First Published Costa News Group, February 2013

. . . AND SUMMER’S LEASE HATH ALL TO SHORT A DATE!

I’m no expert in Shakespearian Studies but I’m pretty sure that, although there are several references to wine, and particularly to Sack (Sherry), in the Bard’s plays, I’m fairly certain that rosé doesn’t figure at all.

 

In fact wine was available in Shakespeare’s time and as his works became more famous, making him more sought after in the grander social circles of the time, he will no doubt have tasted some of the finest. However, wine was really the preserve of the Upper Classes, frankly, of the rich. In fact wine was about twelve times more expensive than ale, which was served copiously before, during and after Shakespeare’s plays.

 

Malmsey (The Duke of Clarence’s last drink!), Claret, Sack and Canary (another sweet sherry-like wine of the time) are often mentioned but of rosé, there’s not a “stoup”.

 

Nevertheless the quote above is used here with reference to rosado wines because they, like Shakespeare’s summer, have a short lease. However if a wholly unscientific poll I recently conducted is anything to go by, supermarket buyers are not in receipt of this basic wine fact – “The common curse of [supermarket]mankind – folly and ignorance.”!

 

And to that, add cynicism!

 

In one supermarket, of which there are More and More(!), I was horrified to see that not only were they selling bottles of way out of date rosado wines, 2008s, ‘7s, ‘6s and, to my absolute incredulity, several bottles of 2005, they were also covertly and I’m sure, deliberately, mixing them up with more contemporary offerings! A coincidental, innocent error in shelf-packing; or a cynical effort to hoodwink the consumer?

 

The essence of Spanish rosado wine is its youth. Made and bottled before the Christmas immediately following the harvest (e.g. a rosado wine made from the 2011 September/October harvest, will be in bottle by December of the same year) the vast majority of Spanish rosado wines will be drinking perfectly, and just as the winemaker wants us to drink them, up to, and probably including, the Christmas of the following year.

 

In the case above therefore, the 2011 rosado, made as we’ve seen from the 2011 harvest in September/October will be ideal up to, and probably including, the Christmas of 2012.

 

So now we are in February of 2013, it’s clear that these 2011 rosados are now past their best. And that means that they’ll be on a rather swift decline where the colour will be changing, the fruit will be disappearing and all that will be left will be the alcohol. Trust me – this is not how the winemaker wants us to taste his wine!

 

Drinking his rosado made from the 2005 harvest now will probably cause him apoplexy and will no doubt see you avoiding that bodega’s rosados, and probably all their other wines, in the future. Plus if you remember where you bought it from you may not even buy wine from there again! Nobody wins! So why are so many supermarkets selling wine that is past, and way past its prime?

 

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it – it’s simply a matter of profit and loss. No bodega is going to take back wines that were sold seven years ago, so if the supermarket is not going to add items to the Loss Column, they’ll try and sell it, perhaps not at much or indeed any Profit, but at least not a dreaded Loss! It’s true that the supermarkets may have reduced the price, and this they will say in their defence. But there’s no accompanying note saying that we’ve reduced this because it’s way past its sell-and-consume-by-date and will be offering none of the pleasure that this wine did offer when in its youth!

 

Neither will they add a postscript, saying something like ‘we really should simply pour this down the drain so as not to damage consumer trust in us, because we at  Blah Blah Supermarket always put the customer first’!

 

If they know themselves (which may well be in doubt) they’ll know that not all of us are aware that rosado really needs to be drunk young. So consumers will happily buy, at the reduced price, perhaps erroneously, though understandably believing that all wine is best when it has been aged. Remember Del Boy’s pride in his Beaujolais Nouveau, which was in fact anything but ‘nouveau’?

 

So, why has the error occurred in the first place? Here I admit that it’s not easy for supermarkets. They want to have enough stock to be able to satisfy anticipated consumer demand, so they must buy sufficient quantities. Of course it isn’t always possible to be accurate with such a prediction and therefore supermarkets may well buy too little/too much.

 

But there’s too much, and there’s way too much!

 

In contrast I was presenting a wine tasting in a wine shop recently. A lady was disappointed that her favourite rosado (in fact a Rioja from Muga) wasn’t available. I looked at the shelf and sure enough the shelf above the Muga 2011 label was devoid of wine. ‘Excellent!’, I said – this is because the shop has sold out of the 2011 and is no doubt awaiting the arrival of the correct year, the 2012!

 

Although it’s perhaps disappointing not to be able to always have access to your favourite rosados, isn’t it encouraging that wine merchants are not content with buying more of the 2011, preferring instead to wait for the 2012 which will be à point!

 

Yes – it’s true that a far smaller concern can have easier control over its buying, but it’s also true to say that profits in these smaller concerns are much smaller than those of the supermarkets. The larger business have to live with this – and employ somebody who has a better understanding of buying trends, and who knows about the shelf life of wine!

 

Rosado wine is made from black grapes, the same grapes that make red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Syrah et al. They are pink coloured by virtue of the fact that the grape juice is in contact with the skins for far less time (perhaps just 4 hours) than it would be if red wine was required. Clearly this is because the deep red colour pigment in the skins seeps into the juice giving the resulting wine its colour. So the longer the juice is in contact with the skins the darker will be the resulting rosado.

 

Wine makers produce rosado wine because they want to give the consumer an aromatic (often raspberry aromas), fruit driven, often delicate wine. The skins impart the required colour, but that’s not all. They impart flavour and aromas, and if left longer with the skin, tannin too. But who wants a tannic rosado? Nobody, so the juice is run off the skin as soon as the required colour is present.

 

Herein lies the problem regarding rosado wines’ longevity. Tannin is one of the essential pillars on which a wine rests whilst it is ageing. If there’s not enough tannin (along with the three other pillars: fruit, acidity and alcohol), the wine won’t last. Simple as that. So if there’s little tannin as shown above there’s little chance of the wine lasting.

 

Of course, as with any other ‘rule’, there are always exceptions. Some rosado grape varieties are more likely to last a little longer – Cabernet Sauvignon, for example is a tannic grape, therefore time with the skins will make the wine a touch more tannic. Rosados which have been aged on their lees before bottling will have more body and will therefore last a while longer. Also, although there are precious few, rosado wines that have been fermented/aged in oak will also stand the test of a few more month’s time.

 

However the general rule stands – the vast majority of Spanish rosados will not last  more than the 14 months between harvest and Christmas the following year!

 

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com

Dom Perignon Möet & Chandon 1992 Vintage Champagne Offer!

I’ve been asked to sell on a bottle of this fine Champagne, perfectly packaged in its presentation box with certificate to prove authenticity.

At auction during 2013 the price has been steadily climbing, probably because people are looking to buy something special for 21st Anniversaries/Birthdays etc.

Average price at auction is: 338€ a bottle with a low of 251€; and a high, no doubt for bottles in pristine condition, as is this one, of 453€.

The owner will be happy to accept 275€.

I am not charging commission.

If you are interested please contact me (colin@colinharknessonwine.com or call 00 34 629 388 159) and I will forward your details to the owner.

Gracias.

Dom Perignon Möet & Chandon Champagne 1992 Vintage

I have been asked to place on the market a fine bottle of 1992 Vintage Dom Perignon Möet & Chandon Champagne for the owner who would like to sell.

A Google search will reveral that this price of the fine vintage Champagne, packaged as it is in a Presentation Box is in fact rising, no doubt as it will be perfect for a 21st Birthday/Anniversary Celebratory gift.

Average price is 338€, with a low (without case and not in perfect condition) 251€; and a high of 451€.

The owner is will to accept 275€.

If interested please contact me and I will pass on your details to the owner.

Please note I am not charging commission for this!

Please e-mail me colin@colinharknessonwine.com or call (00 34) 629 388 159

First Published Costa News SL February 2013

BODEGAS DANIEL BELDA

DO ALICANTE & DO VALENCIA

Bodegas Daniel Belda is practically synonymous with Denominación de Origen Valencia, from whence come most of its wines. Whilst nowhere near as large as that huge leviathon of a Valencian bodega, Vicente Gandía, Danelda Belda certainly isn’t plodding along in the wake of that far larger concern. Rather, it’s ploughing its own considerable furrow in a different, and yet at times, converging direction.

 

There’s nothing like confusing the reader with a heavy mixed metaphor at the beginning of an article, I always say! Stick with me though, you’re going to hear about some super wines, with sensible price tags too!

 

In the wine world there is much talk at the moment, and perhaps for the last five years, of the burgeoning market that is China. Robert Parker the world famous American wine critic is moving his extremely successful wine business ‘out East’; one of the biggest growth industries in Hong Kong currently is that of the temperature and humidity controlled fine wine storage centres (with spin off businesses such as security cashing in on the act too); the worlds most famous wine magazine, Decanter, now holds not one but two major and most prestigious wine competitions, the original in London of course, but also in the Orient.

 

Indeed there are now several French Chateaux owned by mega-wealthy highly successful Chinese businessmen, which is perhaps not so surprising considering that some of those purchases will have been made from Japanese owners who started the Eastern business ball rolling. Plus, as China’s economy grows as predicted, we can expect to see more acquisitions, not only in France, but world-wide!

 

Clearly European wineries including, of course, bodegas in Spain are suddenly making concerted efforts to get in on the act and sell their wines to Chinese people in China.

 

But a brief look at the business ledgers of Bodegas Daniel Belda will tell you that selling wine to the Chinese is not such an innovation – they’ve been doing it for approaching twenty years! In some parts of China, until this huge concerted European -wide sales push, European wine equals Daniel Belda!

 

I’m a little ambivalent when it comes to writing about the wines of DO Valencia and DO Alicante. There’s a continuous tussle going on inside my head, journalist v consumer! I’m both and and whilst the former demands that I tell all, the latter, selfishly, wants me to keep it to myself! You see the top wines of Alicante and Valencia are amongst the best in Spain, but they are not burdened with correspondingly high prices.

 

Moreover, it goes deeper than that as the value for money price/quality ratio creed applies to most of the wines produced here in South East Spain. So when I open my big mouth and tell those who are prepared to listen (through Cork Talk which isn’t just read by the 150,000 weekly Costa News readers but which is also picked up all over the world, according to my in-box, by internet) about the quality of the wines here and how they are sold at well short of bank-breaking prices I’m really risking a price hike following a probable increase in demand.

 

I’m sure you can see my dilemma! However it’s always the journalsit in the who wines the battle and this time it’s the wines of Daniel Belda which are under the spotlight.

 

I first tasted a Daniel Belda wine a few years after arriving here in Spain, which it’s true was rather late. My writing in those early days was to satisfy a reader demand for knowledge of wines from the more famous areas of production. But as my own tasting experience expanded so did my understanding of the quality that is here in Spain but produced by the underdogs to use yet another metaphor – but I aint finished yet!

 

I was delighted to see Blackburn beat Arsenal in the FA Cup recently – as is often the case, we British like to cheer for the underdog. So my writing took several tangents years ago where I tried to include of course the big names but also attempted to showcase wines from mother areas as well. And why not Valencia and Alicante.

 

Daniel Belda is a founder member of the Terres dels Alforíns group of a dozen or so bodegas whose aim it is to make fine wine, sold at approachable prices, with the benefit of modern technology and methods going hand in hand with tried and tested traditional practise, whilst at the same time keeping a careful eye of the environment and the soils they’ll be passing on to the next generation.

 

In this alone they are to be congratulated, but when you consider the excellent wines that they are making, well you’d be forgiven for turning congratulations into adulation!

 

The first Belda wine I tasted was a Pinot Noir (approx 6€) – a most difficult vine to grow, one that has to be mollycoddled and I was keen to see how such a grumpy old vine can adapt to conditions so different to those of its native Burgundy. It wasn’t half-bad, and has continued to improve as the vines have become older and more established.

 

However Daniel Belda also likes to use, and for this there should be more applause, indigenous grape varieties as well as usurping foreigners. Verdil is the white wine grap variety that has been grown in Valencia for centuries during which time it has adapted perfectly to the hash conditions that are common during the growing system in this one of the hottest, driest and most humid areas of Spain.

 

Belda’s Verdil (approx. 5€) is refreshing with herbaceous notes, some green apple and a lick of citrus acidity, some fennel and just a faint blanched almond character.

 

Ca Belda (approx 20€), the medal winning, modern style wine that still manages more than just a nod to tradition is a lovely very dark red wine, and no wonder as it’s made with the dark skinned indigenous varieties Monastrell and Garnacha Tintorera, which is also one of the very few varieties that has a red coloured flesh too!

 

The wine is aged in oak, but they are a little coy about telling us how time in oak – this is because each vintage will vary, according to the ripeness of the grapes and the resulting wine after fermentation. The oak ageing process is designed to add to the complexity of the wine and of course to its depth of flavour, but this musn’t exclude the primary fruit flavours.

 

It’s a fine wine, one of the best from the cellar and will grace any dinner table.

 

Migjorn (approx 10€) is a wine made from French Varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from  a particular vineyard (in the Alicante area, hence the wine is labelled DO Alicante) whose soils and micro-climate are considered best for these varieties.

 

Post fermentation, which takes place in French oak barricas, the wine is then aged for for a further 12 months in French Oak barrels. However the time in French oak, the more subtle of the oak varieties used by winemakers, is well integrated allowing the fruit to come though but with a depth of flavours and some pleasing complexity.

 

There are notes of bay leaf, fresh and torn in the hand, some endearing minerality too, but an overall rich fruit-filled mouthful with the oak’s influence adding to the significant length of the wine – i.e. the length of time tnhat you can still taste and enjoy the wine after swallowing.

 

These, of course are only a few of the large range of wines available at Bodegas Daniel Belda and I urge you to give them a try!