Given the superb year-round climate of Murcia, when one hears of white, rosé and red, one could be forgiven for thinking they were the three stages of tans on the coast.
But the Region of Murcia is renowned for its tannin as well as its tanning, with three designated wine routes to captivate and tantalise both the mind and the taste buds.
The region's wine-growing areas, covering a total of more than 87,000 acres, are primarily found in its three designated origin wine areas - Bullas, Jumilla and Yecla - while vines are also grown in the districts of Abanilla and Cartagena, from where the wines are marketed as Vinos de la Tierra del Campo de Cartagena.
Grapes and wine are an intrinsic part of the history, economy and entire way of life of the town of Bullas, in the north-west of the region, and that is reflected in the Museo del Vino in the north-east of the town.
An unprepossessing structure from the outside, it is built over the basement and cellar of one of the most important former wineries in Bullas, which once produced 350,000 litres of wine annually during the 19th century. The museum has an excellent shop which sells selected wines from all of the bodegas (wineries) at the same prices.
There are five Bodegas registered with the Rutas del Vino of Bullas, two of which - Bodegas del Rosario and Bodega Co-operative San Isidro - are in the town and sell wine directly from their premises. The other three in the countryside and receive visitors only by prior arrangement in groups of six or more.
The Jumilla route has 15 affiliated bodegas, with four - Bodegas Silvano García, Bodega Campanero, Bodegas San Isidro, and Bodegas Alceño - in the town, while the others are dotted around the outlying rural areas. Most, but not all, are prepared to offer tours only to groups of a certain minimum size, and it is necessary to pre-book. For those wishing only to buy wine, appointments are not required, and some bodegas will happily offer a brief tour if purchasing.
There is also a specialist wine shop, Vinotería Los Chilines, close to the tourist information office, with a wide selection of Jumilla wines as well as other local produce such as ham and cheese.The Jumilla wine route also includes two recommended hotels in the town centre - Hotel Monreal and Hotel Pío XII - and various restaurants.
The wine route around Yecla offers the choice of a pre-established itinerary or an individual personally chosen version. It features six wineries - Yecla Bodega Castaño, Bodega La Purísima, Bodegas Evine, Bodegas Lázaro Del Corso and Deortegas - plus accommodation, restaurants, shops, travel agencies and tourist information.
The region's wines are marked by the characteristics of the monastrell grape, a red variety with small, compact bunches, which is perfectly adapted to the environmental conditions of the area. The wines are deeply coloured and full-bodied and come in an extensive, high-quality range. White wines are produced using macabeo, airen, Pedro Ximenez, malvasia, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and small-grain muscat varieties.
The application of innovative wine-making techniques has given rise to the production of new wines, which are fresher, fruity and well-balanced, and take better advantage of the qualities of the monastrell grape, without forgoing any of its personality.
A four-night break in the Pensión San José, in Bullas, during October, costs from £74.83 per person, based on two sharing a double room, on a room-only basis.
Access to the Region of Murcia is simple as it is served by Murcia-San Javier airport all year round, while Alicante airport is also nearby. Both airports are served by numerous airlines flying from a wide variety of UK and Irish airports, with flights to Murcia-San Javier costing from just £33 one way during October.