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Bodegas Finca Antigua, DO La Mancha

Like many of Spain’s bodegas, as regular Cork Talk readers will know, they are being driven by winemakers who have a grounding in the family tradition of wine-making, supported by modern technology and methods. It works!

FINCA ANTIGUA

REFLECTING THE SOUL OF THE VINEYARD

 

Terroir – ‘The complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.’

Terroir – ‘The characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.’

 

(Incidentally, whilst hesitating to imply that the renowned Mr. Oxford may have missed something here [I’m only from the North, after all!], I’d add ‘aroma’ to the second definition.)

 

Well, you can pick either, and indeed both, arriving, like the Oxford Dictionary definitions above, at a reasonable explanation of what this mystical, French word actually means.

 

Or you could simply buy a couple of bottles of wine from Bodegas Finca Antigua and taste what ‘terroir’ is all about!

My recent guest on the Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme (see below) was Señor Diego Martínez, the much traveled Sales Director of the winery in question, and an obvious natural for radio guesting! Having received two different wines by post a few weeks before, and having tasted them, claro, I was delighted to see that Diego had brought with him two more wines to taste live on-air.

 

Not only this, but he’d also brought with him a Magnum bottle of Reserva Red Wine from the officially declared ‘Excellent’ vintage 2010 – as a prize for the first listener to text the answer to a simple question during the show. (I often have a prize to give away on the show, makes it even more worth listening in!).

 

Over recent years I’ve tasted several of the wines from this young and vibrant bodega, which is part of the Familia Martinez. You won’t find them in supermarkets – they are a cut above the norm, re quality, so they are distributed only by dedicated wine shops, as well as a busy on-line business (http://www.shopfamiliamartinezbujanda.com/en/) and their corporate sales to the restaurant/hotel trade. When you do see them – you can’t miss them!

 

The clue, of course, is in the name – Finca Antigua alludes to an old farmhouse, and indeed, the state-of-the-modern-art structure is in the same area where once there was an old farmhouse. It’s no coincidence that an opening line on their website reads: ‘El llave de los sueños’ – the key to dreams! On the labels of all the wines there is an image of an ancient metal key, and it’s this key that was given to the Martínez Bujanda family when they decided to purchase the property at the beginning of the 21st Century.

 

It’s a nice touch – the combination of ancient tradition and modernity embodied in the image of the key, and in the wines too. Like many of Spain’s bodegas, as regular Cork Talk readers will know, they are being driven by winemakers who have a grounding in the family tradition of wine-making, supported by modern technology and methods. It works!

 

I tasted the Finca Antigua dry white wine in a quiet moment on the radio programme a couple of weeks before Diego’s show – though I wasn’t quiet about it for long! I wasn’t sure what to expect – Viura isn’t really my favourite Spanish white wine variety. However, I did note that the label told me it was ‘sobre lias’, on its lees.

 

It’s something to look out for when choosing your wines. If you’re not sure what this means, it can be described as keeping the sediment in the tank and regularly stirring them, so that from bright and clear, the wine inside becomes cloudy. It’s not what we want in a bottle of wine, less still in a glass, but when in tank (or in barrel) this is a beneficial strategy.

Before bottling, the sediment (the lees) are allowed to sink to the bottom, the clear wine is extracted and of course we have a perfectly bright and clear bottle and glass of white wine, though now with an extra dimension. Stirring the lees like this adds structure to the finished wine and a certain creamy texture. As I’ve said before, Viura needs a little help, and this does the trick. Super white wine!

 

Diego and I tasted the Syrah Crianza 2013 first. Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of Spanish Syrah. Whilst in its natural home, the Rhône valley, France, there have been years when there has been insufficient sunshine to fully ripen the grapes, this is never the case here in Spain. That said, we don’t want to lose some of the peppery spice that is a common tasting note for French Syrah, because the grapes become too ripe. Well, Finca Antigua has the answer – the Syrah vines have plenty of hours of sunshine, but at 900m above seal level. The best of both worlds resulting in a juicy, fresh wine, with a little spice, some mature tannin, an earthy quality and from the its ten months in oak some added character and depth too.

 

Finca Antigua Crianza Único 2011 is now drinking perfectly and I find myself anticipating the next vintage! Made with Cabernet, Syrah, Tempranillo and Merlot this wine, a single estate bottling, has been aged in a combination of French and American oak for 13 months. The fruit, that’s blackberry, damson and light and dark cherry, rises to the fore, but on the way your senses will be assailed (in the nicest possible way!) by a combination vanilla, slight coconut and coffee aroma, with a granite and wet stone or slate minerality as well as a very slight reference to disturbed leafy undergrowth.

Finally, though a difficult choice, my favourite was the delightful Moscatel Naturally Sweet Dessert wine. The grapes are harvested at the same time as the rest of the plots but are then placed on mats to dry in the sunshine, thereby reducing the water content of the juice inside. The sugar rich, wrinkled grapes look more like raisons as they are pressed for their remaining juice.

The golden coloured finished wine is something of a sensation and an ideal way to end a fine dinner – with dessert, or mature cheeses, or why not just on its own?!

 

NB the link above also allows you to navigate to their impressive Wine Tourism portfolio.

 

The next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8 and www.totalfmn.es is on Sunday 16th July, 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, when I’ll be chatting with Nicola Thornton, Co-founder and Export Director of Spanish Palate, Wine Négociant and Distributor.

Spanish Palate – French Négociant Concept Comes to Spain!

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting the full range of six wines at a Musical Dinner with Paired Wines and beautiful music from www.clairemarie.es. A perfect fit!

 

MUDDY BOOTS AND WINE

 

The French have been making a significant contribution to the wine world for centuries. Nowadays there are wonderful wines from many parts of the world, of course (Spain included, seguro) but there are many who still use top Bordeaux and Burgundy as yardsticks by which all others are measured.

 

French has also been prominent in the development of the English language. Since the Norman Conquest and the consequent influx of the French Nobility, French has impacted on English. This is true of ‘wine language’ too. Think of the wonderful, seemingly catch-all word ‘terroir’, meaning all external influences on a vineyard – the soil, micro-climate et al (French comes from Latin, be fair!). Think also of the French word Négociant, which, in reality, is more of a concept than just a simple word.

 

Wikipedia defines a ‘Négociant’ as ‘. .  the French term for a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name. Négociants buy everything from grapes, to grape must, to wines in various states of completion. In the case of grapes or must, the Négociant performs virtually all the winemaking.

 

There’s many a fortune been made by ‘savvy’ French Négociants over the years. Historically mostly men, but in more recent times, women too, who have the wine-making know-how, the wherewithal and, indeed, the wine appreciation and business nose to be able predict (and sometimes lead) market demands.

 

In Spain, the concept as well as the personnel, are not so well known. Enter Nicola Thornton, her business partner, wine-maker Álvaro Martín, and their joint venture ‘Spanish Palate’ (www.spanishpalate.net). They’re not the only Negociants successfully working in Spain, nor the first, but I’m not sure that there are many more successful!

 

Spanish Palate sells wine from a number of specially selected bodegas, in various different zones of Spain – regular readers will know of several of their wines, having been showcased here in Cork Talk, since the company’s inception, perhaps four years ago. However, they also have a portfolio of wines made in boutique bodegas in six different areas of Spain, from the famous area of, for example DOCa Rioja, to the hardly known area of DOP Almansa.

 

The Botas de Barro (Muddy Boots) range of wines are made by Álvaro and Nicola in partnership with the bodegas in question, just like the French Négociants of yesteryear. In their opening spiel, Nicola writes about the number of muddy boots that have walked the vineyards for generations whilst their owners have toiled in all weathers. There’s a certain, comforting continuity abut this project, which is sure to bring the associated bodegas to a new level of prominence.

 

And I don’t think I’m alone in this prediction – recently I had the pleasure of presenting the full range of six wines at a Musical Dinner with Paired Wines and beautiful music from www.clairemarie.es. A perfect fit!

 

Although there is a certain suggested order in which wines should be tasted, at an event such as this, it’s fine to walk on the wild side a little. Meaty and vegetarian starters were paired with two Spanish Palate reds, the fish course that followed, with the only white in the range, and so on. Unusual, I grant you, but it worked.

 

Nicola first started her wine journey in Toro. Appointed as Export Director at one DOP Toro bodega, the company was bought, the philosophy changed and, out of the blue, and never more timely, she was headhunted by the well established and excellent Bodegas Fariña, nearby. It’s a long story, written in Cork Talk before, but I mention now as it is perhaps a natural development that Nicola, having decided to branch out on her own, after so many highly successful and loyal years, should start her Négociant business working in tandem with a small producer in the same area.

 

So, I wanted to start our presentation with a wine from DOP Toro too. This wine is made from very old vines, 80 – 100 years of age. It’s had ten months in  oak, five in French and five in American. It’s an expressive wine with some dark brambly fruit and maybe a trace of liquorice. It went very well with the selection of dried meats, and on the night, was the equal favourite of the tasting.

The Botas de Barro Ribera del Duero is made from centenary vines – and there aren’t many of those in this ever more popular area of production! This is what would be called a ‘Roble’ wine, some oak influence, but not much. There’s a lovely aroma of Granny’s blackcurrant jam, though without the sugar. We had this wine with vegetarian cocas and small flavoursome sausages.

Our next course was Lubina, Sea Bass, and it’s here that we tried the only white wine in the portfolio (I’m going to ask Nocola if it might be possible to find a willing bodega in DO Valdeorras – I think a 100% Godello would be good to add to this range!). Rueda is the area, so you can guess the variety – Verdejo, of course. Aromatic, claro, with a little cream on the nose and certainly a creamy texture, following its three months of lees ageing.

Our vinous tour of Spain then took us to DOCa Rioja – where we tasted a 100% Tempranillo, not so common in this area famous for this variety, as it’s often blended with others in Rioja. Twelve months in oak and a further year in bottle qualifies it for Crianza status, though there’s no mention of this on the label – part of a modern trend. Dark cherries along with typical strawberry notes, and a sturdy backbone to let you know it’s a serious wine!

 

Monastrell from 60 year old vines in DO Jumilla went rather nicely with the Spanish beef steak and was typically (for Monastrell) a lovely juicy mouthful of plums and damsons. I’d like to taste this particular wine in a year’s time, when I think it will have developed a little more.

 

Finally, with a cheese course, and then, as a surprise from the restaurant, with some chocolate bizcocho, our other most preferred wine o the night – coming from the largely (until now) unheralded DOP Almansa, made with this distinct variety, Garnacha Tintorera, whose flesh is also a soft red colour, giving rise to an intensely dark coloured red wine. It’s had just four months in oak to give is some extra character and, well, it’s lovely!

NB! The next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine programme on Total FM 91.8 and www.totalfm.es Sunday 16th July 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, features the Botas De Barro co-founder, Nicola Thornton (see above) – we’ll be tasting some of these wines and pairing them with fine food too! Great fun, super music, wine and food tasting, info and chat – can it get any better? Please join us!

Spanish Wine Tourism Part Two

Fast forward to these days and there are many sublime wine tours on which people can go. I’ve tasted wines onboard a boat on a short river journey as part of a tour; the same, but this time in a hot air baloon; on a subterranian train; in the ancient cellar from which Columbus bought his wines; and again in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage (it’s all on my TV series, DVD copies available!).

WINE TOURISM PART TWO

 

This week I’m celebrating again the encouraging success story of Spanish Wine Tourism, a now burgeoning, integral part of the Spanish Wine Industry!

 

A recent article (archived here www.colinharknessonwine.com click Articles) proudly reported on a considerable percentage increase in Spanish Wine Tourism, in terms of both number of visitors, and in revenue. Enoturismo now rocks and I’d like to expand on how, and what’s now available, after humble, and occasionally dreadful beginnings!

 

I’ll start with two laughable (that’s now – neither I nor my clients found it so amusing at the time!) incidents in the very early days.

 

Although I’d had a house on the Costa Blanca for a number of years before I moved here, 20 years ago this coming August, I was pretty green when arriving to make Spain my new home. Yes, I liked the sun, the prices and the layback feel of the place. However, I wasn’t one to be content withy just that, nice as it was. I needed to travel a little and see more of Spain.

 

Wine was an ‘in’ for me. I came armed with a pretty good knowledge of wine in general having passed the first of a possible four-part journey to Master of Wine status, but I didn’t know enough about Spanish wine. As it happened, it was this thirst for knowledge and experience of the wines of my new adoptive country that really stopped me taking the next steps to attempt to become an MW. It was clear that there was enough to learn here, as well, of course, as a huge variety in wines to taste!

 

I started on a crash course re Spanish wines and was soon pleased to see that part of the itinerary of a day trip I’d seen advertised included a visit to a winery. It was to be my first wine tour, and was certainly a cathartic moment. The day was fine, the bodega visit, a disaster – I knew I could do better, much better!

 

I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say it started badly, and failed! In a warehouse whose temperature must have been over 30ºC (I cringe nowadays to think of the poor wines!) we were offered a tiny white plastic cup of undrinkable wine drawn from some sort of receptacle by an old chap, who clearly would have preferred to be finishing his siesta and whose cigarette dropped ash around the wine, and occasionally in it too!

 

That said, not all the trips I subsequently organized with my own small business went perfectly.

 

We arrived in mid-Spain – for fear of being sued, I think I’ll leave the location at that – 55 of us, ready for a tour and some refreshing wine. This was a bodega whose wines were doing well (I’d tasted several) and had made a commitment to wine tourism. Part of the tour was around the as yet unfinished visitor centre, impressive already with its stone façade, sweeping staircase etc.

 

I wasn’t dismayed to the shown into the far smaller, converted finca building that wasn’t large enough for our tasting, this was a period of transition – rustic, was how I put it. However, the tasting went dreadfully downhill from there! Plastic cups again, only two wines tasted, nowhere near the correct temperature, and, worst of all, it was clear that these were their worst wines, the ones they needed to get rid of!

 

Despite my advising that this was not at all representative of the fine wines that the bodega made, and my apologies for such a shabby tasting, I was the only one who bought wine! Not, of course, the foul brews that we’d been given, but the good quality stuff that I knew. Unbelievably bad business!

 

Well – that was the ridiculous, and a long time ago; now I’m moving to nowadays, and the sublime!

 

Firstly, to briefly track the development of Enoturismo, following the end of the first part of this two part success story.  The wineries who were the first to cotton on to the fact that there was money to be made from wine tourism, started to commit to it. A mini-budget would be allocated – glasses would be required, for example. Some realised early on, that at least one toilet would be needed!

 

And so it went. Gradually bodegas established Wine Tourism Departments, English speaking staff were at a premium, even better if they had a personality and were charming! Roads were widened (and tarmacced!); entrances were made grander and larger, allowing coach access; car parks were extended, re-surfaced and marked, often with mini-walls or hedges; floral gardens developed, roses were popular because of their association with vine growing, perhaps with some herbs for the olive oils mentioned in the first article, and why not a centenary olive tree, uprooted and repositioned (don’t worry, no olive trees have been harmed for the purposes of this article!).

 

Fast forward to these days and there are many sublime wine tours on which people can go. I’ve tasted wines onboard a boat on a short river journey as part of a tour; the same,  but this time in a hot air baloon; on a subterranian train; in the ancient cellar from which Colombus bought his wines; and again in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage (it’s all on my TV series, DVD copies available!).

 

Many tours include amazing architecture, look at the ultra-modern Marqués de Riscal  building, housing the outstanding restaurant and hotel; and contrast this with the beautiful, almost castle-like building that is Rioja’s oldest bodega, Marqués de Murrieta. Wine tourism can also include visits to historical and cultural centres nearby as well as world famous fiestas, such as the wonderful Horse Fair of Jerez, being included.

 

Wherever you go (I can help here by the way!) you are sure to be welcomed with open arms and nicely charged wine glasses, assailed, in the nicest possible way, with the history of the bodega, its philosophy, its fine wines, its own particular style and spin, and very often the fine cuisine of its restaurant! As I said, Wine Tourism in Spain rocks – so why not go out there and taste it!

 

Next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8 & online www.totalfm.es is Sunday 4th June 6pm – 8pm. Great Music, Restaurant and Wine Chat – why not join me?!

I’ve been involved in this industry since before it was ever recognised officially as such, and indeed, since even the name Enoturismo had been coined! Thus I have a natural interest in its development, the more so, as I continue to work within the sector.

WINE TOURISM IN SPAIN

 

I’m delighted to read that in 2016 Wine Tourism in Spain, Enoturismo, registered an increase of 21% on the previous year. in terms of visitors, as well as an almost 11% rise in revenue.

 

I’ve been involved in this industry since before it was ever recognised officially as such, and indeed, since even the name Enoturismo had been coined! Thus I have a natural interest in its development, the more so, as I continue to work within the sector.

 

When the bad, sad old days of the recession started (known here, rather appropriately,  as ´La Crisis’) the wine industry, in common with most other sectors suffered diminished sales, and expectations too. I say ‘most’ because in such times there are industries that do the opposite – rather than contract, they expand.

 

An example is the DIY trade – folk who find that their income no longer supports a budget for home improvements exectuted by the professionals, often turn to ‘doing it themselves’. (I include even myself here, a guy who is totally inept at all things DIY)

 

Another sector that benefits in times of ‘crisis’ is the BBQ industry – sales of BBQ equipment increase as those who like to dine out, start to feel the pinch. Related here, of course, are the butchers, whose domestic sales rise while their ‘trade’ sales decline, perhaps therefore, whilst not registering increased revenue, they at least maintain their levels. Which, in hard times, is also a result.

 

The wine industry, like most sectors, began to suffer. The first things abandoned in such times are the luxuries – sadly, wine is considered to be one that can be done without. Bottle sales decrease, but the winery still needs to harvest its crop and make the resulting wine. It still has to replace its barrels and it still needs to retain staff, service equipment and so on.

 

So Plan A – ‘make wine and sell it’, had to be revised. Plan B came about, often in two phases. How many readers noticed, as did I, that, gradually, there were more bodegas selling Extra Virgin Olive Oil as well as their wines? Well, it’s a natural progression in a way – many bodegas are founded on old fincas which originally made wine from the vineyards and oil from the olive trees, for the family.

 

Wine production became the best bet for commercial revenue, so efforts and resources were directed towards the vines, relegating the olives to the lesser role of simply providing oil for the family.

 

A marketing opportunity arises for the cash-strapped wineries – let’s try and supplement declining wine sales by selling ‘Prestige Finca Olive Oil’. Let’s also use the wild Rosemary et al to add to the olive oil and diversify still further. Phase One.

 

Phase Two, was really only for those who had the wherewithal – the bodegas who could afford it, realised the way forward re wine sales was to expand horizons. Whilst many countries in Europe, and further afield, were also suffering from recession, other countries were enjoying an improving economy, with some actually booming!

 

These were the countries into whose markets Spanish wine producers had to make inroads. Emmisaries were despatched and over time clients were gained and sales achieved. No doubt these lucky bodegas were also selling their prestige olive oil there too!

 

Clearly though, a Plan C was needed for those who weren’t able to evolve as above, and indeed for those above too. Wine Tourism had found a raison d’etre! But not yet, the name!

 

The development was gradual. Most bodegas initially dipped a toe into the water. With some, it was just the little toe, manifesting itself as simply a sign in the grass verge at the entrance to the winery advising ‘Visitors Welcome’. Some went for the big toe option, though nevertheless still hardly dynamic, perhaps advising travel firms that they were open for group visits, with maybe the occasional advert in the local or regional papers.

 

However, those producers who could see the potential, went for full body immersion! Firstly, the above, but also with a changed job description, perhaps for the ‘commercial’, the sales rep, who was spending too much time in those days kicking his heels instead of selling his wines. He (usually, there has been a dramatic sex change [in a manner of speaking!] during the intervening years, with the fairer sex far out-numbering men these days!) would now also be I/C visitors.

 

From an often, uninspiring, and always humble start, during the intervening years there have been amazing, occasionally incredible, developments in this, now integral, part of the majority of wine businesses in Spain. Part Two of this article will be published soon, entertaining readers with some of the risible experiences that I suffered when visiting bodegas in the early embryonic past, right through to the present day, giving you some very positive ideas as to how you can take advantage!

 

NB There may be a few places left for the already almost full (at time of writing) Musical Dinner with Wine Paring and Claire-Marie (www.clairemarie.es) at Restaurante Casa Cantó, Benissa, Friday 12th May. Please call me on 629 388 159.

 

Next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8 & www.totalfm.es is on Sunday 21st May 18:00 – 20:00 hrs when, talking of Wine Tourism, my guests will be Kathrine and Harald, of Bodegas & Boutique Hotel, Casa Boquera, Yecla.