VINS DEL COMTAT
BODEGA DE LA MONTAÑA ALICANTÍNA
I wonder if my fellow tasters noticed an apparent light-headed dizziness about me when I first set eyes on the new bottle of wine that was about to be launched onto the market by David Carbonell of Bodegas Vins del Comtat?
Along with others in the professional wine world of Alicante and beyond, I’d been invited to the very professional tasting rooms of Denominación de Origen Alicante in the city itself. The tasting ‘Sala’, along with the administrative offices of the Consejo Regulador (ruling council) sit atop a showroom below that looks like, and indeed occasionally acts as, a wine merchants – though in this particular wine shop there is more than a slight bias towards Alicante wines!
Although the tasting was above the shop, it wasn’t the altitude that had made me a little dizzy, and as I hadn’t yet tasted the wine, nor any other, it couldn’t have been the alcohol either! It was the label!
I wonder if any readers have ever walked (with care?) the tiled pavement that leads from the beach next to Alicante’s impressive Marina, just as it approaches the nearest tall hotel, Melia, I think? If so, I’m sure you too will have noticed the optical illusion tile design that makes you question whether your feet will meet a solid surface.
I wonder if it is designed to steady those who have just left their yachts after a long time on the waves. Most altruistic, if so, but what about landlubbers like myself who have often bashed their heads against jewellers’ windows thinking that the security grill behind was the first solid you’d meet!
And the relevance, you may ask? Well the label on Vins del Comtat Monastrell has the same sort of design, you can almost touch the blue, black and white cubes, apparently stacked Giant’s Causeway style! Well why not, labels sell wine – though any second purchase of the same wine is, of course, dependant on the quality of the wine inside!
Vins del Comtat have no need to worry there, though – this wine really does represent excellent value for money (about 7€), as well as being a perfect introduction to the locally loved grape variety Monastrell, which, as witnessed at the recent Monastrell Conference, also hosted by DOP Alicante, is appreciated world-wide (scroll down http://www.colinharknessonwine.com/articles/page/2/).
After hundreds of years (a thousand, or more?) Monastrell is perfectly adapted to the climate of SE Spain. It can bear the oven-like temperatures of the growing season, as well as the, at best inadequate, rainfall, (which is now worryingly reaching a drastic point!). Plus, when grown at a respectable altitude where there is some night-time relief as temperatures drop, it can produce fruit filled wine of distinction.
Vins del Comtat 2014 100% Monastrell delivers this juicy, plum flavoured fruit in abundance. The wine has also enjoyed, and I used the word deliberately, three months in oak – not the traditional 225 litre oak barricas, but larger, 500 litre French oak barrels whose influence is softer and more subtle. The oak gives depth of flavour and a little complexity, rather than greatly influencing the taste, which is the winemaker’s laudable intention.
I highly recommend this wine – if looking for a BBQ wine now that the season is about to start, this will be perfect!
However, Vins del Comtat is not all about red wine. In a very impressively shaped bottle with transparent labels (incidentally, fine when the bottle is full, but a touch difficult to read as the level goes down!) you’ll find something of an oddity – albeit a very pleasant drink!
Viognier is not a grape variety that one would immediately think of for planting in soils where the climate is that which is described above! I was first introduced to Viognier via a stunning wine which I often used on my ‘Wine Specials’ board in my restaurants in the 90s. Any readers will know what I mean by ‘stunning’, if you have tried Condrieu, the northern-most white wine appellation of France’s Rhone Valley.
Whilst it’s true that the best Condrieu Viognier wines come from south-facing vineyards, the sun there is rather less intense than in South-East Spain. And the soils resting on the granite rock above the River Rhone are very different from those which are home to Vins del Comtat’s vineyards.
Nevertheless when tasting their 100% Vioginer (under 7€) you will be able to find traces of the wonderful apricot aromas of their cousins in France, albeit not as potent. However, that’s not what Vins del Comtat’s Vioginer is all about. It’s a very refreshing white wine which manages a little tropical fruit on the nose, and more so on the palate, with some complementary mountain herb notes too, plus a faint whiff of fennel along with a floral note too.
Coincidentally the Moscatel grapes that make their Vino Dulce Cristalli (9€, 50cl bottle) come from vineyards planted some 40 years ago in an area which I can just about see from my house! These vineyards are at a decent altitude and very close to the sea. Thus they are subject to cooling sea-breezes during day and night time as well as full-on sunshine.
These grapes are as fully ripened as you can find – yet the wine retains its crucial acidity, partnering a luscious lick of sweet sultana and grape aromas and a long, long finish.
On the nose, extra to the typical Moscatel raison notes you’ll find a honeysuckle floral aspect as well as a faint suggestion of the aroma that comes from the spray as an orange is peeled. Then, on the palate that orange, though now more like a Clementine, perhaps, perversely, slightly under-ripe, can be detected too. Faint citrus flavours provide the acidity of this gloriously thrilling, mouth filling sweet wine which we enjoyed with a chocolate based Valentine’s dessert!
There’s a full range at Vins del Comtat – starting at about 5€ with their most expensive wine, Montcabrer weighing in at just under 18€. I intend to try the whole range, and recommend you do too! You can buy on line at www.vinsdelcomtat.com/en/home