, hot summers, often reaching 40ºC. Average rainfall is 350 liters, concentrated in April-May and October-November and they have 3,000 hours of sun per year. The soil is varied, mainly clay with an active lime level of 15-19%, covered with gravel and sand. These conditions, typical in Jumilla, call for low density in planting, with 1,600 vines per hectare. The yields are low, which explains why, with so much land under vine, they can only produce 400,000 bottles per year. La Solana is their oldest vineyard, which was planted in 1942: 12 hectares grown on glacis, a very fine sediment from the nearby mountains, with the texture of sand, the kind of soil where phyloxera struggles to live. The vines are un-grafted, planted at a very low density, since this is one of the few vineyards where we have southern exposure, and is therefore hotter and drier than the others. The vines are very slowly being attacked by phyloxera so the vineyard is dying and will eventually disappear. In the areas where there’s more clay the insect can still survive. The vineyard yields 600 kilograms of grapes per hectare, which results in 6,000 to 8,000 bottles, depending on the conditions of the vintage. The grapes for the Pie Franco are destemmed but not crushed, and fermented in 6,000-liter underground stone lagares (pools) with wild yeast using only manual cap punching. As with all their wines, it ages in 500-liter oak barrels. I’ve learned a lot from Pie Franco and how the wine has aged from the initial 1998 vintage. If there is a great vineyard, the terroir will reveal itself sooner or later.
There was a big change in style of all the wines they produce with the 2005, looking for balance, elegance and drinkability, and they have not looked back since. All the wines reviewed here are whole-cluster fermented with their wild yeast. Pie Franco is a limited-production wine of around 7,000-9,000 bottles and was not traditionally available on many markets, and not so well known. I had the chance to taste a mini-vertical of four vintages, which should be still available, even if in small quantities. Sandy soils give finesse but might lack power; that’s not what I found here, where the balance between power and elegance is fantastic, perhaps because of the very old (planted in 1942) un-grafted Monastrell vines that have never been irrigated." 95 point