First Published Costa News Group, April 2012

FINCA LAS CARABALLAS

SUPER WINE FROM ENVIRONMENTALLY AWARE PHILOSOPHY

The scale of Alimentaria’s Wine Fair, even in these days of economic decline, is so vast it pays to have a plan, backed up by a relaxed reconnoitre before starting one’s research. Whilst pacing latitudinally and longitudinally throughout the first half of the huge Intervin Pavillion I couldn’t help but notice, each time I passed, the impressive fresh-looking, smile-filled stand with it’s stunning photos of eagles, owls and beautiful countryside, belonging to Finca la Caraballas, DO Rueda.

The two wines only, that they produce also seduced the passer-by with their innovative bottle shapes and delightful lime green colours The representatives of this fledgling bodega were very busy dealing with potential buyers and media types all keen to taste and learn more. Your columnist was unavoidably drawn to join the queue.

It was probably the Costa News Press Card dangling from my neck that brought about the quick attention I received amidst the throng and it was no doubt my English-accented, passable Spanish that brought forth their English speaking Sales Director, Estela Domínguez.

The bodega has been growing Verdejo and some Sauvignon Blanc grapes for several years under organic conditions and with total, very impressive, respect for the environment – from the soil in which the vines grow to the sky through which the magnificent array of bird-life fly. Two years ago they decided that it may be time to sell fewer grapes, keeping some to make their own wine.

Their first was so well received that they decided to increase capacity and make wine commercially. And they’ve doubled their portfolio of one style of wine: one, young and fresh, to now two wines; the second, a dessert wine crafted from Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo, in also attractive 50cl bottles

In Spain, and increasingly in the world export market, Rueda is a buzz-word for fresh, highly-scented, clean and flavoursome white wines. Wines which have some of the aroma and taste profiles of Sauvignon, which also grows very well in Rueda soils, but with an extra dimension too. Indeed, one of the quite large stands that I unfortunately didn’t have the time to visit was called “Verdejos of the World” – an indication that this indigenous Spanish variety is being appreciated in other countries as well.

It’s a variety that has had its problems in the past, chiefly the fact that it oxidises so quickly and that it suffers if it is not transported rapidly from the point of harvest to the bodega and is kept too long in hot temperatures. Technology and a change of harvesting technique and timing have saved the day. Often these grapes, on reaching maturity on the vine, are harvested at night time when there’s no sun and temperatures are as low as they can be at this time of the year. Then they are hastily transported to the temperature controlled atmosphere of the bodega in refridgerated trucks.

When in the bodega the fermentation is carried out quickly in stainless steel tanks whose oxygen has been ejected by pumping in an inert gas, under which normal fermentation occurs. Bingo – a wine that was likely to start turning to a unpleasant poor cousin of sherry, on the fast track to becoming vinegar, was transformed into a super dry white.

Also wine-makers discovered that by using a variety of cultured yeasts the wine’s inherent aromas and flavours could be changed to include a whole spectrum of fruit characteristics from the citric (limelo – archived articles!) to the exotic. But, hold on – commentators like myself were wondering if in doing this the original flavour and aroma were sometimes being lost.

Finca Caraballas’ organic methods include the use of only natural yeasts indigenous to the vineyards. There’s no spraying either, no artificial fertilisation, no chemicals – nothing just nature. Tall poles are placed strategically on which eagle nesting boxes are secured. Areas are set aside for owl nesting and there’s a sense of working with nature for the benefit of all!

The young 100% Verdejo has a certain singularity, that marks it out from others made from the same grape. The wine’s perfume is wonderful, inviting. It’s a bit of a surprise on the palate at first (a wholly pleasant one I might add) as one is perhaps expecting the same sort of cocktail of flavours that we have become used to, and which I also enjoy. This is different. It has an abundance of deep, fresh, fruit with similarities to subtle gooseberry but with herbs, even basil too. It has vegetal notes, green pepper perhaps and the whole assembly is full and rich with clean acidity and a super-long finish.

PS The Wine/Food pairing evenings, ETHNIC CUISINE COURTS SPANISH WINES – A MARRIAGE MADE IN MORAIRA, are attracting a lot of attention – the specially selected restaurants are: Marhaba, Moroccan 3rd May; Bajul, Indonesian, 16th May; Himalaya, Nepalese/Indian, 29th May. Wines and Cuisine are great – please call me for more information and to reserve, 629 388 159; or e-mail.

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