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Excellent Costa Blanca White Wines!

SHOUT OUT FOR LOCAL PRODUCERS

I’ve recently been tweeting and posting (as well as a Cork Talk a couple of weeks ago) about how it would be good if we could help the smaller wine producers here in Spain. They’ve had, and are having, a very difficult time, so much so that I’m quite nervous about looking at my various wine related news feeds, hoping not to hear of any small, family bodegas that have gone under! So far I haven’t and I’m hopeful that my bringing their plight to readers’ attention may have helped at least a few?

Now, though, I want to bring it a little more local, not by saying the same thing of course – the above, the tweets, posts and my recent article included local producers as well as those throughout the whole country. Today though, I’m going to spotlight just a few local producers by telling readers about some of their white wines that I’ve been so enjoying during the lockdown, from which we are emerging poco a poco.

This idea was sparked by a visit to a local, family owned, independent quite small supermarket in Moraira – Supermercado Algi. I visited a day or two ago, in search of a wine for me to recommend as the Valley FM Supermarket Wine of the Week. I was delighted to see an unusually good selection of wines from which to choose, and even more so when I saw a bottle from the bodega Uvas Cabrera, in Benissa – a ten minute drive from where I live!

Uvas Cabrera is made with 100% Moscatel. The bodega is a small concern making just one wine – but what a wine! We all know dry Moscatel – well if you don’t, you have to get out more! But this Moscatel has a different, musky, mineral edge to it, with little of the characteristic raisin/grape aroma. Floral, with some slight citrus notes in the palate and perfectly dry. (www.uvascabrera.com)

 

When bought from the winery the packaging is great too – the bottle’s label sports a vine with five arms. These represent the five generations of the same family, whose business started in 1895, selling pasas, Moscatel grapes dried in the sun; then developing into table grapes sales as well (and it’s this that gives rise to the unusual boxing of the wine, lightweight wooden boxes that would have held 1kg of grapes, now holding a bottle of wine; and larger boxes for 5kg of grapes but now three bottles!); then into sweet wine production; and ultimately to the present incumbent making the family’s first ever dry Moscatel! Great story, super wine!

 

I’m not entirely comfortable with my recent claim that the dry Moscatel from Bodegas Les Freses in Jesús Pobre, about 20 mins drive away, is the best I’ve tasted. It may be, but the above is very, very close!

 

Les Freses Blanc 2018 is made from grapes grown in the two different soil types that the bodega enjoys. Very pale lime green in colour, elegant, with floral notes of white rose petals and honeysuckle with some lemon and understated raisin aromas. On the palate the citrus lemon notes remain after swallowing. A beautiful aperitif wine, with sufficient presence also to partner delicate fish dishes such as sole, dorada and lubina. (www.lesfreses.com)

Another Moscatel wine in owner Mara’s small portfolio is made from grapes grown on just one of the soils, the white coloured limestone based soil. Quite a revelation in terms of contrasting flavours and aromas, This wine was a touch more acidic, fresh as you like, with slightly more exotic fruit, some white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing! Floral again, perhaps more jasmine this time, and a little more weight on the palate. Certainly good with the above fish, but also more meaty fish, plus where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish.

Now, there may be some pedants who think I shouldn’t be including wines from Pepe Mendoza in the category of small local producers! I know what you mean, Pepe is (was, I’m not sure?) the Head Winemaker for the family firm, Enrique Mendoza, whose relatively larger production wines sell all over the world. However, regular readers will also know that in the last year Pepe has opened his own winery. Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla is situated in the Llíber/Jalón valley – 15 mins!

Tinajas, amphorae, are the ideal receptacle for making wine under ‘flor’, that’s the thin film that forms over fermenting grape juice when the earthenware tinaja is not filled quite to the top. This is the same method by which Sherry is made, nowadays known as biological ageing (though in Andalucia it’s in barrel, of course), but Pepe’s Velo Flor Ánfora isn’t fortified as is Sherry, it is a dry white wine – and an outstanding one at that!

This wine is made with Moscatel (bet you saw that coming!) and another local variety, though far less well known, Merseguera – honestly, you have to try it! There’s an endearing earthiness to the wine, it’s a textured wine with fresh acidity and a good length combining. Fruit-wise there are citrus notes, lemon and a little grapefruit plus a very slight reference to orange/clementine zest, like you’d expect from an amber/orange/Skin contact wine. I think there is an unmistakable Mediterranean aroma/flavour/feel to the wine, making it a wine of its place paying homage to its terroir. (Search Facebook Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla.)

Talking of homage – that’s what I’m doing here regarding local producers, but remember please that whilst these bodegas are local to me, their wines can be obtained where you are situated in Spain, and some will be available in the UK as well!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness  Instagram colinharkness53

NB My next Wine Show on www.valleyfm. es will be on Saturday 4th July 12 – 13:00 hrs CET

Let’s Hear it for the Little Guys!

SUPPORTING THE LITTLE GUYS

When watching sports (remember that?!), but supporting no particular team/competitor, many of us root for the underdog. The player/team with the lesser reputation, the one of whom we’ve never heard – yes, let’s give them some support.

So it was at Goodison Park, Liverpool, in 1966 when the largely unheard of North Korea were playing Portugal in the Football World Cup, Eusébio, Torres et al. Unbelievably, North Korea took the lead, and suddenly most of the crowd, of which I was a small part, was willing the little guys on, supporting their every move. ‘We’ lost, but what a game!

If sporty yourself, I’m sure you’ll remember similar situations in a number of different sports. Probably, like me, you’re the same today. It’s so exciting when someone wholly new to us aces a seed to win a round at Wimbledon; or sinks a put in the Open to beat the defending Champion; comes from half a lap behind to take the 1500 metres Olympic title from the athlete who surely had his/her name written on the trophy – and so on.

Well, my friends, it’s time to support the underdogs, the little guys in the wine world!

I can’t think of many businesses in Spain that have done well during this dreadful pandemic, a live scenario that is still playing out, but supermarkets haven’t done so badly! One of the few businesses that have been allowed to open throughout, they have, of course, suffered some extra costs. Staff have been taken on in order to police/assist customers; they’ve all had to have protective masks and gloves; checkouts have been fitted with extra protection for those seated, etc.

However, compared with profits during this time, such outgoings are small beer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking them. Supermarkets have fulfilled a vital role, they’ve done a brilliant job at keeping the nation in food, and at a risk to themselves too. It’s certainly appreciated. Imagine how these weeks would have been if, like in a war zone for example, it was dangerous to go out (as it has been here, though we’ve been dodging a virus not bullets and bombs), and there was no food available!

Plus, of course, those businesses that supply supermarkets have been doing reasonably well too, though any exports they’d been enjoying are likely to have largely petered out. This, of course, applies to the wine sector.

There are many large wine businesses that have been able to maintain at survival level, and above, simply by virtue of the fact that they are established supermarket suppliers. Yes, it’s true that such large concerns have lost out in the export trade, of course, so they haven’t been making extra profits, but they’ve been doing ok, particularly when statistics tell us that we’ve all been drinking more wine in lockdown times!

I’m speaking on behalf of the many far smaller bodegas, often family owned who progressed from making wine for home consumption only a couple of generations ago to making it on commercial basis nowadays. Their production is of course limited – they don’t have many hectares of land covered in vine, though often their vineyards are old, producing great quality wines from their richer grapes.

There’s no doubting their quality, but of course, they are unable to supply supermarkets because of their insatiable demand for high volume wines. The little guys make great wines, just not so much of it! Some of these small wineries have been able to develop some export trade, though this of course has dried up in recent weeks, though many are relying solely on the domestic trade. Sadly, this has also largely dried up too. The little guys are in trouble – and they need our help.

This is why I wholly support an initiative started by my friend Nicola Thornton, of the company Spanish Palate, of whom regular Cork Talk readers will have read on a number of occasions over the years. Spanish Palate is itself one of the small producers to whom I refer, but they have another important role as well – they are distributors of wines from a number of other small, family owned producers.

A very positive and proactive young lady, Nicola must nevertheless have noticed the dramatic downturn in the livelihoods of her winery owning friends whose sales are dwindling to below survival levels. So, she and her business partner have decided to do something about it! If you go to www.spanishpalate.es/Direct you’ll be able to see the wineries with whom she deals, their wines, and of course, those made by Spanish Palate themselves, You’ll also notice the ease by which you can buy whichever wines you select and have them delivered directly to your door, in fact for hard to believe excellent prices!

Over the years I’ve tried lots of the wines distributed by Spanish Palate, as well as those they make themselves. You won’t be disappointed, quite the reverse, in fact, and significantly, during these difficult times, you’ll be giving the little guys a very much needed helping hand!

NB my next Valley Vibes Wine Show will be on Sat. 6th June, 12 – 1pm, online here www.valleyfm.es and I’ll be tasting one of Spanish Palate’s wines too!

Twitter @colinonwine.com  Facebook Colin Harkness

colin@colinharknessonwine.com www.colinharknessonwine.com

and newly on Instagram colinharkness53

Please don’t forget my monthly Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es – it’s always the First Saturday of the Month, from 12:00 hrs – 13:00 hrs CET. You’ll find some great wines tasted on-air; top music; fun chat; and lotsa informal wine info! Hope you can join us soon!

In Praise of Spanish Supermarkets!

IN PRAISE OF SPANISH SUPERMARKET WINES

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Neither did I! If you look back at my articles (you can see many archived here www.colinharknessonwine.com click Articles, that’s if you haven’t got them posted on your bedroom walls, of course?) you’ll see that I’ve always put wine shops before supermarkets when talking about sourcing wine. If you can’t buy directly from the bodegas themselves, the next best thing will always be wine shops.

I still believe this. Wine shop owners (there don’t seem to be many chains here in Spain, I’ve actually never come across one) have a passion for wine – they care. Consequently they look after their stock; rotate the wines properly; keep a handle on their buying so as not to be left with wines that are creeping past their best; keep abreast of developments in the wine world; attend tastings, certainly nationally, and at times internationally too; read the literature & watch the videos; organise tastings; teach their staff and encourage (sometimes with financial help) assistants to attend courses, take exams, and so on.

Supermarkets, in my view, don’t do much of the above. Most are too big. Wine is just one line, amongst countless others. Yes, some of the larger concerns will have a designated ‘wine buyer’, hopefully with sufficient wine knowledge and expertise, but will they have staff to whom they can diffuse this info? Is there any training of staff in the individual supermarkets – well, I don’t think there are many or much.

To a point I understand this – do the supermarkets train their staff to have greater knowledge about other lines, e.g. which are the best detergents and why; why is one pet food so much more expensive than the one on the shelf nearby; is it best to buy olive oil as young as possible or is it better to wait a year from production. They can’t be expected to employ an expert in every field.

However, if we go to, for example, Mercadona seeking Jamón Serrano, it’s likely there’ll be at least one person there with a good knowledge of the subject. Despite an obvious bias and trying to be as objective as possible, I think this should also apply to wine – but I’ve yet to find it.

So, colours nailed to the mast there, and yet I also stand by my title – lately I’ve noticed that some supermarket wine choices are deserving of praise, and should be lauded so.

The confinement, the lockdown we’ve been undergoing in Spain has meant that we have been essentially ordered to use only the supermarket nearest to where we live, and of course, we’ve been unable to attend a wine shop at all (though some have managed to gain permission to deliver). Plus, I’m also required to recommend a Supermarket Wine of the Week for Valley FM. Therefore, I’ve been tasting a greater number of supermarket wines than is normally the case, for the last 8 weeks!

I’ve chosen carefully, mind. Age and health wise I’m in the ‘at risk’ category, so my lovely wife, Claire-Marie Soprano, far younger than myself, has generously, and bravely, been doing all our shopping when this has always previously been my role. This has meant that Claire has been asked to go to Mas y Mas and send me photos of their wine selection, for me to make the choices!

I’ve mostly got it right, and some of the wines we’ve been trying have been rather good. Here are a few of the best ones, all priced between about 5 – 8€.

My favourite has been the Bornos Verdejo 2019, closely followed by Hécula, from Bodegas Castaño, and in Bronze medal position, the Enate Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado 2019.

I’m not sure when I first tasted Bornos Verdejo. It was new to my area at the time and people very quickly developed a taste for it. My guess is that demand exceeded supply at the time and supplies ran out. There then, it seemed to me, was a short period where the same wine was of a slightly lesser quality. My guess was that, in order to satisfy that demand, vines were allowed to over crop – more grapes, equals more wine, but at a quality cost. I stopped buying it, though it’s been around ever since, remaining popular.

I really like the 2019 above and I think this may be because of two factors – the vines are now older (the average age for this vintage was 15 years), therefore naturally producing slightly fewer bunches, and the producers are now restricting that growth further. The result is a straw coloured wine with lime green hints, fresh, dry white bristling with intense aromas and flavours of citrus fruits, gooseberry and green herbs.

If, like many, you like to have a wine you term your ‘house wine’, this has to be a candidate for your white wine!

I tasted several reds: Bo, as well as Con Un Par,from Bodegas Vicente Gandía; Enate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot; Soplo, Garnacha from Rafael Cambra, Laudum Roble from Bocopa – all good quality, and all from supermarkets! My favourite red was Hécula, from Castaño – consistent quality for years now!

And so good to see a rosé, the Enate above, coming a close third!

www.colinharknessonwine.com www.valleyfm.es Twitter @colinonwine

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Facebook Colin Harkness

Losada Vinos de Finca

MENCÍA & GODELLO IN DO BIERZO

A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN

A more eloquent wine writer than myself may be able to put it into words, but me, well, I can’t quite say what it is that makes the red wine grape variety, Mencía, such a favourite of mine.

Native to the North West of Spain’s Denominación de Origen Bierzo, Mencía has been around since at least the middle ages. However, it wasn’t really until the 1990s that the potential of the variety started to be realised. More often than not Mencía was used to make wine for home consumption, essentially a wholly unglamorous table wine.

Enter a group of young, idealistic oenologists, among them, local boy Amancio Fernández, who had the vision to see that the variety had a lot more going for it than had been thought previously. Old vineyards were restored, winemaking tradition was reinstated with renewed respect for the land, the terroir. Mencía’s renaissance began!

The bodega, Losada Vinos de Finca was established in 2004, with a brand new state-of-the-art winery, built amongst old vines growing in ancient vineyards. Organic certification was granted and the Losada team set about establishing themselves as a yardstick for Mencía red wine, aged in French oak and made to showcase the glory of the fruit in the elegance of the wine.

It didn’t take me long to reply to María Añíbarro’s e-mail asking if I would like to try some Losada Vinos de Finca wines – an answer in the affirmative was sent straight back, of course! I duly received two Mencía reds, as well as what was to prove an excellent Godello variety white wine.

Expecting the Altos de Losada Pequeñas Parcelas 2017 to be a real, quality wine, I decided to open it as the flagship of my May Valley FM Wine Show, it was so good I played another song, just to have a second, uninterrupted glass!

Losada owns various plots of land, parcelas, from whence they source their wines. This wine is made from 21 different parcelas, selected for their similar clay soils, but their rather different aspects to the sun, and slightly differing micro-climates.  The vines are old, so, as many of you now know, this means fewer bunches but greater richness and depth in the grapes, resulting in richer wines.

The wine’s also had 15 months in oak, but it’s properly handled so that the fruit of the wine is to the fore, with backup in terms of depth and age-ability coming from the French oak, it’s subtle and elegant, like the French themselves!

Ripe, blackberries figure on the nose with some subtle blackberry leaf and wet slate aromas too. There’s a little liquorice as well, and it all goes onto the palate with the addition of a little cracked black pepper spice and on the finish some black chocolate encased in the fruit, rather than the other way round, as in a chocolate liqueur. Really lovely wine.

El Cépon is another wine altogether – a single vineyard wine, made from vines that have seen 50 summers. It’s a beauty, very dark in the glass and looking like it’s brooding! It’s not though, this wine is anxious to get out of the glass giving off a wonderful perfume of violet flowers, some undergrowth, disturbed leaves and wet slate strewn wild herb earth, and oh what lovely fruit. Black plums, the darkest you can find here in Spain with blackberry again and for me a little black cherry too, with that slight liquorice reference on the finish. Cracking wine!

And finally the Losada Godello white wine – a variety which for me, although with different taste and flavour characteristics, easily equals and can surpass Albariño, often considered white wine royalty!

This wine is made from 100% Godello from the San Esteban Estate. The wine has had one month in French oak, which has added depth and complexity, rather than much flavour – the winemaker obviously wanting to celebrate the fruit of the grapes. And that fruit? Well, citrus notes for sure, white grapefruit with some lemon as well as apple and pears. Again there’s that slight minerality to the wine, with a little floral/vegetal note on the nose, white flowers and a faint wild fennel whiff too.

Kept well chilled and sealed with an Avina wine stopper, we tasted the wine over three days, where we noticed that it retained its freshness, becoming a little more rounded and mouth filling, with the apple and pear coming more to the fore.

A really super triumvirate of wines from a bodega to watch –  www.losadavinosdefinca.com

NB My next Wine Show on Valley FM (www.valleyfm.es) will be Saturday 6th June, 12 – 1 pm CET

colin@colinharknessonwine.com  Facebook Colin Harkness

Twitter @colinonwine  Instagram colinharkness53

Please don’t forget my monthly Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es – it’s always the First Saturday of the Month, from 12:00 hrs – 13:00 hrs CET. You’ll find some great wines tasted on-air; top music; fun chat; and lotsa informal wine info! Hope you can join us soon!