FIRST PUBLISHED IN COSTA NEWS GROUP OCT. 2010

ART AND SOUL

CUMBRE DEL SOL’S INAUGURAL FESTIVAL

 Reading through the Costa Blanca News (as one does, religiously of course) several weeks ago I came across a news item which interested me particularly. Apparently there were to be several bodegas presenting their wares at the first of what is hoped to be an annual festival atop Cumbre Del Sol, between Benitachell and Moraira.

 The Art and Soul Festival (brainchild of art enthusiast Tanya, whose gallery/studio is a must-visit-venue if there is an artist in you looking for exposure) celebrates some of the finer things in life. Art of course, in its many and varied forms, but also: music, well-being, craft, yoga, natural cosmetics, artisan jewelry, massage, health products, alternative therapy, home-baked produce, lots more and of course wine!

 My enquiry via www.elclubcasero.com found Tracy and we were soon talking of ways in which I could make a contribution – ending up with my taking responsibility for enlisting the services of various local and not so local bodegas.

 The wine world remains in crisis in Spain. Having plummeted in a depressing spiral, sales have levelled out – but at a cost. Whilst not at an all-time low sales provide but a tiny profit per bottle as prices have been dropped to stop the stultifying inertia that beset the trade.

 There is light at the end of the tunnel and so bodegas are trying to improve their budgets for promotional events – the Art and Soul festival, whilst untried and untested was worth the gamble, after all Cork talk was involved!

 All six bodegas contacted were keen to come onboard. All very nice but in the cold light of day I realised that in fact this was going to be a Guinness-Book-of-Records-esque Wine Taste-athon, all presented by your columnist! With bodegas providing up to four different wines to taste, well you can do the maths – that’s a lot of wine to taste in a day, and remain sober to explain the differences between each!

 However, the consummate professional that I am(?), I made good use of the spittoon and drank plenty of water (5 litres in fact!) whilst grazing also on some lovely tapas provided by Felipe, owner of Solbar, where the tastings took place.

 The first wines tasted were from Bodegas BOCOPA, DO Alicante, an extremely visible bodega adjacent as it is to the Alicante/Madrid motorway at Elda. Their fabulously packaged sparkling wine at only 7% abv is a must for all celebrations, particularly concerning the younger generation who are developing an interest in wines but find them initially a little too dry. Made with Moscatel, it has a sweetness that many will find inviting.

 Next was their Marina Alta – a mainstay of local restaurants for many a year. Sales perhaps suffered a little initially following the tsunami of inexpensive Rueda wines, but Marina Alta remains, in many people’s view, one of the best examples of economically priced off-dry white wines made from Moscatel de Alejandria. It sells by the hundreds of thousands! This clone of Moscatel is adept at making both sweet wines and, when treated differently, much dryer wines which partner lots of starters and fish courses.

 Terreta Rosé is the name of their rosado wine. It’s made with Monastrell and has a lovely pinkness to it. Served chilled it has a super raspberry aroma and yet is dry and therefore a fine aperitif and as well as being a good partner for fish and seafood – check it out with paella!

 Finally their Laudum Tinto Crianza – made with Merlot, Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon the 2007 is drinking perfectly now and really tastes like a much more expensive wine. Good with meaty dishes, including meat orientated tapas – perhaps the perfect marriage?

 Finca Casa Alarcón has appeared several times In Cork Talk – their rosado and their new Viognier, in the gorgeous, Alsace-shaped blue bottle were discussed here recently but extra to these wines their reds Tria and Nea were tasted on Cumbre.

 Tria 2007, as you might expect, is made from three varieties – Syrah (95%) along with Petit Verdot and Merlot, all hand-harvested from vineyards 650 metres above sea level and subject to rigorous selection. It’s aged in French Oak and is a lovely red mouthful with subtle vanilla notes and a medium long finish. A good dinner wine, as is Nea 2008.

 This second red is made exclusively from Petit Verdot and has enjoyed eight months in French oak. It has developed, as you might expect from this variety in the climate of South east Spain, into a big and powerful wine. A dinner table wine for sure, it’s meaty itself so will do well with red meat dishes.

 It may be that my Spanish isn’t as ok as I thought it was because Bodegas Enrique Mendoza only sent one type of wine, their oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon! However this well balanced and structured wine was nevertheless several people’s favourite. Cabernet Sauvignon can be harsh and tannic, the more so in youth, but here in Spain with the guaranteed sunshine of the Mediterranean climate and, at altitude, cooling breezes to give some respite it can, in the right hands, produce some super full flavoured wine. Bodegs Enrique Mendoza has proved itself do be in the forefront of classy Cabernet producers in Spain!

 Bodegas Parcent, despite producing one of the wines to accompany the dinner celebrating the marriage of Prince Felipe, is still quite unknown in general. However there are many devotees, apart from the Royal family and all wines sell out in the year. This brother and wife team have developed a very attractive, small bodega with a limited production in the tiny village of Parcent and for me their wines go from strength to strength.

 Auro is tribute to their Grandmother – it’s made 50/50 with Chardonnay and Moscatel and is remarkably fruity both on the nose and palate – indeed there were some tasters, red wine enthusiasts, who were converted to the cause of white wine by this example. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is another good Cabernet without a trace of harshness. Finally their Rosado Dessert wine, Fruit D’Autor, is perhaps unique and was a real winner with Cumbre tasters. (Please watch this space and  www.colinharknessonwine.com for details of a super guided tour and tasting soon at Bodegas Parcent).

 Bodegas Peter Arnold sells out of all of its wine every year. The reds I wanted to have for the tasting were long gone and there aren’t many of the whites and rosado’s available either! However the harvest is in and fermenting away so it won’t be long before they have the new wines on stream as well as the next year’s oak aged wines.

 Over the years I’ve introduced many people to Bodgas Peter Arnold adding to their continuously expanding client base. Once tasted, you’re hooked. We tasted their Sauvignon 2009 Arietta, a super grassy gooseberry tinged fresh white as well as their Sonatina, a very Alicante style wine being made from the darling Moscatel de Alejandria, a lovely aromatic dry white wine. Overture is their rosado, made from Cabernet and Garnacha it is a super fruit-driven, elegant and yet sturdy wine. I love it as an aperitif and to accompany salads, fish and shellfish.

 Finally the wines from Bodegas Sierra Salinas, the stunning bodega that sits on the border between Murcia and Alicante, under whose auspices it makes its top rated wines. Mo is the name of their most economic portfolio – a new white and rosado and their original red. All three are highly recommended for their price/quality ratio.

 Their white was the best selling at the festival. Its Moscatel and Chardonnay grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel temperature controlled vats and then blended. The result is a lovely fruity, dry refreshing wine which will impress your friends when they call for a glass of wine – they’ll want to know where you bought it for sure! Their rosado is made from Monastrell – the variety that figures in, I think, all of their reds. It has a typical raspberry nose but also a touch of minerality (unusual, but attractive in a rosado) and, for me at least, a waft of Victoria plums too!

 The most popular wine of the whole day was Sierra Salinas’ Puerto Salinas 2006. Hand harvested Garnacha Tintorera, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell, are fermented separately, aged for 12 months in French oak, Medium Toasted, blended, bottled and then aged further in perfect temperature controlled conditions. It is, in short, drinking perfectly now and should be a candidate for your Christmas Dinner – I love this wine!

 PS Two wine tastings are coming soon, dates to be confirmed: following the success of the first we are hosting another at Café D’Art, Javea Port

In November; and as mentioned above I’ll be co-presenting with joint owner, Armando, a tour and tasting all the wines (with nibbles) at Bodegas Parcent, to include their brand new, not even on the market yet, sparkling wine! Please click ‘Events’ on www.colinharknessonwine.com

 PPS I know many readers, like me, are fans of the Classical and Romantic Music duo, Dolce Divas, so you’ll be interested to know that the Teulada/Moraira Lions have contracted these beautiful girls to perform a Best of Dolce Divas Concert at La Senieta, Moraira, Saturday 13th November. Please call 965 747 343 for tickets!

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