First Published in Costa News Group August 2012

TERRES DELS ALFORÍNS

IS DO VALENCIA ABOUT TO COMPRISE OF A FIFTH SUB ZONE?

And why not? After all, the area surrounding the three small towns of Fontanars, Moixent and La Font de la Fuguera, the eponymous Terres Dels Alforíns, provides most of DO Valencia’s top scorers in the Peñin Guide, and we’re talking 90+ points here! It’s clear therefore that there are special qualities about the micro-climates of the area, the soils, and of course the skills of the growers and winemakers.

Indeed there is perhaps sufficient scope, in the future, for Terres Dels Alforíns to seek elevation to the ranks of Denominación de Origen itself! There is precedent – witness DO Tarragona which at one time included the sought after wines from their Sub-zone, Falset, only to see the area eventually being approved as a DO in its own right, DO Montsant.

However, talk of such future events was discouraged by Pablo Calatayud, my guide for the day of my visit. The affable and eloquent Pablo is the portavoz (spokesperson) and prime mover in establishing the new Association, Terres del Alforíns.

This is not our intention.” he declared. “For the foreseeable future we are concentrating only on our current goals of promoting the wines of the area and the soil-friendly means by which they are made, in line with the sustainability of the whole project.”

However, when pressed as to the remote possibility of a new Sub-zone and ultimately an addition to the DO Map of Spanish Wines, with a barely discernible twinkle in his intelligent eyes, he speculated, “Who knows what may happen in the future, in twenty years time We don’t entirely rule it out.”

The association includes twelve bodegas which are dedicated to maintaining the tradition of wine-making in the area. Many of them oversee wine making facilities that have been in operation for centuries. Pablo’s Celler del Roure, for example, can trace it’s wine-making back to the 17th Century. His five metre deep ancient cellar hewn out of the compact soil and solid rock is fascinating (between a rock and a hard place!). But even this is relatively young when seen against a wine making commerce that goes back through the millennia to the time of the Iberians who peopled the area hundreds of years before Jesus!

And commerce it most certainly was. In the ruined Iberian village that straddles the peak of one of the two mountain ranges in the Terres dels Alforíns archaeologists have found one of the oldest ‘facturas’ in Spain. Etched in lead there are details of wines, and olive oil, bought by several customers, including a hieroglyphic indicating that they had, or in one final case, hadn’t paid! Indeed, one of the more famous wines of Celler del Roure has this ‘factura’ reproduced as it’s label!

Included during the day was a visit to the wine-world famous Bodegas Belda, where the current incumbent of this family owned winery, Daniel Belda, showed us the purpose built cellar housing multifarious bottled wines, plus those enjoying their crianza in oak. Established by Daniels’s father in 1971 the company now exports to 15 different countries, including China where he was in fact one of the pioneers bringing wine to that part of Asia, several years ago.

Later, although a flying visit as time was an issue for us, but not for our hosts, who were happy to stay with us for as long as we needed, we went to Bodegas Los Friales, where I’ve been before. This bodega has been in Miguel’s family since the 1771 when it was bought at auction from the King who had recently dispossessed it from the Franciscan monks!

We were wined and dined for a sumptuous lunch at an excellent Casa Rural restaurant, Mas de Monserrat (www.masmonserrat-moixent.com) – and you might guess that the wines we were served hailed from members of the Association, coming from the three bodegas mentioned so far as well as from Bodegas Rafael Cambra, who himslef joined us a little later.

First up was the fresh and vibrant, lime green with shades of gold, Bodegas Belda Verdil 2011. Verdil is a white wine variety indigenous to Valencia and its continued presence in the area is largely due to the good offices and hard work of Daniel Belda whose unshakeable belief in the variety has saved it from extinction. Clean and refreshing there are citrus, lime and lemmon aromas and flavours and some vegetal notes with some distant Sauvignon-esque nuances.

Next was the slightly shy Cullerot from Celler del Roure which I’ve subsequently found to be an outstanding white wine when given some time to develop. The 2011 is made with an eclectic mix of Macabeo, Verdil, Malvasia, Chardonnay and PX (normally found in Jerez). No wonder it’s complexity and depth takes a little time to open out! Fresh in the mouth there is also a hidden depth of flavour, with a Chardonnay finish wrapped around blanched almonds and citrus with floral notes too!

Rafael Cambra Uno 2009 has super dark red, forest fruit on the nose and the palate. Its gentle acid lick (essential for ageing) is noticed but quickly rounded out. The quite firm but sweet tannins made it wonderful with the rice dish we all enjoyed and the overall weight of the wine, including its ripe fruit will make enable it to last for a good 5 years and probably longer.

I was wholly enamoured with Miguel’s Moma 2008 – an excellent wine! It’s made with old vine Monastrell, a local favourite, and the superb very new variety, Marselan, which is a man-made cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, first bred in 1961 and first vinified (used for making wine) as recently as 2002!

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com – Fancy a Bodegas Visit; Private Tasting; Private a fun Wine Appreciation Course; Need some help re-writing a restaurant wine list? Etc – Colin’s your man!

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