Bodegas Juan Gil is a relatively young bodega, having only released its maiden vintage in 2003, but this family-owned winery has a passionate winemaking history dating back to 1916.
It began when Juan Gil Giménez, great-grandfather of the present generation, started getting involved in the world of wine, building a winery in the hilly Penarubia zone in the heart of Jumilla. His son, Juan Gil Guerrero, dedicated all his life to this world, but it was the third generation, Juan Gil González and his brother Paco, that really forged the winery's image of quality, efficiency, and reliability. It is after these men that the most emblematic trademark of this new period is called 'Juan Gil', and the current generation – Miguel Gil, the great grandson of the founder – is dedicated to continuing his ancestors' philosophy. Miguel has also been instrumental in the bodega's success in his own right, and was behind the development of the brand new winery which was opened in 2003.
Jumilla – and particularly the Penarubia zone – is most famous for its richly flavoured, concentrated monastrell. While known more widely as mourvèdre in France, the grape is in fact native to this region. Monastrell makes up the majority of Juan Gil's 100 hectares of vineyards, although they do also grow small amounts of other popular varieties like syrah. They also have access to fruit from around 700 hectares of local vines, which range in age from 30-50 years old.
Despite the proximity to the sea, the continental climate here produces scorching hot summers (there is sometimes a difference of 20 degrees between day and night temperatures) and very low rainfall. However, monastrell is able to resist drought remarkably well, and the predominantly limestone soils of Juan Gil's vineyards retain water, which also helps during the dry seasons. Poor-quality soils and strict viticultural practices produce low yields of high-quality grapes. The team at Juan Gil recognises that different plots of vines impart unique characteristics, so all plots are vinified separately and then skilfully blended to create distinctive and surprisingly complex wines.
When making The Society's Southern Spanish Red, a blend of monastrell with a little syrah, the syrah is hand-harvested in mid-September, whereas the monastrell is harvested in mid to late October. The winery is set right in the heart of the vineyards so the fruit does not have long to travel – this prevents temperature fluctuations and retains the grapes' natural aromas and freshness.
The processing capacity of the winery is an impressive three and a half million kilos, and the ageing cellar can hold 3,000 oak casks. All the buildings are air-conditioned, and the company has also invested in temperature-controlled vats and modern lab equipment, its aim being to balance their forefathers' traditions with the necessary technological advances to ensure the quality of their wines continues to flourish.
In addition to their projects in the Alicante region the Gil family also own other wineries and vineyards across Spain. An example is Cellers Can Blau based in El Molar in the DO of Monsant in Catalonia, established in 2003. Here 35 hectares of cariñena, syrah and grenache are planted for the company's small range of excellent red wines. The grenache is planted on soils of slate – known locally as llicorella, while the cariñena grows on clay soils and the syrah on limestone, and all average 40 years of age.