First Published Grupo Costa News SL, November 2011



If it wasn’t for my contacts I might have missed the excellent Gourmet Fair in Alicante’s IFA Exhibition Centre. It’s clear that organisers,, need to be aware of the huge potential of sales to the English speaking extranjeros in the Alicante Province. I was unaware of any advertising in the English language media (and no press releases to me), which I’m sure accounted for the fact that I only heard two English voices during the whole six hours I was at this Mecca of Gastronomes!

The place was really heaving but there was room for more and I’m sure that readers would have loved it! The fair managed to strike the perfect balance between keeping professionals and consumers entertained, informed and happy – there were live TV cooking demonstrations, chef clothing and the latest ovens for sale as well as very well priced tapas and wine combinations. An outstanding success!

Of course I was there for the wine! Food related stands considerably outnumbered wine stands but there was nevertheless plenty of wine to see and taste. And for me one of the stars of the show came from a small, almost anonymous stand under the generic banner of the DO Alicante. Bodegas Sierra de Cabreras is nestled into the hills of the mountain range Sierra Salinas on the DO border between Yecla and Alicante, and making top class red wine!


The Dark Horse Wine

Any wine sold in El Corte Inglés Gourmet section has to be worthy of note and at 19€ per bottle, although relatively expensive, it’s very good value for money. Were this same wine made elsewhere in a more famous area I’m sure it would command a price into the top twenties, at least!


They make just one wine (watch this space though, as their fame grows I’m sure their portfolio will too), Carabibas and it’s super! Almost opaque, this very dark red wine is made from 60 years old Monastrell vines with the addition of some Cabernet and Merlot.

The 2010 is fruit driven, but it’s complex too with racy acidity and maturing tannin and is a classic wine in waiting, though drinking very well now. The owners told me that it had only just been bottled following nine months ageing in French oak. I intend to lay down some bottles of this to see how it matures over four or five years.

The 2009 is a different wine and yet made with the same varieties in roughly the same proportions. It’s more subtle on the nose, though its lovely damson fruit is nevertheless to the fore. The gentle, sensitive oak ageing has added an extra dimension over time, and will do so still as the wine evolves over the next, perhaps eight years. I enjoyed this dark horse wine as much as the next!

Muga’s Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2004 is of course from an excellent year and whilst not just tasting the wine but drinking it too I was struck once again by the superb quality that is available in Spain, and in this case in the most famous of Spanish producing areas, La Rioja. I’ve written about this wine and Bodegas Muga several times before so I won’t say anything more, except to repeat the advice that, here you can buy Rioja with total confidence, which cannot be said about all bodegas from this area! They even manage to make a characterful white wine, using Viura – which for me speaks volumes!

Another highlight of the fair was the wine portfolio of Bodegas Francisco Gomez whose organic (all their wines are organic) Sauvignon Blanc was full of fresh

Organic Wines from Bodegas Francisco Goméz

varietal character. Their red Fruto Noble 2006 Crianza made with Cabernet, Monastrell and Syrah is well endowed with ripe fruit plus the backing of 12 months in oak.


Serrata 2006 Reserva is made with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet and Monastrell and initially reminds me of some of the full flavoured Chilean wine I sampled when last in UK, but with a good length. The fruit hits, slightly disappears on the mid-palate but returns on the finish – I wonder if it might have been a slightly better wine with a few months less oak?

So, if I can persuade the organisers of this fine food and wine fair to give me some advance notice next year I’ll post it here so you can enjoy it for yourself. PS I’ll be discussing some alternative Christmas Day wines on Bay Radio Sunday 18th December, 12:00 – 13:00 hrs – why not tune in or listen on-line (


Received from Yamelis Suarez following our joint presentation of Bodegas Vicente Gandía Wines and Extra Virgin Olive Oil d

Colín quería primeramente felicitarte por tu impecable profesionalidad, y por esa pasión que trasmites por nuestros caldos, he disfrutado muchísimo con tu charla del pasado Jueves en la Cata Maridaje, que celebramos en Rte. Ca María. Como parte de Bodegas Vicente Gandía creo que es un verdadero privilegio tenerte como colaborador. Espero que en breve podamos volver a juntarnos y disfrutar de una buena de copa de vino.

Yamelis Suarez, Jefe de Zona

Bodegas Vicente Gandía Plá

Vinos de Alta Expresión

First Published Costa News Group November 2011





It’s mid-November and I’m writing this in Granada, shivering under the majestic snow-topped Sierra Nevada, on my return from the rolling, chalky hills of sunny, 28ºC, Jerez. My cases are much heavier than when I left home – the reason, I’ve stocked up on what must be the most undervalued ‘wine’ in Spain and maybe the world!

Jerez (aka Xerés and Sherry, because it was misspelt by our forbears in times before the Bard was born, let alone before he’d picked up his celebrated quill, calling it Sack – but hey, a Sherry by any other name . . . ) is a very special wine, fortified by grape spirit to about 16 – 20% alc. The happy and up-for-it group I am with have of course tasted Sherry before. However, by their own admission, they would rarely think of ordering it in a bar as an aperitif, and probably never would have contemplated it as an accompaniment to dinner.

Well I’m delighted to say they may well think differently from now. You see, Sherry is not just about ancient Aunt Matilda’s Christmas tipple, bless her. Sherry comes in several different styles, thus lending itself to many varied dishes and I implore you to give it a go and become a born-again sherry sipper! This is the first of a duo of articles, written not long before Christmas, but to ask you to think above and beyond simply the festive season. Sherry rocks!

I was first at Grupo Estevéz’s elongated white painted premises, probably three, maybe four, years ago. I was invited to bring another group of disciples along to see how things are going, bearing in mind the

The Beautiful Reception Hall at Grupo Estvéz

latest challenges brought about by La Crisis. I’m very pleased to see that all continues as normal, as it has for centuries in this unique wine-making area.

The company as it is now only started in 1982 – a new kid on the block really. But they soon acquired for example the brand name Valdespino, which has been in operation since William’s time (no not the Prince, the Poet!), and continued a fine old tradition exporting around the (Globe, no, not the theatre, the world)!

It’s a beautiful place to visit. The tranquil setting (if you ignore the shopping centre that gradually creeps forward like lava burning land before it) is a delight. It’s not only home to tens of thousands of oak barrels holding some twenty five million bottle’s worth of sherry. It also is a stud for the stunningly beautiful black-caped Jerez horses whose stables we visited, as well as the the tack room and of course the wonderful antique carriages used on special occasions and for competition too.

Plus there’s an assortment of dogs (including Spanish speaking Jack Russells) left to roam and deal with any vermin daft enough to come sniffing for sherry! But that’s not all – there is a magnificent collection of antique furniture, particularly Long Case Clocks (Grandfather Clocks), as well as an art gallery – which would be worth the visit, without the sherry! In some ways it’s a living museum and all with a sense of history and quiet elegance.

We tasted seven different styles of wine – first up was Tio Mateo. It’s something of a cash cow as sales are wonderful – a dry slightly salty fino which we enjoyed with olives. Finos are super aperitif drinks very often used as such chez nous.

Then an Amontillado (remember that in its natural state Amontillado is

Two Fellow Tasters and the super Sherry!

dry and light brown in colour). Del Principe Amontillado Muy Viejo is 18·5 alc and was one of my favourites. We enjoyed it with some darkly coloured jamon.

Contrabandista Amontillado Valdespino has had a small amount of the naturally very sweet grape PX (Pedro Ximenez) added to the blend to make it a little more like the Amontillado’s found in the UK where, traditionally, there has been a demand for a sweeter style.

Solera 1842 Oloroso VOS was a star! Oloroso is also naturally dry – until doctored for the imagined (and often correctly) British palate. This dry 20 year old wine has a rich acidity and very dark colour from it’s slow oxygenation and a faint toffee nose.

The Pale Cream Sherry (now we’re getting into the Aunt Maude zone) is 17·5 % and has a whiff of sweet orange peel and fruit about it. Royal Cream Marqués de Real Tesoro would suit Maude down to the Zimmer and was accurately and delightfully described by group leader, Glennys. as being ‘quite custardy’.

Finally we moved onto the Pedro Ximenez (PX) 100% – a sherry that is a dessert in itself. It can also be enjoyed with rich fruit cake, Christmas Cake and, as it is often described (by me anyway) as liquid Christmas Pudding, you’ll love it with that final taste of our traditional Festive Food.