Laithwaites is a little unusual in its provenance, if not unique.
The spiritual home of Merlot is Bordeaux, some 600 miles to the north of the small, and little-known-town of Yecla. As a result of the southern altitude with its searing heat by day, you might expect this wine to be baked and jammy.
However, there's none of that here - this is a right-bank-style Merlot with plums, forest fruits and a touch of vanilla on the nose, pencil shavings and spice on the palate, all balanced by good acidity and grip with a lovely firm, smooth texture and good length.
The answer to the conundrum lies in the altitude of the vineyards - Yecla is around 600m above sea level - which gives cool nights and a longer growing season resulting in a darker, fuller and more aromatic wine.
The winemaker, Bodegas Castaño, was established in 1975 and now make "The best wines of Yecla" according to the Laithwaites website, whilst Decanter gives this wine a commendation in its 2010 awartds.
This was one of the better wines from my Laithwaites "mystery" case - one of the few I would seriously consider buying again, especially as it's reasonable value at £6.99 a bottle (before delivery charges).
Laithwaites - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/
Bodegas Castano - http://www.bodegascastano.com/
List of Decanter's Commended Wines for 2010 - http://www.decanter.com/dwwa/2010/dwwa_search.php?qsearch=acow