One of the most respected winemakers in southeast Spain, Pepe Mendoza started his carrier at his family's winery Enrique Mendoza. They were among the first to plant Syrah and other international varieties in the region to make high quality reds, but they gradually returned to work with local grapes, specially Monastrell.
His latest project is Casa Agrícola, a very personal project launched alongside his wife Pepa Agulló.
Casa Agrícola has a strong focus on local and Mediterranean grape varieties (Syrah is part of one of the blends) sourced from their own vineyards (only 5% of the grapes are bought). They lie mostly in the inner Alto Vinalopó region near Villena, where they grow 10 hectares of Monastrell, Syrah and Macabeo; and the sea-influenced Marina Alta, where the dominant grapes are Moscatel and Giró (this one has traditionally been considered to be the same as Garnacha but some producers now claim that it might be a particular clone or an altogether new variety).
The Marina Alta vineyard is located in Abargues, a relatively large property with 12 hectares of vines planted in 1923, 1949 and 1969. It includes a winery which is being refurbished to house the production of Casa Agrícola wines.
Wines have no yeasts added. Whole bunch fermentation with around 30% of stems is the norm for the reds. Oak is almost absent or comes in 500-litre barrels. The style manages to express Mediterranean notes (scrubland, ripe fruit) but avoids extraction and any traces of heaviness or warmth -this seemed unthinkable in the area just a few years ago.
The range starts with two entry-level wines offering terrific value which Pepe refers to as “landscape wines”. The white (21,000 bottles, €11.5 in Spain) blends Macabeo and Airén from Alto Vinalopó with Moscatel from Marina Alta, whereas the red (30,000 bottles, €11,5) includes 80% Monastrell and equal parts of Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet), all grown in Alto Vinalopó. Next comes Pureza (4,000 bottles, around €16 in Spain), kept in contact with the Moscatel skins for six days and fermented in amphorae.
Two single-vineyard wines are also produced. El Veneno (€29) is an uncommon fresh expression of Monastrell. Grapes are sourced from the highest plot in a vineyard with eight hectares in Alto Vinalopó. In the pipeline awaits Abargues (4,000 bottles) which aims to reflect the character of Giró planted in the Marina Alta property.
Finally, Pequeñas Producciones (small productions) is the name of an experimental range described by Pepe Mendoza as a place “to allow myself to make mistakes and explore with total freedom.”