Whenever the year 1966 is mentioned, it always makes me think of one thing – The Football World Cup. England won it, if you didn’t know, and on home soil too. I was a young lad, annoying the family by noisily rotating my wooden football rattle (does anybody remember those?), whilst wearing my England scarf (it was June) and my World Cup Willy cap (who on earth came up with that name?!).

However, over on the Continent(!), to be specific in Spain, there was another event occurring –  Denominación de Origen Jumilla was founded. And henceforth I’m sure I’ll now remember the two in tandem! I love the wines from Jumilla!

When recently in Barcelona for the Barcelona Wine Week (BWW), a huge wine fair referred to in Cork Talk over the last two columns, the first organised tasting I went to was a presentation of the wines of DO Jumilla, by a member of the ruling council, the Consejo Regulador. It seemed that I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of wines made in this South Eastern region of Spain, inland from the Costas, as the designated Tasting Pavilion was full to bursting. I was pleased I’d arrived early!

There are 45 bodegas making wine in DO Jumilla, using 1,900 grape growers in the vineyards surrounding the eponymous town, whose name has its origins in the Arabic word meaning ‘strong wine’! Vineyards are between 400m – 800m above sea level and about 90% of them are certified as Organic. During the last 25 years or so, there has been a very successful move away from making just ‘strong wine’, with bodegas concentrating on quality bottled wines rather than the bulk wine for which Jumilla had largely been known.

There was a power-point presentation running simultaneously with the actual tasting, where we were told of the soils, temperatures, climate etc of the area (notwithstanding certain differences nowadays, attributed to Climate Change). I found it all fascinating, adding an extra dimension to the wines we had in our glass – perfectly poured by professionals, incidentally!

The first we tried was a Rosado – at 10:30 in the morning it was good to have a light, quite delicate start to a day’s tasting! Made with Monastrell, this wine was a lovely shade of pink, which actually matched my pullover perfectly! Rose petals on the nose, with a little pomegranate fruit, mixing with raspberry. Light, not particularly distinguished, but perfectly pleasant, and so fitting with the weather outside at the time, which was really Spring-like. Señorio de Fuenteálmo – inexpensive, easy drinking rosé!

The next wine, a red, reds being the style of wine for which Jumilla is most famous, came from a bodega I’ve know for many years now, though this one I hadn’t tasted before. The grey labelled, Luzón Monastrell Colección, is a 2018 young wine with no oak ageing. The lovely damson/plum fruit with which we associate this variety really comes to the fore. It’s a lovely juicy, giving, red wine, exemplary for unoaked wines of the area, with soft tannin and fresh acidity. Good on its own and with food too – try it with BBQ!

I remember that last year Bodegas Alceño won several medals in the DO Jumilla internal wine competition so I was keen to taste their Aleño 12. I enjoyed the wine, I think it would have been very good with meat dishes and cheese too. However, as drink alone wine, I thought it a little too tannic.

It was the 2016 vintage, made with Monastrell (clearly the darling variety of the DO!) and it’s had 12 months (hence its name) in oak, French and American, but the fruit was beginning to fade, and, in truth I wondered why they hadn’t brought with them perhaps the 2017 version. I’m certain that the grapes will have been ripened perfectly in 2016 – there is intense heat and many hours of sunshine during the growing season in Jumilla, but I wonder if the wine might have come from vines allowed to crop too much? Let’s say it’s a food wine!

The final wine we tasted was one of a style that in fact I first tasted from DO Jumilla, though not from this wine’s bodega. The style to which I refer is actually quite prevalent down here in SE Spain – and I love it! Red dessert wines, made with Monastrell, whilst quite common here, are a rarity elsewhere.

Such wines are harvested late. When their buddies have long gone, the grapes for dessert reds are left on the vine for a while longer. The climate is such that sunshine is more or less guaranteed so the grapes have plenty of sunshine, which over time mans that the water content of the flesh inside begins to evaporate. When eventually harvested there is far less juice, but it is far, far richer and sweeter.

These wines are usually found in half bottles as they are necessarily from a limited production. They can be a tad on the expensive side, but they are so often worth it! Silvano Garcia Dulce Monastrell has lovely, plumy, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours and aromas and a long finish. It will be lovely with chocolate desserts as well as, for example dark fruit pavolvas, but try this also with cheese, mature and blue too!

N.B. My programme on Tuesday 3rd March, 5pm – 6pm Spanish Time, covers what to drink on St. Patrick’s Day as well as Las Fallas, plus there’s a fascinating interview with Oxford Uni educated, Andrew Halliwell, who changed from engineering to winemaking and, though much travelled, is currently making sublime wines here in Spain! Plus, I’ll be raising a glass to toast World Book Day – it’s all happening in March!

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Yes, Darling, THE highlight of the Christmas, New Year and Three Kings Holidays was, of course, being with you and the family – goes without saying!

I’m speaking here, purely from a wine point of view!

Just covering myself here – you never know! Well, now the coast is clear, we tasted some excellent wines over the holidays, starting on Christmas Eve and continuing there on in! Some where tasted therefore in December, technically, of course, in 2019 – so they could have been included in the Tope Ten!

However, this is often the case so, because of deadlines I usually tag the late entries onto the next year. Thus, there will be at least one, maybe two, I should think, that will be in the honours list for 2020. I’m sure avid followers of the Top Ten will understand!

I think that Raventos i Blanc Blanc de Blanc Conca del Riu Anoia has to be one of the best value for money Spanish Sparkling Wines it’s possible to find! Priced at around 11€, this Premium fizz, which has so clearly benefited from extra time ageing on its lees, gives everything we require from sparkling wine. It pairs with so many dishes; it’s fresh, dry and celebratory; it has presence on the palate; it enjoys some complexity; and it has a long finish!

I’ve written about Uvas Cabrera Moscatel before (June last year, actually). I really enjoyed this superb dry Moscatel when I tasted it in Jesús Pobre at the annual wine fair (you must go by the way – it’s outstanding!). With an extra 6 months under its belt, it is even better now. Dry and minerally, there’s a pleasing musky edge to it, with little of the characteristic raison/grape aroma, therefore making it seem like a different grape variety all together. Floral, with some slight citrus notes in the palate – limited production, but when you see it, buy it!

I’ve visited Bodegas Los Frailes near Fontanars a few times – this winery, which employs organic and biodynamic vineyard management (when I was last there, the aisles between vines were being ploughed by horse, and there were goats grazing in one of their other vineyards!), produces some great wines, which, if they were from areas more famous would, command twice the price they currently fetch. 1771 is their flagship wine, named after the year that the family bought the finca and its land at auction from the then King of Spain! Thrilling Monastrell!

Gran Crisalys, from the entirely dependable Bodegas Torelló, elegant white wine is made with Xarel.lo and Chardonnay, both of which were fermented separately in oak barrels where the wine rested for four months, with thrice weekly stirring. After regular tasting, only those barrels marked with an X were selected for blending. For me, both varieties handle a little oak perfectly, the result is a white wine that has such a wonderful aroma and flavour that it can be paired with fish, seafood, of course, but also magnificently with turkey! Hint, Hint, for 2020 Christmas!

I was very pleased to present a rosado at my final 2019 Private Tasting (article soon). A real fan of Spanish rosado I was able to convince some doubters that there are some truly excellent rosé wines here. This, in fact, is one of the most expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot to find real quality.

Dominio del Pidio Rosado is made with Tinto del País (DO Ribera del Duero’s preferred name for Tempranillo) and the white variety, Albillo, which, incidentally, has become a favourite of mine over the last two years! It’s a pale, Provençal shade of pink, but if that makes you think it’s a delicate wine for girls – forget it! The must is able to macerate with the black skinned grapes for longer than some similarly coloured rosados, because of the white must to be blended in later. This means that the finished wine benefits from a lot more than just the colour of the red wine variety.

Fermentation is in cement tanks, with four months of ageing on its lees in 225 litre and 500 litre barricas. Full, dry, floral, with some red peach notes to accompany the raspberry and slightly under ripe red cherry, with a little stony minerality too!

And finally, for this article anyway, I’ll finish with an old friend – the Reserva Especial Cava from Bodegas Dominio de la Vega. It’s a long time since I last tasted this iconic Cava Valenciano. Made with Macabeo and Chardonnay, with some of the juice fermented in oak, it’s a Premium Cava that never fails to wine awards and medals, speaking so eloquently for cavas made outside of Cataluña, and indeed for Spanish Sparkling Wines in general!  Twitter @colinonwine

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Perhaps I was the only one wondering what magic would be afoot when the Show Chef brought out a solitary Magret de Pato and set it before the multitude packed into the ground floor of the DO Alicante offices recently? How was this possibly going to feed us all, or perhaps more to the point, how were we all going to pair the duck breast with the new wine we were there to celebrate?

The magnums of Vi De Sal 2016 adorned the room like the Crowns of so many Princes, left strategically for all to admire. Indeed, Vi De Sal is only bottled in magnums (that’s one and a half litres of wine in one bottle!) – clearly there was enough wine for the throng, but magret?

I’ve written a Cork Talk about Finca Collado before (archived here‘. I enjoyed their portfolio, so I was pleased to be invited to the launch of their brand new wine, Ví de Sal – a wine with a fascinating story, as I was about to find out.

I remember meeting Samuel Castello, son of the founder of Finca Collado, one hot morning over a coffee in Jalón. He gave me a couple of his wines to taste for the article above. We chatted about the bodega, its wines, philosophy – the project as a whole. It was all very interesting, the more so when he mentioned a special project, within a project (alluded to at the end of the above article). Their Head Winemaker was working on a new, very limited release wine which they were hoping to launch ‘soon’. The ‘soon’, wasn’t defined, despite my pressing, but it turns out it’s now – just 15 months after our chat!

As the gentle stream of people arriving at DO Alicante, not far from the Ayuntamiento, slowly turned into a river of journos, restaurateurs, hoteliers, wine merchants and the general glitterati of Alicante City, those of us who’d arrived early were able to advance on the wines served before the big event. These wines were also paired with exquisite gourmet tapas made by the Show Chef’s teams from Restaurante Miguel Angel, Villena.

We went straight for the Finca Collado Chardonnay/Moscatel 2018, a really refreshing white wine about which I’d waxed lyrical in my last article (though a different vintage, of course). Well, I’m happy to report that their high standard has been maintained. The Moscatel, picked earlier than is the norm in the Marina Alta area, lends a more floral character to the wine, that the grape/raison aromas that we are perhaps used to. The Chardonnay, which is about 60% of the blend and has had a little oak ageing, adds depth, plus a little tropical fruit too. It’s a lovely wine for drinking now, though Samuel suggests it will be even better in a few months time.

Finca Collado Syrah Monastrell 2017 is a wine for meaty food! A bold wine, with good fruit, some lively tannin and acidity and a combination of black pepper and olives with dark plums about to reach full ripeness.

Delit 2017, with its simple, effective label is a step up in quality. 100% Monastrell from old vines, fermented and aged in oak barrels of 300 litre capacity. Rich and rounded on the palate, it’s a full wine, but with finesse. Some mountain herbs along with Autumnal earthy notes and lovely damson fruit.

Ví De Sal, will only be made in exceptional years. This 2016 is the first, there won’t be a 2017, but there will be 2018! A magnum of this wine will cost you 70€, so it’s not cheap, but don’t forget that’s two bottle’s worth – and don’t forget also Christmas is coming! This wine will be so impressive for you and your Christmas Lunch/Dinner guests!

In the south of the Alicante region there are the mountains of the Sierra Salinas, here you’ll also find the Salinas lake. Finca Collado’s vineyards are situated here, about 500m above sea level. I mention sea level deliberately because, millions of years ago the whole area was under the sea! This has left a certain saltiness in the earth. Indeed, centuries ago there were salt mines here. And it’s this saline quality in the soils of the vineyards that contributes to a local phenomenon, which is responsible for the unique singularity of Ví De Sal.

Some years, according to rainfall and other climatic conditions the Monastrell vines in the vineyard specific to this wine reach the limit of their tolerance of the saline effect. They almost collapse, and in an effort to hold onto life their grapes are forced to dehydrate, in order to provide some desperately needed water for the plant. During this three day period the grapes are hastily harvested as the juice that is left is far more concentrated but they haven’t yet reached full maturation. The result of this is a rich must which retains a high acidity and expresses the terrior from which it came.

This translates into a minimal intervention wine that is high in alcohol (15%), rich on the palate but with alluring fresh acidity. The wine is fermented in large 600litre French oak barrels, with regular stirring to extract colour and flavour from the skins. It’s then aged in the same barrels for 12 months, adding depth and complexity, though the wine is so well made you can hardly detect the oak.

You’ll find rich plum/damson fruit, a reference to figs and liquorice with some dark chocolate on the finish. There’s thyme and eucalyptus on the nose and ig though it is, there is also an elegance to this wine.  Twitter @colinonwine

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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