Wine has been part of the DNA of Alicante since the Phoenicians came trading their amphorae as long ago as 1,000 years BC. They were followed by the Romans who set to work planting vineyards. The 16th and 17th Centuries saw a particularly booming trade – there was even a Royal Decree forbidding the import of foreign wines in an effort to promote Alicante wines still further.
Wine has been part of the fabric of everyday life for Alicantinos ever since. So it was no surprise that the wine makers of the time successfully applied for Denmoninación de Origin status in 1932. However, Alicante wines have had to climb something of a mountain in terms of national and international recognition – the fault, I am ashamed to say, of a generation or two of wine writers, before mine, I hasten to add.
Looking usually from afar, perhaps without even deigning to travel to Alicante, wine writers of previous generations would most likely dismiss the wines of this area, refusing to believe that in such a climate anything but sickly sweet whites and high alcohol bulk reds could be made. How wrong they were, and how right was one of the leading producers in DOP Alicante, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, to convince them of their errors.
Following Mendoza’s pioneering work with green pruning, early harvesting, vineyard selection, et al, other producers followed suit with the result that today, DOP Alicante wines are acclaimed all over the world. And rightly so. There is such a diversity of wine styles, so many different aroma and taste profiles coming from such a variety of indigenous and imported grape varieties, grown in so many multifarious locations and soils! What’s not to like?!
Unfortunately, in common with all other wine making regions of the world DOP Alicante has not escaped the Covid 19 pandemic unscathed. Sales nationally have diminished by a very worrying 60%, with exports also dropping by 40%. Such losses cannot be sustained of course and member bodegas have had to make cuts.
However, with typical resilience and a sense of camaraderie DOP Alicante members and officials of the Consejo Regulador are not taking it lying down. Whilst no events per se can be organised right now (which is a blow, as this DO has always been dynamic in organising promotional events), there are other means by which the DO can promote their members’ wines.
When I visited the Headquarters recently there was also a national TV crew there filming the President of the DO chatting, about this year’s harvest, plans for the future etc – as indeed was I. Also they’ve already started a series of videos shared on social media using very high profile wine celebrities, including my friend and colleague Sarah Jane Evans MW. My contact, Eladio Martín, Gerente, DOP Alicante told me that Social Media was the way forward in doing the best job possible for the member bodegas – and they are certainly active on all the usual platforms.
Look, for example at Terreta del Món Wine Academy on their website (vinosalicantedop.org), where you’ll see their videos helping people new to wine regarding how to taste like the professionals as well as discourses on Alicante wines by the professionals themselves!
So, whilst there are of course difficulties considering the current restrictions and falling sales owing to the pandemic, there is a feeling of positivity and optimism – and, considering the following wines, I know exactly why! DOP Alicante wines rock!
Sein 2018, with the beautiful label, a copy of antique tiles, is made by Vinessens, using Monastrell and Syrah a blend that works so well. Picota cherry in colour with dark fruits on the nose as well as toasty oak notes from the French barrels in which the wine has aged for 12 months. Fresh acidity and active tannin with a good fruit presence mean that this wine can age some more in bottle.
There are liquorice notes on the palate, with mature dark fruit – black cherry and blackberry, as well as a touch of dark chocolate on the palate.
Arbui from Bodegas Alejandro is a monovarietal wine made with indigenous Monastrell grapes. The wine has clearly enjoyed its 15 months in French oak, gaining depth of flavour, longevity and some toasted coconut notes on first opening. It’s a fruit driven, juicy red wine with flavours of dark plum, blackberry fruit and foliage, with some earthy minerality.
There’s also a note of caramel coming from the barrica which adds to the wine’s charm. It’s a meaty and yet elegant wine – we thought it went very well with fajitas and chilli con carne which had just a touch of dark chocolate as an ingredient, allying itself with the dark chocolate finish so often found in Monastrell wines. I’d recommend decanting this 2017 wine so that it gives all that it has to give from the first glass onwards.
Our final wine (for now!) was the oldest – a fine 2013 vintage using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Monastrell. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave this wine 92 points out of 100, describing it as a ‘Mediterranean Bordeaux’, which, I think, is very apt.
There are dark forest notes on the nose with some mountain herbs, a little laurel with thyme and drying, crushed rosemary. Blackcurrant fruit aided by blackberry and damson plum come to the fore with just a touch of mint. On the palate there is a meaty note, onion and mushroom gravy, mingling nicely with the dark fruits. 21 months in oak gives complexity and length, allowing for some further ageing yet. I can imagine that this is going to be wonderful with duck breast, as well as with steak and meat casseroles.
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