BODEGAS LUIS ALEGRE UNVEILS
NEW RELEASES IN FINE STYLE!
Readers will perhaps recall an article I wrote about the new-wave La Rioja Bodega Luis Alegre some months ago. The eponymous Luis Alegre decided to take on partners about 8 years ago so that the bodega he created in the 60’s could expand and change direction. He, and the new partners, wanted to up the ante and start to bottle wine of higher quality, in the new-wave Rioja style.
Over the last two decades there has been a market-led gradual change in the style of Rioja red wines. Once the bastion of long oak-ageing there has been a slow swing to more fruit expressive wine with less time in oak and more in bottle. Bodegas Luis Alegre has been in the vanguard of the bandwagon managing to retain classic Rioja flavours and aromas with a modern more fruit driven element.
It works well. Sales here and abroad are increasing year on year. The marketing men (and women) have become heavily involved with large advertising budgets being established, seats booked on the wine tasting road-show and attention being paid to packaging too.
They also know the value of an article in the Costa News Group and were happy to provide wines for a recent tasting at Restaurante Vall de Cavall, in the campo just outside Gata de Gorgos! Recently this elegant restaurant opened its doors to us whilst closing them to passers-by as this event, typically, took over the whole restaurant. Some sixty people sat down to a super five-course dinner, with a Luis Alegre wine served with each course and throughout the evening beautiful classical and romantic music from the delectable duo Dolce Divas was performed live.
We started with Luis Alegre Blanco 2009, this from their more economic range. Made with 100% Viura (aka Macabeo) the wine has a slight floral element, white rose petals perhaps, with a touch of apple. It’s a crisp, aperitif wine that slips down rather easily!
Luis Alegre Rosado 2009 is made exclusively from Tempranillo grapes. This bodega takes use of the sorting table a little further than most others. Rather than harvesting the grapes, transporting them to the bodega and then employing the selection table to sort the best bunches from those with damaged or possible diseased grapes, Bodegas Luis Alegre takes the table to the vineyard!
The cynic might think it a touch gimmicky, just another way of promoting your wines over the bodega down the road, and I’m sure that the marketing men have had a hand in the idea. However the theory is sound and, well, taste the wines and see for yourselves.
Using the mobile selection table allows the staff to sort out the best bunches as above, but the difference here is that it’s only the healthy, undamaged grapes that are transported together to the bodega to begin their metamorphosis into wine. The discarded grapes are sold off or are made into bulk wine for selling. Elitist it may me, but hey, it works!
The 2009 Rosado is the first of the wines we tasted to benefit from this philosophy. It’s only the best grapes that are used for this wine and it shows. This is lovely melange of strawberry and raspberry flavours with red rose aromas and a touch of body to make it a super paella, starter and light meat accompaniment.
Koden 2008 is one of the new releases they asked me to showcase and its popularity on the night showed that it is likely to be a winner for a bodega, which like all others in these difficult economic times needs a regular cash-flow.
Bodegas Luis Alegre wanted to make a wine that was economical to buy, easily accessible to drinkers who have neither the time nor the inclination to spend hours discussing its benefits and yet a wine of pedigree that still reflects the bodega’s philosophy. Now that’s a tall order. But they felt that if they can use grapes picked from very young vines whose output is prolific (6-8 years old vines) and yet treat the must (juice) in the same way as they do for the higher end wines made from old vines, they woud be able to achieve these goals.
Again, it works! It’s a very juicy wine, super as aperitif, for light meat dishes and just for drinking with friends. I predict that this wine will be all over the bars of La Rioja, like a rash!
Parcela No.5 2006 (another new release) is a stylish wine that bridges the gap between the modern style Rioja and the older style. A single vineyard wine, this Parcela is always likely to give grapes of top quality. The 45 years old vines have the perfect aspect to the sun, the soils are well drained and limited in nutrients and the climate and altitude of the vineyard allow sun for ripening but a dramatic night/day difference in temperatures. Tis was the best wine for me and it seemed that there was probably a 50/50 split between this and the final wine.
Bodegas Luis Alegre Crianza has one foot firmly placed in the traditional camp where oak has played a significant part and it will thus appeal to those Spanish wine enthusiasts who cut their tasting teeth on old Rioja. However hold the wine in the mouth a little and the integrated oak makes way for full on fruit, from bottle age and grapes picked at their optimum ripeness!
CAFÉ D’ART, JAVEA PORT,
HOSTS INAUGURAL WINE TASTING
I’m pleased to say that there has been considerable interest in my new website by wine businesses anxious to promote their wines. One of the services I offer through www.colinharknessonwine.com is to present wine tastings in their own premises. It gives them a chance to showcase their shop/restaurant/café, their wares and of course to sell them too!
Everyone’s a winner – the clients who attend enjoy an entertaining and tasty evening; the bodegas that make the wines enjoy good PR and further sales; and the organising business can expect new clients who’ll hopefully be back as well as increased sales on the night and in the future.
So it was that Toni from Café D’Art, in one of the pedestrian caminos near the Tourist Office, called me and asked me to present some wines following a refurbishment and make-over of his premises. Toni also runs a wine distribution service making his prices all the keener.
The tasting was to take place at the first weekend of the Javea fiestas and when the World Cup Group Matches were in full flow – so how would this affect numbers? Well not at all actually as the place was full with some 40 clients perhaps anxious to avoid some football for a change and keen also to make a night of it by dining there afterwards. I wonder how many of the men there had calculated that the game that evening wasn’t so interesting and that this was a good chance to get back in the wife’s good books!
No matter the evening, the tasty aperitifs and of course the wines were enjoyed by all.
We were there to taste wines that are mostly under 5 Euros, all from the same winery and one well known for the easy drinking quality of its entry level wines as well as one or two of higher quality. This was another example of a place where inexpensive wines can be bought without heading to the local supermarket where it is unlikely that the wines will be as well looked after.
The first was, for me, the most charming of the evening – a very unusual blend of local favourite Moscatel with international traveller Sauvignon Blanc. Imagine the typical floral, raison and grape perfume of Moscatel blending with grassy and gooseberry laden Sauvignon, it’s a blend that works!
Moscatel is often thought of, in many respects quite rightly so, as a variety for super (and some not so good!) dessert wines. However it is not always thus! There are different clones of Moscatel and one such clone, Moscatel de Alejandria, is more suited to making wines in a drier style, an off-dry taste where there is a touch of residual sugar left in the wine that is noted on the first hit on the palate, but where in fact the wine finishes dry. Mix that with the greener style of Sauvignon and bingo, you have a super aperitif wine that will also match salads and light fish fishes.
Next was a rosado – I often like to include rosado wines in my tastings in an effort to gain further recognition for this underrated wine style. Rosado rocks, in my book and I’d like to see it appreciated more than it is. Spain is the world capital for rosado wines – so we are in the right place to experiment. I’m sure that even die-hard red wine drinkers will find a rosado that suits them here on the Iberian peninsular. They are, after all, made with black grapes and would in fact be red wines, were it not for the fact that the skin/juice contact is far shorter.
Bodegas Vinolopó from DO Alicante uses the favoured Monastrell grape variety for their rosado. It has typical raspberry notes on the nose but also with red cherries in there. It’s a rosado that is quite light in the mouth and yet manages to be bold in flavour. Good stuff!
When I met Toni for the first time he gave me an example of each wine to taste at home for my presentation notes – the young Monastrell, unoaked red was only available in Magnum size at the time, “Oh, all right then, if I must!”. This wine demonstrates the unadulterated joy of inexpensive young Monastrell – it’s full of fruit and very juice in the mouth. It hasn’t got a long finish, but its not meant to have. Enjoy it for what it is, pure fruit-driven fun!
The final wine was the only one that stepped over the 5 Euro mark, the monovarietal (single variety) Petit Verdot with a short ageing in oak. This variety will I think start to increase in plantings again in the Bordeaux region where 20-30 years ago it was being grubbed up. It’s late ripening in those days was an inconvenience the Bordelaise could do without. They had to have it fully ripened but to wait was a risk as there was always the possibility of a weather change. Now however with climate change there is sufficient sunshine to fully ripen Petit Verdot along with Cabernet Sauvignon et al.
Of course here in Spain we’ve always enjoyed sufficient sunshine to ripen our grapes, the more so in the Alicante province. In fact here we have to be careful in that for me this variety can become flabby and lose its acidity if it is allowed too much sunshine. It seems that Vinalopó has the formula just about right – it was the most popular wine of the evening!