Lancashire Hotpot
I lived in Southport, Lancashire, when I was a boy (Local Government re-organisation meant it became Merseyside at a later date, much to the chagrin of the locals) so I’m very familiar with this dish!
It’s a meaty stew-style dish with loads of full-flavoured juices emanating from the lamb and kidneys and it needs a wine robust enough to stand up to such full-on tastes and aromas but one that can also add to the whole experience.
It has to be red wine and as it’s Lamb based I’d go for a Rioja Crianza or perhaps a slightly fuller Ribera del Duero. That should to the trick!




 Reading through the Costa Blanca News (as one does, religiously of course) several weeks ago I came across a news item which interested me particularly. Apparently there were to be several bodegas presenting their wares at the first of what is hoped to be an annual festival atop Cumbre Del Sol, between Benitachell and Moraira.

 The Art and Soul Festival (brainchild of art enthusiast Tanya, whose gallery/studio is a must-visit-venue if there is an artist in you looking for exposure) celebrates some of the finer things in life. Art of course, in its many and varied forms, but also: music, well-being, craft, yoga, natural cosmetics, artisan jewelry, massage, health products, alternative therapy, home-baked produce, lots more and of course wine!

 My enquiry via found Tracy and we were soon talking of ways in which I could make a contribution – ending up with my taking responsibility for enlisting the services of various local and not so local bodegas.

 The wine world remains in crisis in Spain. Having plummeted in a depressing spiral, sales have levelled out – but at a cost. Whilst not at an all-time low sales provide but a tiny profit per bottle as prices have been dropped to stop the stultifying inertia that beset the trade.

 There is light at the end of the tunnel and so bodegas are trying to improve their budgets for promotional events – the Art and Soul festival, whilst untried and untested was worth the gamble, after all Cork talk was involved!

 All six bodegas contacted were keen to come onboard. All very nice but in the cold light of day I realised that in fact this was going to be a Guinness-Book-of-Records-esque Wine Taste-athon, all presented by your columnist! With bodegas providing up to four different wines to taste, well you can do the maths – that’s a lot of wine to taste in a day, and remain sober to explain the differences between each!

 However, the consummate professional that I am(?), I made good use of the spittoon and drank plenty of water (5 litres in fact!) whilst grazing also on some lovely tapas provided by Felipe, owner of Solbar, where the tastings took place.

 The first wines tasted were from Bodegas BOCOPA, DO Alicante, an extremely visible bodega adjacent as it is to the Alicante/Madrid motorway at Elda. Their fabulously packaged sparkling wine at only 7% abv is a must for all celebrations, particularly concerning the younger generation who are developing an interest in wines but find them initially a little too dry. Made with Moscatel, it has a sweetness that many will find inviting.

 Next was their Marina Alta – a mainstay of local restaurants for many a year. Sales perhaps suffered a little initially following the tsunami of inexpensive Rueda wines, but Marina Alta remains, in many people’s view, one of the best examples of economically priced off-dry white wines made from Moscatel de Alejandria. It sells by the hundreds of thousands! This clone of Moscatel is adept at making both sweet wines and, when treated differently, much dryer wines which partner lots of starters and fish courses.

 Terreta Rosé is the name of their rosado wine. It’s made with Monastrell and has a lovely pinkness to it. Served chilled it has a super raspberry aroma and yet is dry and therefore a fine aperitif and as well as being a good partner for fish and seafood – check it out with paella!

 Finally their Laudum Tinto Crianza – made with Merlot, Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon the 2007 is drinking perfectly now and really tastes like a much more expensive wine. Good with meaty dishes, including meat orientated tapas – perhaps the perfect marriage?

 Finca Casa Alarcón has appeared several times In Cork Talk – their rosado and their new Viognier, in the gorgeous, Alsace-shaped blue bottle were discussed here recently but extra to these wines their reds Tria and Nea were tasted on Cumbre.

 Tria 2007, as you might expect, is made from three varieties – Syrah (95%) along with Petit Verdot and Merlot, all hand-harvested from vineyards 650 metres above sea level and subject to rigorous selection. It’s aged in French Oak and is a lovely red mouthful with subtle vanilla notes and a medium long finish. A good dinner wine, as is Nea 2008.

 This second red is made exclusively from Petit Verdot and has enjoyed eight months in French oak. It has developed, as you might expect from this variety in the climate of South east Spain, into a big and powerful wine. A dinner table wine for sure, it’s meaty itself so will do well with red meat dishes.

 It may be that my Spanish isn’t as ok as I thought it was because Bodegas Enrique Mendoza only sent one type of wine, their oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon! However this well balanced and structured wine was nevertheless several people’s favourite. Cabernet Sauvignon can be harsh and tannic, the more so in youth, but here in Spain with the guaranteed sunshine of the Mediterranean climate and, at altitude, cooling breezes to give some respite it can, in the right hands, produce some super full flavoured wine. Bodegs Enrique Mendoza has proved itself do be in the forefront of classy Cabernet producers in Spain!

 Bodegas Parcent, despite producing one of the wines to accompany the dinner celebrating the marriage of Prince Felipe, is still quite unknown in general. However there are many devotees, apart from the Royal family and all wines sell out in the year. This brother and wife team have developed a very attractive, small bodega with a limited production in the tiny village of Parcent and for me their wines go from strength to strength.

 Auro is tribute to their Grandmother – it’s made 50/50 with Chardonnay and Moscatel and is remarkably fruity both on the nose and palate – indeed there were some tasters, red wine enthusiasts, who were converted to the cause of white wine by this example. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is another good Cabernet without a trace of harshness. Finally their Rosado Dessert wine, Fruit D’Autor, is perhaps unique and was a real winner with Cumbre tasters. (Please watch this space and for details of a super guided tour and tasting soon at Bodegas Parcent).

 Bodegas Peter Arnold sells out of all of its wine every year. The reds I wanted to have for the tasting were long gone and there aren’t many of the whites and rosado’s available either! However the harvest is in and fermenting away so it won’t be long before they have the new wines on stream as well as the next year’s oak aged wines.

 Over the years I’ve introduced many people to Bodgas Peter Arnold adding to their continuously expanding client base. Once tasted, you’re hooked. We tasted their Sauvignon 2009 Arietta, a super grassy gooseberry tinged fresh white as well as their Sonatina, a very Alicante style wine being made from the darling Moscatel de Alejandria, a lovely aromatic dry white wine. Overture is their rosado, made from Cabernet and Garnacha it is a super fruit-driven, elegant and yet sturdy wine. I love it as an aperitif and to accompany salads, fish and shellfish.

 Finally the wines from Bodegas Sierra Salinas, the stunning bodega that sits on the border between Murcia and Alicante, under whose auspices it makes its top rated wines. Mo is the name of their most economic portfolio – a new white and rosado and their original red. All three are highly recommended for their price/quality ratio.

 Their white was the best selling at the festival. Its Moscatel and Chardonnay grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel temperature controlled vats and then blended. The result is a lovely fruity, dry refreshing wine which will impress your friends when they call for a glass of wine – they’ll want to know where you bought it for sure! Their rosado is made from Monastrell – the variety that figures in, I think, all of their reds. It has a typical raspberry nose but also a touch of minerality (unusual, but attractive in a rosado) and, for me at least, a waft of Victoria plums too!

 The most popular wine of the whole day was Sierra Salinas’ Puerto Salinas 2006. Hand harvested Garnacha Tintorera, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell, are fermented separately, aged for 12 months in French oak, Medium Toasted, blended, bottled and then aged further in perfect temperature controlled conditions. It is, in short, drinking perfectly now and should be a candidate for your Christmas Dinner – I love this wine!

 PS Two wine tastings are coming soon, dates to be confirmed: following the success of the first we are hosting another at Café D’Art, Javea Port

In November; and as mentioned above I’ll be co-presenting with joint owner, Armando, a tour and tasting all the wines (with nibbles) at Bodegas Parcent, to include their brand new, not even on the market yet, sparkling wine! Please click ‘Events’ on

 PPS I know many readers, like me, are fans of the Classical and Romantic Music duo, Dolce Divas, so you’ll be interested to know that the Teulada/Moraira Lions have contracted these beautiful girls to perform a Best of Dolce Divas Concert at La Senieta, Moraira, Saturday 13th November. Please call 965 747 343 for tickets!


Presenters Noelle and Bob enjoy the monthly on-air wine tastings!
Pumpkin Soup
There’s an element of sweetness running through this dish – the pumpkin, of course, but also carrots and gently fried onion plus, to an extent, the cream too. However there are balancing, more savoury, vegetal flavours such as the stock and the celery. It all makes for a super soup, but a difficult wine match!
White wine devotees may find solace in an off dry white wine, but not with too much forward fruit – a fairly bland white therefore, perhaps from the Airèn grape variety with a touch of residual sugar remaining.
However I think the best partner, though not perfect, would be a young, light, fruity red. Joven (young) Cariñena wines always have good fruit content and often savoury, herby note too. Or perhaps better still would be a young wine from Bierzo, whose unique indigenous grape variety, Mencía also carries an earthy, mineral characteristic which would suit this dish well.




Some of the wines from Bodegas Vereda Real

Quite where Pedro Cárcel finds the time to make his own wines, market them and in fact run his winery I’m not really sure. But having tasted them it’s clear that he is able to devote enough time, effort and indeed passion to them, despite his multifarious other interests.

 Pedro is the Spanish equivalent of the Flying Winemakers, that multi-national fraternity of winemaking experts who travel, often long distances, to advise others on how to obtain the best out of their vineyards/grapes/barrels/winery. Such luminaries have quietly, almost secretly, made a dramatic improvement to the quality of wines from the Iberian peninsular and should be applauded for so doing.

 Pedro does likewise, albeit on a smaller scale as, rather than the winemaking world being his oyster, he operates really only in the Valencia region, with occasional forays into Murcia. Nevertheless his is a telling contribution and if you’ve tasted wines from DO Alicante, DO Utiel-Requena and DO Valencia it’s entirely possible that you’ve tasted his efforts!

 The temperatures in the pristine vineyard where we met him near Utiel, off the road from Valencia to Madrid, were furnace-like in July and our water reserves were quickly used up on the journey to HQ, Bodegas Vereda Real, where thankfully the temperature control was to our benefit as much as to that of the wines reposing in barrel.

 Barrel, or in Spanish barrica, – a simple self-explanatory word, but at Bodegas Vereda Real a science in itself. Pedro’s premise it seems is that whilst the fruit is of course central to the wine, playing the starring role, oak too can play an Oscar-winning supporting part.

 However, there’s oak and there’s oak. Traditional in Spain, French oak and American oak are ubiquitous. Pedro likes to experiment with oaks from different countries. You’ll see wines ageing in French oak (from at least two different areas of France), American, Central Europe and Caucasian oak and he’s very proud of the fact that Bodegas Vereda Real is the first Valencian winery to use native Spanish oak.

 Needless to say there is an oak element in most of the wines that come from this bodega but they add complexity, depth and flavour complementing the primary and secondary fruit flavours that are also captured. I tasted a raft of their wines, one presented in a most impressive wooden box embossed with a metal seal, a Vino d’Autor, of top quality!

 First a word about Utiel-Requena’s darling, indigenous grape variety, Bobal. A stunning blueberry/purple in youth with a keen minerality, wines made with Bobal age gracefully taking on deeper and darker colours and autumnal, earthy aromas supporting dark fruits like blackberry and blackcurrant, sometimes with figs and dates in there too! It is a super variety and should be sought out.

 Bobalia Roble 2006, as the name implies, is made entirely with Bobal, with a short ageing in French and Spanish oak. It has rich dark forest fruits on the nose and palate with that characteristic mineral aroma supported by a slight vanilla from the oak. It’s fresh but with some power too.

Bobalia, for Bobal!

 Selectto Crianza 2004 has Bobal in the blend, but smoothly rubbing shoulders with Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot – a Franco-Hispanic wine with an Utiel-Requena spin! Dark cherry in colour there is a touch of that fruit about the flavour too, with balsamic notes, blueberry and ripe blackberry plus a distant a whiff of tobacco, emanating no doubt from its eclectic oak mix (France, Hungary and Spain). Good drinking with and without food.

 Ettnos Reserva 2003 is a grown-up wine for the dining table. Cabernet Sauvignon makes an appearance here, along with Bobal and Syrah, giving the wine a deeper and darker colour and added age-ability. A structured wine with complexity and power and yet a delicate fragrance too. There are toasty, smoked notes and rich dark fruits.

 There are, I believe, fewer bodegas during these less tranquil times, making Gran Reserva, a style of wine which, if it disappears totally will, in my view, be much lamented. Bodegas Vereda Real’s 1999 wholly Bobal Gran Reserva proves my point with elegance and aplomb. I hope they continue to make this style of wine.

 On opening, the aromas waft out of the bottle like the congenial genie from the lamp, enticing all within sniffing distance to stop and linger, as indeed the perfume does. Watch out or there’ll soon be a crowd! It’s had 26 months in a selection of new oak from various different countries and whilst easily identifiable as a part of the whole it is complementary to the overall perfume and taste. There are dark fruits, slatey minerality as well as some liquorice notes – a powerful and yet elegant wine that requires a fine dinner, good company, a long night and more than one bottle!

 The aforementioned Vino d’Autor, named rather aptly, Tesoro de Requena 2005, will suit those who prefer a slightly lighter mouthfeel in their wines. For me it is a wine that embodies finesse, grace and elegance with lovely deep fruits, full-on flavour and integral oak nuances. A wine to enjoy and savour with food, between best friends and lovers!

 PS There is a FREE wine tasting at Restaurante Asador Salamandra, Moraira, Thursday 21st October. I’ll be presenting a cava, a white, a rosado, a young red and an oak-aged red with José the new Manager. All wines tasted will be discounted on the night for you to take home and you can also choose to dine on the special 22 Euro menu (inc. wine) after the tasting! Places are limited for the FREE tasting, and it is necessary to reserve – please call me, 629 388 159. There is no obligation to reserve for dinner and you can either reserve a table before or on the night.