DO Somontano Masterclass

Personally, I’ve not tasted a below par wine from DO Somontano. So, when I was able to secure a place at the recent Masterclass, presented by the Consejo Regulador, Ruling Council, of the DO itself, I was, of course, delighted. I was keen to learn more as well as have my expectations confirmed. I wasn’t disappointed!


Personally, I’ve not tasted a below par wine from DO Somontano. So, when I was able to secure a place at the recent Masterclass, presented by the Consejo Regulador, Ruling Council, of the DO itself, I was, of course, delighted. I was keen to learn more as well as have my expectations confirmed. I wasn’t disappointed!

This was the second DO Masterclass of the Wine Professionals Sector tasting day organised by Verema (, whose tasting session I also attended last year. I’m hoping to be there again next year and into the future too – they are excellent!

In direct contrast to the presentation by DO Almansa in the earlier session, DO Somontano’s was, typically, very professional. Although the DO isn’t that old (established 1984, where DO Rioja, for example, was founded in the 20s) they are nevertheless experienced old hands at promoting their wines and their member bodegas.

DO Somontano isn’t shy about the number of varieties they allow for their wines – fifteen in total, eight red wine grape varieties and seven for the whites. Whilst there is a fair showing of indigenous Spanish varieties included, championed perhaps by the almost uniquely grown Moristel, there is also a significant contribution from international varieties such as Cab Sauv and Gewurztraminer, the latter being particularly loved here.

The first wine up, though, was a Chardonnay, which I identified before seeing the label – noted here, not to brag about my ability in such matters, more to boast on Somontano’s behalf about their ability to recreate classic Chardonnay characteristics, when this variety is so far away from its natural home in Burgundy, France! Fresh with bright acidity though rounded too, with food friendly buttery notes as well as a slight banana skin nose. Bodegas Viñas del Vero 2018. Good start!

Gewurz was up next, from Bodegas Enate. A lovely wine with a mandarin/clementine spritz on the nose aiding and abetting the typical fresh lychee aroma of this German/Alsace variety. Plus, as an added bonus, there was slight bitter lemon (as in the drink) flavour on the finish. Oh how I wish that the Chinese restaurants in our area were aware of the pairing possibilities of this variety with their cuisine!

The above two varieties were in tandem in the next sample, but with the very interesting addition of Pinot Noir (18%, a black grape, of course, therefore a touch of the blanc de noir about this Bodegas Sommos wine). The varieties were fermented separately and when blended together they underwent a touch of French oak barrel ageing for good measure. Some complexity and depth of flavour with a Chardonnay nose and a little spicy Gewurz, plus presence on the palate from the Pinot.

There aren’t many 100% Moristel wines, it being used more to blend – perhaps the offering from Bodegas Pirineos gives us a clue as to why? Cherries and black pepper on the nose, there was a slightly burnt wholemeal toast aroma, pleasant, but unusual, given that there has been no oak contact? For me it was a little too acidic. So, maybe best to use it to add freshness to other ripe varieties, rather than use it as is?

The next wine was outstanding! Old vine Garnacha from Bodegas Obergo, a new winery to me. It’s the 2015 vintage which has clearly enjoyed its year in mostly French oak, with regular stirring of the lees. There is some menthol on the nose, with forest fruits coming through. It’s a deeply flavoured, textured wine with pleasing complexity, perhaps understandable, given the vineyard’s close proximity to those of Secastilla, an honoured wine from this DO.

The next wine is the only Gran Reserva wine in the DO. Made by Bodegas Sers, this Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah from the 2012 vintage has been kept for 24 months in medium toasted French barrricas, with a further 40 months in bottle. It’s a big 14·5% abv, though with a touch of subtlety as well. A great mouthful, very meat orientated food friendly too.

The final wine of this very impressive tasting was the 2011 Grillo, which had been aged in 100 French oak Barrels, following its fermentation in 4 hectolitre capacity French oak foudres, and making use of Syrah, Cab Sauv, Garnacha and Merlot. Almost black in the glass, this opaque wine retails at about 35€, but it’s worth it, for sure! You’ll find figs and liquorice on the nose and palate too, with earthy undergrowth notes and a long, thought provoking finish. Excellent wine! Super tasting all round!  You Tube Colin Harkness On Wine Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness

Masterclass DO 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‘), 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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Bodegas Vins del Comtat


Well, these days, no, not at all! In this once unfashionable area of production it’s the perceived ‘weight’ that’s changed. Alicante is making wines of high quality, wines that can happily rub shoulders with those from the more famous and, still, more fashionable areas. However, this latter part is also changing – DO Alicante wines are being sought after nowadays, and rightly so!


One of the reasons for this upsurge in interest is the wine portfolio of Bodegas Vins del Comtat, out of the mountainous area surrounding Concentaina. I have tasted wines with owner and winemaker, David, a number of times over the years and have always been impressed – and after our recent joint presentation I can see (and taste, of course) that the winemaking is still well and truly on track. (


The venue was La Parrila del Celler in Jabea Pueblo, founded and run, for 22 years now, by Jose Belles Monferrer, the amiable chef/patron known affectionately as Pepe. We get together occasionally to present a wine tasting lunch – five wines matched with five courses. They are lots of fun and usually fully subscribed – so David was delighted to see a full house recently, and to hear the very positive comments of the assembled tasters.


We started with Vins del Comtat Viognier. In 2006 David planted a number of experimental varieties – the one that adapted best to the conditions (extreme daytime growing season temperatures, cooling nights at 600-700 metres above sea level, Mediterranean sea breezes, and so on) was the Rhône Valley’s Viognier.

Responsible for some exquisite white wines in France it also has a fine, though shorter pedigree in Australia and I believe California – probably other areas too. Classic tasting notes nearly always refer to its marked apricot nose and flavour – it really is quite remarkable, dry as you like, but so fragrant!


Well, David’s version is more white nectarines and yellow peaches, with some mountain heather notes too. Really lovely dry white wine.


Our next wine was also Viognier, monovarietal, but this time fermented in lightly toasted oak and aged in barrel for just two months. Whilst the fruit element above is still there, it has changed dramatically, with some vanilla and a brief whiff of coconut too. Again, super wine – and what a start!


Vins del Comtat make a number of red wines – El Salze is not only a single estate vineyard, all its grapes come from a single parcela, within that estate. These are old vines producing fruit rich red wine from the Monastrell variety, with an individual personality. You’ll see the word ‘paraje’ on the label – regular readers will have seen this word before, related in Cork Talk to the new top level of Cava. It means the above, re the individual part of a single estate, and of course any association with such high end Cava can’t be a bad thing!

Plums on the nose and palate, dark colour and some mountain herbs – bay leaf and thyme, with a little dry undergrowth as well.


We were also fortunate to be able to taste the bodega’s flagship wine, MOntcabrer, 2015. Made with Cabernet Sauvignon this wine is very dark as it swirls around the glass from pouring. There is an immediate aroma of blackberry and blackcurrant again with the bodega’s signature earthiness.

There’s also some tar on the nose along with graphite notes and wood shavings from its 14 months in American and French oak. It’s big in the mouth and has a long and graceful finish. Christmas Lunch/Dinner wine – definitely a contender!


Finally a dessert wine – another white wine too, which is an indication of how good Spanish whites are these days; a tasting of five Spanish wines, three of them white!

A lovely wine, perhaps made even lovelier by the fact that the grapes are harvested from plots of land, not in Concentaina, but a matter of but a few kilometres from Javea! Moscatel, of course is the variety, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, there are typical Moscatel aromas of raisons and grapes, but these are overtaken, certainly on first whiff, by pink grapefruit notes, with some orange peel as well! Dessert wine, with refreshing acidity.


PS at the time of writing I have some places left for the ‘Wine By The Glass’ Concept Tasting with tapas at Flavors, near the Correos of Javea Old Town – Five International wines and 5€ to be used to try any other wine of your choice – all for just 20€! Please contact me to reserve.   Facebook Colin Harkness