Showcasing the wines of Viñedos Balmoral

SPANISH WINES WITH A FRENCH SPIN

I’m not too bothered if the Champagne Police are about – they surely can’t complain at my writing, and saying, that the winemaker who crafted the Sparkling Wines (and the still ones) for the Spanish bodega, Viñedos Balmoral, learned his trade in Champagne. Because it’s true!

Hervé Jestin has made fine Champagne in several large Champagne Houses in Champagne, obviously – as that’s the only place where you can make Champagne (he’s said it again!). Amongst those on his CV, Möet et Chandon – of whom you may have heard?!

Hervé was convinced that fine Sparkling Wine could be made in Spain, providing he could find a site where the micro-climate wasn’t too dissimilar from that of the old country. He, and Viñedos Balmoral (http://vinedosbalmoral.com/en/) were looking to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the prime movers of Champagne, as well as using other varieties, for a Spanish spin! The answer was securing land in an area where the grapes were sure to ripen, but where the temperatures were not too severe to render their sparkling wines and still wines, flabby, lacking that essential fresh acidy, so crucial, particularly to Sparklers!

1,000 metres above sea level should do it! And that’s where you’ll find Hervé and his colleagues working in the Albacete region, where the normal temperature during the growing season hovers at around 40ºC (phew!), but on Balmoral land drop to 30ºC. Plus, as Cork Talk readers will know by now, at this altitude the night-time temperatures take a dramatic tumble, perhaps by 15ºC, which certainly contributes to that freshness that we seek.

The gap is deliberate – please read on to see the wine that should be there!

I recently tasted five Balmoral wines, with a full-house of eager tasters and diners at Restaurante La Parrilla de Javea, Javea Old Town – like Chef-Patron, Pepe’s food, they all went down very well!

We started with some fizz – well why wouldn’t you?

This wine is made by the Traditional Method (of course, given its maker!). 100% Chardonnay, the 2nd fermentation takes place in the bottle, but 3% of the still base wine has had some oak barrel aging before blending with the rest – and it makes a difference.

Following fermentation, the wine sits on its lees, the sediment left after the yeast has finished making the second fermentation, and rests there for 24 months! That’s two years – why? Well, essentially this resting ‘en rima’ adds depth and complexity, mature flavours and added mouthfeel.

If this were a cava – it’s not, it’s a Spanish Sparkling Wine – it would qualify as a Reserva, whose minimum time ‘en rima’ is 15 mnths, but, in fact, its 24 months nearly qualifies it as a Gran Reserva, were it cava, whose minimum time en rima is 30 months.

The same applies to the Viñedos Balmoral’s Rosé (note the French, ‘rosé’, not ‘rosado’ – you know why!), which has also had 24 months en rima. However, the varieties are different of course. Given the provenance of the wine-maker and the fact that Hervé has not only brought with him Champagne’s Chardonnay variety, but also black grape variety, Pinot Noir, you may expect his rosé to be made with the latter, as it so often, and effectively is back home!

Well, here he elected to make his Spanish rosé with Tempranillo and Shiraz – which is perhaps a unique blend for rosé fizz. Does it work? Well, yes, for me it was my favorite wine of the tasting. Made at Brut Extra level re its very low grams of sugar per litre, the wine is satisfyingly dry, without the biting acidity of some of the zero dosage sparklers.

Our next wine was a monovarietal, Chardonnay, still wine – lovely fresh acidity, with none of the tropical fruit that can be found in ‘New World’ Chardonnay, and an absence of oak too! Here we have the fruit – a little lemon acidity with perhaps some under-ripe pear, and a lick of apple, plus, owing to its time spent on its lees (as with the sparklers above, but in tank before being bottled) a pleasing slight creaminess. Try it with creamy cheeses!

There were two reds to finish – I chose to taste first, the Tempranillo. Paired with the lomo de cerdo, pork dish, I think it worked nicely. Maravides Mediterranean Wine has been aged in a combination of French Oak (you know why!) Vats of 8,000 litres capacity, and also American barrels of 300 litres and 225 litres.

Whilst the wine isn’t a blend, its making has been – the large vats ensure that the fruit is always going to be to the fore. The American oak adds a little depth, and some slight leather and coffee aromas – but when you think back about this wine, it will be the blackberry and mature strawberry fruit you’ll remember, with, if you want to search, a faint note of loganberry too.

This missing wine! A lovely Shiraz, pictured with Santiago, representing Viñedos Balmoral.

Our final wine was also a monovarietal – Shiraz this time, and a real joy! Made in the same way as the above, it gives totally different aromas and flavours. You can find some bay leaf and other mountain herbs on the nose as you open this, year older wine, which act as the support act to the main event – the lovely blueberry, damson and picotta cherry fruit.

NB the next such Wine Pairing event at La Parrilla, Javea, will be a dinner – Thursday 14th June, starting at 8pm; let’s start the weekend early! You can reserve by emailing colin@colinharknessonwine.com 629 388 159. Don’t be slow though we are already half-full!

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