First Published in Costa News Group, April 2010

Filming with Daniel Castaño, Bodegas Castaño

A THREE WAY SPLIT

BODEGAS CASTAÑO SPREADS ITS WINGS

 It must have been a difficult decision but, perhaps because of three generations worth of roots, Bodegas Castaño opted to take a stand with the DO Yecla at the recent Alimentaria wine fair in Barcelona. In fact they could have done the same with DO Alicante and indeed, nowadays with DO Jumilla. Bodegas Castaño has become a triumvirate!

 Bodegas Castaño (aka Bodegas Sierra Salinas and the most recent addition, Bodegas Altos del Cuadrado) is very much a rise, and rise story. During filming for Viva Vino, the Viva TV series last August, Daniel Castaño and I stood in the original Yecla vineyards (80+ years old, that’s the vineyards, not Daniel!) where his grandfather had planted the gnarled old Monastrell vines that surrounded us, which then were in the flush of youth. His faith in this indigenous variety has been born out as the wines that these vines produce is nothing short of excellent.

 In DO Alicante the following September Daniel’s father and I stood, again in an old vineyard, but this time in the valley of the mountain range, Sierra Salinas, where Señor Castaño taught me some of the skills of vine pruning – again for the TV series. The Bodegas Sierra Salinas portfolio of wines is expanding, their four award winning red wines (90+ Parker and Peñin Guide points) have been joined by a rosado (lovely raspberry fruit) and a fruit driven, aromatic fresh and clean white.

 80 Year Old Monastrell Vines of Bodegas CastañoI’ve yet to visit the vineyards of Altos del Cuadrado in DO Jumilla, but if the wines I have recently tasted are anything to go by, I can’t wait to meet up again with this wine-passionate family! It will be different soils, a different micro-climate, some different grape varieties (but never losing faith with the noble Monastrell) – however the one constant will be their determination to produce wines of top quality but with consumer-friendly prices.

 The charming Raquel sent me two of their new wines. Jumilla also is a Monastrell area (given the Castaño’s love of, and belief in, this grape variety it would be hard to imagine them further developing their empire in an area where Monastrell was not one of the approved varieties!) so as you might imagine both wines have Monastrell in the blend.

 The first has perhaps the most minimalist front label I’ve seen in Spain, simply called Monastrell 2008 it also sports the Altos del Cuadrado logo and that’s all you get! However on the back label, whilst not expansive, there is a little more information and we find that in fact there is also 10% Petit Verdot and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a semi-crianza wine resting in barrel (American and French) for just 4 months – sufficient time to add a touch of vanilla flavour but also some depth.

 I’m interested in the blend. I love Monastrell, be it a partner in a wine or the sole variety used. I’m less partial to those wines that are made entirely of Petit Verdot. However, when judiciously used in a blend (and that for me is well less than 50% of the mix) they add a certain silkiness to the moutfeel and a richness to the flavour. Therefore as expected this one fits the bill nicely, with the addition of a tiny, but nevertheless significant, amount of Cabernet which adds colour, complexity and an almost imperceptible touch of blackcurrant.

 Triple V 2006 is a step up the quality ladder. Made from Monastrell (claro!) and 15% Petit Verdot the vines that furnished the grapes for this wine are old. If you want an example of the difference between old vine wines and more youthful ones you couldn’t do much better than tasting this wine. As many readers know, older vines mean fewer grapes and therefore a more limited production – however those grapes a far richer than the young upstarts and the consequent mouthfeel and depth of flavor is easily noticeable.

 It’s the case with Triple V. It’s a well rounded juicy, chewy wine whose damson and blackberry confiture flavours linger after swallowing. There’s a touch of burnt wood about it too as if the barrel toasting lasted a little longer than the usual medium time, or maybe the ancient wood of the scorched vines has some how been transmitted into the wine! But you have to look for it as it rests in your mouth vaporising and sending flavour messages to the brain via the olfactory passage. It’s a lovely wine, like its stable-mate above – and makes me ant to look out for more from this third arm of the Castaño dynasty.

 Finally, I wonder if any readers remember our tasting at Bodegas Castaño

Grupo Castaño's Head Winemaker, Marciano, talks us through the new vintage wines.

 last December? We tasted the 2009 vintage of their lovely Chardonnay Macabeo white wine before it went on the market in the New Year, having drunk a bottle of the 2008 at home the same week. We all felt that the oak ageing and the two different varieties were not quite in harmony at that time.

 Well they certainly are now! This creamy green apple wine is a delight and I’m be looking for more!

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