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Bodegas Jorge Piernas – The Wines!

Vineyards have their own personality – odd though that sounds. So do vines – even stranger?

BODEGAS JORGE PIERNAS

PART TWO

If you missed Part One (Wines With Legs) you might like to read it here www.colinharknessonwine.com click Articles – it’s an interesting story!

 

Vineyards have their own personality – odd though that sounds. So do vines – even stranger? Let me explain: you may have seen the Oz Clarke/James May wine series of a few years back. Although I often found the director’s stage-managing of the programmes rather irritating (they dumbed-down James May trying to make him into an uncultured guy, when he clearly isn’t!) I did enjoy them, learning from them too.

 

Well, James ‘learned to his astonishment’ (yeah, right!) that there can be remarkable differences between two adjacent vineyards separated only by a hardly used road. Same vines, same age, same production methods etc, but producing very different wines. Each vineyard has its own personality.

The same can apply to vines. Exhibit A is the WHITE Tempranillo variety found growing happily in the same vineyard as all of its fellow red Tempranillo vines at the end of the 20th Century. Over decades it had mutated from red to white! Cuttings were taken, once it had been declared a wholly distinct variety from its red cousin, others were sought and now there are whole vineyards planted with Tempranillo White Grapes! (Watch this space for my take on wines made with this ‘new’ variety).

 

Also in Rioja, some years ago I was taken to a famous bodega where I learned the story behind one particular wine, in fact the flagship wine of an already acknowledged producer of excellent red Rioja wines. Some years previously the Head Winemaker, when doing the rounds of the vineyards, stopping and tasting the grapes from various vines, as part of the process by which the optimum harvest time is decided, found one vine whose grapes had a totally different taste profile to all those surrounding it.

 

He searched through all of the plots and discovered that there were others whose flavour was the same – wholly out of synch with their near neighbours. There were enough such distinctly different vines to make a special wine – an icon was born (at about 150€ per bottle, incidentally!).

 

I was amazed to learn from Antonio that a similar scenario is being played out in the vineyards of Bodegas Jorge Piernas! I asked Antonio why it was that certain vines (still leafless at that time) had a marker by them. Well, you know the answer now! There may be enough to make a special wine now, but there certainly will be in the future – the adjacent field has been bought and the offspring of the identified vines will be planted there. Again, watch this space – I have to try this wine, when it eventually becomes available!

Fast forward from the cold vineyards to the bodega, where the wine is made – but when you visit, don’t expect a rustic old finca, modernised for purpose. Bodegas Jorge Piernas is housed in one of the very modern warehouses on an industrial estate in nearby Mula! Romantic it ain’t! But it certainly serves its purpose, for it is here where I tasted their wines, and this in several different stages of development.

First up was a 2016 vintage Syrah tank sample, taken as I watched from a steel fermentation vessel, now being used to store the wine under perfect conditions, ready for its next stage in a short time. On the nose blackberries, initially, very fruity and soon joined by black cherries on the palate. A lovely wine to drink now –  but, no, it’s not for sale, yet.

 

It will have its time in French Oak 500 litre barrels and then blended with Monastrell, which will have gone to a similar process. The mix will be 70% Monastrell and the rest Syrah. In the soils and climate of Bullas it’s a winning blend – when I was there recently I tasted several wines made with these two varieties, and like them all.

 

Next I tasted the aforementioned Monastrell, the 2016, which had been placed in the barrel, from which my sample was drawn, just three months before. Extremely fruity, again, with a little complexity following even a short time in barrica. I’m told that it will be in oak for a maximum of only 5 months. Dark cherries again and a touch spicy with a little minerality.

 

I next tried another barrel sample – the same harvest of Monastrell, but in a different French oak – and there are other different oaks too! This is because Jorge is trying to get the balance perfect for what he wants. Don’t be concerned about talk about the wood, whichever the balance decided upon, the wood will only ever be there to add some body and complexity. It will never be allowed to mask the pure fruit, which is the mark of this bodega.

This wine was different – it goes to show how oak barrels can be different. I’d say that wine aged in this oak would need a little more time to mellow and reach their optimum drinking time. Compared to the first barrel sample it was a little more tannic and a touch greener, not quite there yet. My guess therefore is that there will be a blend between not just the Monastrell and the Syrah, but also the Monastrells that are aged in  the different barrels!

 

Finally, after several barrel samples, like the above, the flagship wine, Juan Piernas, in the Burgundy style bottle, priced at the moment at about 25€ (the first wine, the 2015 vintage, tasted after the above, and called Sinesquema, retails at about 15€). The 100% Monastrell grapes which came from the highest plot (800 metres) were fermented in steel then placed in French oak barrels, Jorge believes French oak is the best for Monastrell!

 

This wine is outstanding. It celebrates the perfect harmony of elegance and power. Lots of dark plums, some juicy damsons with black cherry in there too. An element of spice and a little earthiness. A wine labeled solely as ‘Red Wine From Spain’, can’t be this excellent – can it? (www.jorgepiernas.com)

 

NB There’s a multi-medalled wine from DO Yecla up for grabs on the Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Sunday 21st May! 20 years in the Spanish Wine Scene and I’ve not known a new wine to be entered for its first three competitions ever and win a medal in each! That’s 2 Golds and a Silver! Bodegas Casa Boquera Joven Monastrell will be tasted live on-air and there’ll be another bottle given away to the first listener to answer a simple question during the programme. Just text (00 34) 629 388 159. Show starts 18:00 – 20:00 hrs www.totalfm.es and Total FM 91.8

Bodegas Jorge Piernes

Nowadays in Spain the new generation of winemakers, well those with the wherewithal at least, often leave the country of their birth to work various internships in order to gather more experience and to learn new/different techniques . . .

WINES WITH LEGS

FROM BODEGAS JORGE PIERNAS

It’s largely an obsolete term nowadays, but there was a time when wines were sometimes referred to as having ‘good legs’. If holding a glass of wine at an angle you’ll note it ‘lining’ the glass when you return it to the vertical. After a while it will start to drip at various places, these are called, rather romantically, the tears, or sometimes the legs.

 

They relate solely to the alcohol content of the wine are not an indicator of quality. However, firstly, I couldn’t resist the title above – many readers will know that the Spanish word for legs, is ‘piernas’; and, in this case, the wines of Jorge Piernas, do have ‘good legs’ – and they are of exceptional quality!

 

When I visited Bodegas Jorge Piernas in the sleepy, but now awakening Bullas area, the man himself was in South Africa! Nowadays in Spain the new generation of winemakers, well those with the wherewithal at least, often leave the country of their birth to work various internships in order to gather more experience and to learn new/different techniques.

As I’ve said before in Cork Talk, this is an amalgamation of knowledge and experience – they learn firstly from the generation(s) that preceded them; then it’s off to University/Wine College to study the science etc and receive their degrees/diplomas; then they get their hands dirty whilst performing back-breaking pruning etc in the vineyards; then they are party to the making of the wine, wherever they may be, under the direction of the head winemaker – in whatever language! Fascinating, and rewarding for them – and ultimately for us, the consumers!

 

When young Spaniards follow this route into Europe, it’s hard for those left at the bodega – the strong and committed youngsters can’t pull their weight, if they’re not there.  In fact they’re doing that, for somebody else! So, as the various facets of the wine season are wholly different in the Southern Hemisphere, if a young buck can find a placement down south, it really is the best of both worlds/hemispheres!

 

Jorge Piernas has done both! To name but a few Jorge has worked vintages in: New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa in the south; USA in the north, as well as different European countries, including Spain’s La Rioja where I believe he helped make the legendary wines of Bodegas Artardi – who have now left the DOCa Rioja! And, here, there may be a link!

 

Whilst the wines from Jorge Piernas (currently there are just two in the portfolio, but what wines!) come from 40+ yrs old vines near Bullas, and are crafted about 20k away in Mula, they have eschewed the idea of bringing their bodega under the auspices of DOP Bullas, to the apparent chagrin, I think, of the Consejo Regulador. Thus their wines are labeled simply as ‘Red Wine Produced in Spain! But don’t let that be a concern, their top wine is priced, economically in my view, given its quality, at about 25€. We aint talking also-ran Vino de la Mesa here!

Ten, and more, years ago, in Spain, such move might have been considered tantamount to being suicidal. To have made a wine considered to be at the quality level of a Denominación de Origen and to be able to place the name of that DO on your label, was a real sign of success.

 

It still is – mostly! But there are other wines, as Cork Talk readers know, that are made independent of the protection and also the constraints of the local DO that are equally good, and sometimes, often(?), better. Wines labeled VdlT (Vino de la Tierra) for example have oft been championed in this column. Also, I know of one wine which was labeled Vino de la Mesa, yet was the flagship wine of the bodega, selling at 35€/bottle.

 

Also, more and more often we are hearing the term ‘Vino d’Autor’ – in other words a wine that the head winemaker wants to make, according to his requirements, full stop! If the result ticks the various DO boxes, all well and good; if not, well that’s good too. For example, as written here a few months ago, we are seeing fewer producers putting ‘Crianza’ and ‘Reserva’ on their wines these days – they may fulfill the necessary requirements but the winemaker would prefer to be aligned with more modern ideology.

‘Parcelario’ wines is a fairly new term, but gaining in use. In fact, it’s more likely, given that English is the language of wine commerce, that the translation would be used, ‘Single Estate’ wines. And this, my friends leads me, you’ll be glad to know, to the Parcelario Vino d’Autor wines of Jorge Piernas!

 

Jorge was away as you know, but his father Antonio, stepped into the breach – well firstly the vineyard and then the bodega facility!  Like father, like son – both are clearly passionate about their, well, passion! I enjoyed talking wine for the whole time but I had to be careful to remain impartial later when tasting, so contagious was Antonio’s fervor!

 

It was a privilege to be given the premium tasting, and fascinating too! However, space restrictions don’t allow me to give full justice to such a tasting, despite their nominally being only two wines produced here! You’ll read why, next week! Don’t miss it, these wines are outstanding!     (www.jorgepiernas.com)

 

Contact colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com  www.colinharknessonwine.com  Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness

 

The next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8, sponsored by Bodegas & Boutique Hotel, Casa Boquera (www.casaboquera.es), will be on Sunday 21st May from 18:00 – 20:00 hrs. My studio guests are founders, Katherine and Harald, and I will be chatting about this young bodega, it’s two Gold Medals for their first wine(!), the luxury hotel and their plans for the future!

BODEGAS ENRIQUE MENDOZA

Despite the critics of the time (the generation before mine, I hastily point out) pronouncing that good quality wine was not possible in the Alicante region, Enrique and sons set about proving them well-wrong!

ALL THE BEST STORIES START WITH A PLOT

BODEGAS ENRIQUE MENDOZA

Our intrepid and thirsty group arrives at Bodegas Enrique Mendoza!

It is far better to travel to a winery for a tour, and crucially, a tasting, with somebody else driving! The more so, when the winery is as generous in terms of numbers of wines to be tasted and the amounts poured! Therefore, and please take note if you are in the area, I’ll be doing this again!

 

It was really the ‘appearance’ of Pepe, award winning winemaker, and eldest son of the founder, Enrique Mendoza, on my radio programme (www.totalfm.es alternate Sundays 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, next show April 23rd) recently that was the catalyst of my advertising a visit to Bodegas Enrique Mendoza. Pepe was such an animated and passionate guest who clearly enjoyed his two hours of broadcasting fame, that his enthusiasm was really quite contagious.

When our mixed nationality group of intrepid travelers (well, not that intrepid, it was only down the road!) arrived we were met, in perfect English, by tour guide, Marta, who during the course of the visit was elevated, in my book, to be one of the best in the business – and in twenty years, I’ve worked with many.

 

Marta explained that, following local farming tradition, Enrique Mendoza decided to give a ‘plot’ (all the best stories . . . , are you following?!) of land to his first born, Pepe in fact. Having always been interested in grapes and the family wine, Pepe elected to plant vines. Soon, the family had 2,000 litres of wine to keep them going. And, when second son also planted vines, well, there was more than enough to give to friends also.

And, yes, you’ve guessed it, when the 3rd son also planted vines, the 10,000 litres of wine now being produced, forced the family to contemplate a journey into the unknown – commercial wine-making! They’ve never looked back and little did they know that, very altruistically, they were also paving the way for others in the Alicante DOP to follow. Despite the critics of the time (the generation before mine, I hastily point out) pronouncing that good quality wine was not possible in the Alicante region, Enrique and sons set about proving them well-wrong!

 

The principle vineyards for the Mendoza wines are located up in the hills inland from Villena, in fact quite close to the start of the DOP Yecla. In part support of those nay-saying critics of another generation, I can understand why it is that they believed that fine wine cannot be made in Alicante. They clearly hadn’t visited inland.

 

Sure, making certainly top quality red wine near to the coast would be practically impossible. However, inland there is a wholly different climate, helped, of course, by the difference in altitude. The Mendoza vineyards around Villena are at about 700+ metres above sea level (which, incidentally, is measured for the whole of Spain from a post placed inside the Ayuntamiento of Alicante).

In these plots Mendoza Bros. have planted their red wine grape varieties as well as Chardonnay. Nevertheless there are vineyards that surround the bodega in Alfaz. The vines growing here are Moscatel, used for making the luscious dessert white wines, which, though sweet, of course, still have a crisp acidity coursing through them, making them ideal for pairing with semi and curado cheeses, as well as for desserts.

 

These vineyards are also an ideal place to show visitors some of the strategies and technology that help make Mendoza wines the medal winners that they are. The vines are sprayed with a sulphor and cinnamon mixture which keeps fungus, and spiders, at bay! The now oft used ‘sexual confusion’ bands that are placed on a branch every few vines, were largely pioneered here, and are very effective at controlling a certain moth that is deadly to grapes.

Here too is a weather station which records the rainfall, temperatures and humidity – all very relevant re the comfort of the vines. Plus, and here’s where modern technology step into the fray, there are sensors inserted into the soil which detect if the vines are suffering any unnecessary stress through lack of water. Expensive, yes; effective – well just taste the wines!

 

Speaking of which – I’d arranged with Marta to taste 6 different wines, the penultimate of which was to be one of their three flagship wines, and a personal favourite of mine, Estrecho – made with 100% Monastrell.

 

All went to plan, initially! We tasted the 2016 barrel fermented Chardonnay, which I thought lovely – a chilled white with good fruit and an extra dimension because of the 3 or so months in oak, to start proceedings. Then, as expected we tasted Enrique Mendoza Petit Verdot 2013 which has had a quite long 15 months in oak barricas, though you’d never suspect this, as the wood adds complexity, and a little flavour and aroma, but does not at all mask the fruit, which was clearly picked at the optimum time.

It was then that we went slightly off-piste – and I’m not complaining, as you’ll see! It was an honour for us all to meet the bodega’s founder, Señor Enrique Mendoza himself, who came amongst us – bearing bottles of the legendary Santa Rosa 2012 (needless to say one of the other flagship wines!)

 

I was astonished as there is in fact none of this wine left to sell – these bottles had come directly from Pepe Mendoza’s own private cellar, Pepe having asked his father to do this as he was expecting to be delayed and not able to join us! Most, generous indeed – but there’s more!

 

In fact a short  time later Pepe also arrived and joined his father, clutching the third of the three top, top Mendoza wines – Quebradas 2011, which is also sold out! Our cup ranneth over, that’s figuratively speaking – you don’t spill wines of this quality!

Colin’s next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on www.totalfm.es is Sunday 7th May, 18:00 – 20:00 hrs. I’ll be chatting with my guest Diego, from Bodegas Finca Antigua, DO La Mancha, as well as tasting some of their wines – plus there’s a Magnum of Finca Antigua to be won!

 

A New Bodega & Boutique Hotel Opens In Yecla!

It’s not every day that one is invited to the inauguration of a brand new bodega here in Spain. The more so when the opening also includes a luxury boutique hotel, surrounded by its own nascent vineyards . . . .

BODEGAS & BOUTIQUE HOTEL CASA BOQUERA

It’s not every day that one is invited to the inauguration of a brand new bodega here in Spain. The more so when the opening also includes a luxury boutique hotel, surrounded by its own nascent vineyards. So, you can imagine my delight when founders, Katherine and Harald Schalde*, sent us an official invitation!

 

We weren’t alone! Local and national press and radio were represented (including, of course, the Costa News Group and Total FM!), along with regional television too. There were also representatives of DO Yecla as well as owners of the other bodegas in the area, who have welcomed the new kids on the block with open arms.

And why not? Although Casa Boquera could be considered competition to the established bodegas, this new concern also adds a highly attractive extra dimension to the area, from which all will benefit. The concept of wine tourism is already firmly embedded in the psyche of the wineries of DO Yecla. Now, however, with the arrival of the luxury hotel whose restaurant is driven by Michelin Starred Chef, Fran Martínez, Enoturismo has been taken to the next level!

 

And, of this, I can talk with experience. I will soon be taking a group of twenty wine, food, culture and travel enthusiasts to stay for three days at Casa Boquera, visiting and tasting their wines, of course, but also touring other top DO Yecla bodegas where we will also taste (claro) and lunch! Plus, located as it is, equidistant from Yecla and Jumilla, visitors to Casa Boquera will also be able to take in Jumilla’s fine wine bodegas with the same ease. Everyone’s a winner!

 

The sight of several ladies and gentlemen dressed in the national costume of Norway must have been quite startling to any of the locals who have not been following the progress of this new venture. The reason – well Harald is Norwegian, and his wife, Katherine, whilst being originally Welsh, might just as well be considered Norwegian too – even to the point that she has forgotten some words in English, having lived for so long in Norway!

Together they have been extremely successful in business back home – they must have been, as I dread to think of the extent of their financial investment in this new oh-so-impressive business in the sunshine of Spain! After visiting the coast of South East Spain frequently in years gone by they felt, each time they returned to Norway, that something was missing. Once they realised it was not just the weather, but also the culture and people of Spain that was calling them, they set about finding a way of enjoying the best of both worlds.

 

They had always liked the sunshine that seemed to be bottled along with the wine that they’d tasted from Yecla and the surrounding areas, and when they heard of a bodega that was for sale, as the owners had no descendants; a bodega that had been farming organically for many years with the certificates to prove it – well it must have seemed like a sign! The purchase was a short story, however, the project has been, and will continue to be, a long story.

Old and unproductive vines were taken out. New, young vines were planted, site specifically, three of four years ago. Queen Monastrell is the principal variety, supported by Garnacha Tintorera, Syrah and Petit Verdot for the reds, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel for white wine. The old finca that had housed the previous owners was used as a rather bucolic base camp for Katherine and Harald, and continues to be so, whilst the builders of the bodega and the hotel converged on the area set aside by the architect and design team.

 

Knowing that the date set aside for the official opening was 1st April, I initially visited on a cold, though sunny, January day when it was clear that there was still a lot to do. Were they being a little ambitious, I’d asked, considering the scale of the task yet to be completed. No, I was told, with unshakeable confidence, they were sure that all would be well for the Spring opening. And how right they were!

 

Katherine’s brother, also practically a Norwegian, played a very appropriate violin immediately before the ribbon (diplomatically decked out in the colours of the Spanish flag) was cut by their immensely proud father, whilst the, what 200 invited guests(?) looked on appreciatively. We were then invited into the pool area for cocktails whilst Claire Marie (www.clairemarie.es) sang her selection of classical and contemporary music as well as playing some flute favourites.

Some steps (as well as a ramp for disabled visitors – the hotel is very disabled friendly) led us all down to the courtyard where some impressive flamenco dancing took place, followed by a parade of those in Norwegian dress. Whilst excellent tapas (well they would be wouldn’t they, designed and cooked by such a chef!) were served, local, regional and national dignitaries and politicians addressed the crowd welcoming the newcomers and thanking them for their confidence in Spain in general, in Murcia and in Yecla specifically.

Plus, of course, the first ever wine made at Bodegas Casa Boquera, a rich, young red, was served copiously, along with white wine from nearby DO Jumilla, and beers etc, throughout the afternoon. The red wine, incidentally, was made by Casa Boquera’s Head Winemaker, Rafael Lopez Perez, from organic grapes bought in from local Yecla growers. The Casa Boquera vines are not quite mature enough to make wine, though their first, from their own vines will come on tap this vintage. Watch this space!

 

I knew what to expect with this wine, as I’d tasted it live on-air on Total FM with Harald and Katherine as my guests some weeks before. I’d considered it very good then and was gratified to hear my friend, Mariano, Head Winemaker at Bodegas Castaño (and surely one of the best at his trade in the whole of Spain) also praise the wine!

 

Our little group was then taken on a tour of the hotel by Katherine herself, as if she hadn’t enough to do! Well, luxurious alone, doesn’t really do Casa Boquera justice! It is stunningly beautiful! The rooms, termed Reserva and Grand Reserva are wonderful, all en suite, and all having superb views from their private terraces. Plus there is the private Grand Suite, which is amazing!

Some of us, and we count ourselves to be so lucky to be included, were also invited to the superb, gourmet dinner at night. Chef Fran Martínez had clearly been given carte blanche to design and cook imaginative, beautifully presented and delicious dishes, ably supported by the kitchen brigade he has himself trained. What a wonderful experience!

www.casaboquera.es

colin@colinharknessonwine.com www.colinharknessonwine.com @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

Please note: Katherine and Harald* will be returning to the Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme, Total FM 91.8 & www.totalfm.es, on Sunday 21st May, 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, to chat about their progress since opening!