Masterclass DO Almansa

DENOMINACIÓN DE ORIGEN ALMANSA

In the Ayuntamiento, Town Hall, of Almansa there’s an impressive tiled mural depicting the battle that occurred near the town in 1707 during the Spanish War of Succession. The Spanish won, thereby reclaiming the East of Spain from Archduke Charles of Austria.

Though not at all so bloody, the good people of Almansa have another battle on their hands at the moment – convincing the wine world that their wines can rub shoulders with those of the other more famous areas of production in this part of the Spanish peninsular. Bordering to the south the DOs of Jumilla and Yecla, and to the north Manchuela it is also somewhat in the shadow of DOs Alicante, Bullas, Utiel Requena and Valencia. Impressive neighbours indeed, but if the tasting I went to recently is anything to go by (and it must be as it was organised by the Consejo Regulador DO Almansa) then I donp’t think they have too much to worry about.

My annual visit to Alicante for the Verema Wine Tasting for Sector Professionals, although very good in 2018 (my article archived here https://www.colinharknessonwine.com/verema-wine-tasting/#more-‘), was even better this year. The organisers had also included three masterclasses as an extra attraction. I couldn’t make the third but I was pleased to be given a place for the DO Almansa tasting and later, the DO Somontano one (watch this space!).

There were seven Almansa wines to taste – 6 were reds, which wasn’t surprising, given that the DO is very much a red wine area. What was unexpected, to me at least, as I haven’t tasted an Almansa white for many a year, was the quality of the 100% Verdejo dry white from Bodegas Piqueras.

It’s a wild ferment wine, meaning that the yeasts used were indigenous, found in fact in the vineyard on the skins of the grapes. This is a good sign as it means that the wine is more natural. It was fermented in French oak were it also spent a few months resting and gaining some depth. A lovely, fresh fruity wine, with a touch of banana skin on the nose and a good bright finish. I’d buy this wine, for sure.

Sorrasca 2013 is a red wine from Bodega Rodríguez de Vera, using Petit Verdot, that French variety that really comes into its own when grown here in sunny Spain. The vineyards are 1,000 meters above sea level, giving the vine respite from the really scorching heat of this art of the world, which in turn gives a brightness to the finished wine with necessary acidity too. Balanced with blackberry fruit, a little stemmy too, with liquorice on the finish, and after 20 minutes a faint touch of coffee on the nose. Nice wine.

La Cueva del Chamán 2018 is a Monastrell roble wine, in that it has had a some time in oak, and because it’s a young wine it has a darker colour than the older wine above, in fact a touch purple. Plums with some vanilla from the oak. The vines are 50 years old, accounting for the relative richness of the wine. It’s a food wine for sure, at 15·5 abv, you’d need something with it!

Unfortunately the next wine on the list was slightly corked, so I can’t comment on it as it was faulty. It happens!

Almansa majors in Garnacha Tintorera, that unusual variety, aka Alicante Bouchet, whose flesh, unlike almost all other black grape varieties, is also coloured. You can therefore expect some dark, intense almost opaque wines from this variety. La Batalla (you can guess why!) also has Merlot, Cab Sauv, Syrah and Petit Verdot in the blend, making for a lovely fruit compote, with a slightly medicinal nose too.

My favourite red was the 100% Garnacha Tintorera, Tintoralba Ecológico 2016, from Bodegas Tintoralba. It opens with a touch of coconut from the oak (French and American) in which the wine has aged for a year, moving into fruit driven realms of plums and damsons with a little undergrowth too. It’s a big wine, needing food also, but has an element of gracefulness too.

My second favourite of this encouraging flight of wines was the 1860 Selección from Bodegas Cano. Coming from 45 years old Garnacha Tintorera vines, growing at 1,000 metres above sea level, the wine has presence in the mouth, with big bold bramble fruit and plum flavours. I thought the 18 months in oak might have been a tad too long though, causing me to put it in silver medal position – for me at any rate.

So, I recommend seeking our DO Almansa wines. Enjoy!

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