SPRING IN JANUARY + U3A TORREVIEJA JAN 2014 016I was delighted to be the Guest Speaker at the first of the 2014 Meetings of the Torrevieja U3A at the end of January when approximately 300 people turned up to hear a discourse on wines from the Denominaciones de Origen that ‘surround’ the coastal town of Torrevieja in the South East of Spain.

Though not as universally well-known as other wine zones in Spain, the Denominaciones de Origen: Bullas; Jumilla; Yecla; Alicante; Valencia; and Utiel-Requena all have a rich history of wine making. Modern techniques linked with traditional methods and indigenous varieties, along with increased investment and exciting innovation have made wines from these DOs well worth seeking out!

A 45 minute PowerPoint presentation was followed by a keen Question and Answer session where it became clear that there’s a lot of wine interest and knowledge within the membership.

It was also my first opportunity to wear my new IWSC apron – promoting the oldest and SPRING IN JANUARY + U3A TORREVIEJA JAN 2014 024one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world, the International Wines and Spirits Competition.

Torrevieja U3A Members will now be looking out for the coveted IWSC Medal Stickers that winning bodegas will be placing on their wines – retail outlets please note!

Top Ten Spanish Wines




So straight to it:


Doix_line_productNo. 1for the fist time ever, a wine that has hit the top spot for two consecutive years! Doix Costers de Vinyes Vellas, Bodegas Mas Doix, DOCa Priorat, though this time it’s the 2009 vintage. The grapes for this classy wine, a measly half kilo per vine(!), come from vineyards whose Cariñena and Garnacha vines are between 80 and 105 years of age. Concentrated dark berry flavours are to the fore on first sniff and hit, and in the mouth the wine expands in terms of it rich flavours. There are spicy notes with some bay leaf too, a hint of smoke, some graphite, some distant old leather, a slight cinnamon note and all bound together with ripe fruit and bold, but unobtrusive tannin – to ensure longevity.


No. 2 Clio, Bodegas El Nido, DO Jumilla. Clio is made with 79% Monastrell and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Old vines are used, the Monastrell are really old, perhaps 100yrs, and the Cabernet are north facing. The vineyards stoically endure very cold winters and furnace like heat in the summer. You might get coffee, blackberry/current jam, liquorice, cassis, leather, and an overwhelming sense of opulence, a very rich mouthfeel, filling the mouth with flavour the moment you take a sip.


No. 3 Pezas da Portela, Bodegas Valdesil, DO Valdeorras. Made from grapes grown in eleven different vineyards surrounding the village of Portela this white wine is fruit driven but with an elegance that speaks of really fine wine. There is a most desirable mineral nose coming from the slate-strewn soils in which the vines grow – you’ll find apple flavours, some peachy notes, paraguyo and a refreshing understated citrus element too.


No. 4. Les Ceveres, Bodegas Oriol Rosello, DO Penedés. This stunning white wine which has had six months in French oak has a delightful coconut cream nose from its lees and from the barricas in which is has lain. Slight hazelnut and blanched almond aromas are joined by baked apples and just a suggestion of white peach on the finish.


No. 5 Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava, Bodegas Oriol Rosello, DO Cava. Its pale gold colour tells of its age and perhaps suggests that there may be Chardonnay in the blend – but no, this is traditional in that it uses only indigenous Cava varieties, in this case Xarel.lo and Parellada. Full flavoured but graceful and elegant with complexity. Its aromas gradually develop, just as the genie from the lamp slowly and gracefully manifests itself; and its glorious length kept us all hushed for several moments after swallowing!


No. 6 Albet i Noya Gran Reserva 2009 Brut Nature. The aroma of his Gran Reserva is as rich as can be and promises some wonderful flavours in the mouth. The traditional three grape varieties are supported by a sizeable proportion of Chardonnay and the patisserie notes, normally associated with Champagne, are here in abundance too. There’s a touch of green apple, largely from the Macabeo, and the fermented apple nose and taste of some classic Asturias dry cider. Admirable length and graceful elegance allied with richness!

No. 7 Lavia, Bodegas Molino y Lagares de Bullas, DO Bullas. Made with Monastrell and Syrah the wine is fermented in foudres made of French oak and stainless steel after which they are placed, by gravity only, into French oak barrels. Mountain herbs, black pepper, ripe black cherries and damson with earthy vanilla notes and a slight bitter chocolate finish.



No. 8 Feitizo da Noite Brut, Bodegas Pablo Padin, DO Rías Baixas Vino Espumo, The wine has the typical bready patisserie nose on first opening but this aroma is soon joined by typical Albariño white peach fruit and white flower fragrance. It has a lingering finish and its 8 grams of residual sugar classify it as a dry, Brut, sparkler, also making it an ideal partner to any cuisine that might include a touch of sweetness, Chinese and Indonesian for example, as it has the necessary acidity to cut through the sweetness but also the flavours to complement.


No. 9 Sueño Megala 2007, Bodegas Enguera, DO Valencia. At 14·5% this is a powerful, and yet elegant wine. Made mostly from a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Syrah it has clearly enjoyed its 22 months in French oak. There are earthy aromas and bay and rosemary herbal notes on the nose with Enguera’s usual high level of delicious dark and light red fruit on the palate too. It’s a multilayered wine with complexity, a lengthy finish and a certain sensuality as well.


No. 10 Diez Siglos 2011 Fermentado en Barrica, Bodegas Diez Siglos de Verdejo, DO Rueda. The oldest vineyards comprised of stone strewn earth with few nutrients provide the wine with a pleasing, almost flinty mineral note. It has nine months in French oak and it’s this, added to typical herby green pepper vegetal notes along with gooseberry and kiwi, that provides the fresh, ripe grapefruit on the finish.

Marco Real – The Argentinean Connection!




Scratch the surface of a bottle of the consistently good, entry level wine, Homenaje and it’s surprising what you’ll see behind the emblematic label of one of the Costas’ best loved house style wines!


Bodegas Marco Real’s founder, Antonio Catalan, who started the bodega initially to provide good wines for his hotel chain, NH Hotels, was happy to accept a major shareholding bid from, Juan Ignacio Velasco, owner of Navarra Distillieries – with a view to expanding the wine business. And How!


Bodegas Marco Real is now part of the La Navarra Group which also owns bodegas in DO Toro, DO Rueda and in Mendoza, Argentina. My third article about this iceberg of a ‘bodega’, is all about the super wines produced in the South American arm of the business.


With a view to warming up a chilly evening spent huddled around the log fire I opened Swinto Old Vine Malbec 2009 whose aroma almost burst from the bottle as the cork was pulled! The blackberry and black cherry aromas mingled perfectly with the log-fired atmosphere and I knew straight away that we were about to taste an exceptional wine!


The wine is made from centenarian Malbec vines, planted in 1910, at an altitude of just over 1,000 metres above sea level. Naturally such vines have a very low yield, but the grapes are super-rich, and because of the altitude, and therefore the dramatic change between day and night time temperatures, the resulting wine has perfect acidity and is deeply coloured.


New French, Allier, oak is used for malolactic fermentation and for a further fifteen months of ageing. It’s a multi-layered wine with the oak adding some integrated vanilla and black coffee notes to the rich tannin and opulent, dark fruit. On the palate it’s persistent with a slight dark chocolate liqueur finish. It has power and elegance in equal measure and is an excellent advert for Malbec!


Bodegas Belasco de Baquedano (part of the group) is responsible for crafting this super wine, along with others to follow. They aren’t readily available in Spain, unfortunately, but I’m told that they are in the UK – so next time you’re back . . . !


With the majestic Andes as a gloriously impressive backdrop the vineyards of Luján de Cuyo are perfectly placed at 1020 metres above sea level. And it’s these Malbec vines that provide the grapes for the intensely fragranced Moncagua 2011 with its abundance of juicy fruit. It’s pure Malbec without oak ageing and tells of what the variety has to offer as well as incorporating some of the terroir in which it’s grown.


From the same stable Llama Roble 2012 (with an image of the famous indigenous animal!) is a semi-crianza version of the above. Structured with a brilliant dark red colour the wine is designed to show off Malbec’s rich fruit but underpinned with a slight oak presence, which adds depth of flavour and some complexity. There’s also an earthy herbal element to this wine, with bay leaf and a slight black pepper note mixing harmoniously with the dark red blackberry and blueberry fruit.


Rosa, Bodegas Belasco de Baquedano’s rosado wine is also made with Malbec and has the colour, aroma and flavour of loganberries! It’s fresh, though quite full, very fruity (add raspberry and red currant to the mix!) with a dry finish. Excellent aperitif wine but with sufficient body to accompany light meat, fish and shellfish – would be perfect with paella!


Rosa Brut Nature is a super sparkler, made again with Malbec, but with a less intense rose colour. Cherry, a touch of citrus, and an inkling of pale fleshed plums are the fruity aromas that blend so well with typical patisserie notes common to sparkling wines. Perfectly dry and very refreshing.


The intensity, firstly of aroma and subsequently of flavour when I first sniffed and tasted Rosa Torrontés made be do a double-take. What is this wine? Well there’s not much 100% Torrontés white wine available in Spain, though it’s often used in blends in Galicia for example. But if it were capable of achieving such wonderful aromas and tastes as in this Argentinean example, I’m sure there would be more.


Wonderful apricot fragrance with peach and some distant mango this ever-so dry wine is intensely fruity and guaranteed to please as the promise on the nose is equalled on the palate, with a lasting fruit driven finish that had me reaching for the bottle to top up my paltry tasting sample! Excellent!


Finally, there’s a lot of UK wine media talk about Malbec at the moment, but I’ve not yet read anything about the dessert wine style of late harvest Malbec Ice Wine, as exemplified perfectly by Antracita 2007, whose minimalist back label, simply lets the wine do the talking!


Frozen grapes are harvested late in the cycle. After fermentation of the rich juice the wine is aged for two years in new French oak. The result is, well the best red dessert wine I’ve tasted! You’ll find honeyed figs and raisons with roasted nuts, toffee and deliciously sweet damsons – all with a fresh acidity provided by the altitude of the vineyard. Exquisite!

Marco Real


Regular readers may feel that they’ve seen this title recently in Cork Talk. Well, it’s similar but not the same, though there is a clear link. I wrote in July about Homenaje wines, which are produced by Bodegas Marco Real in DO Navarra, and briefly mentioned that, in fact, this bodega makes a large range of wines including some real stars in Argentina.

marco real logo fondomarcoThe company was started by NH Hotels founder Antonio Catalan in the 1980s. With other investors coming on board they started to expand their influence and their portfolio of wines. Homenaje was one of the original wines made by the company and continues to sell well. Today, though, I’m going to be discussing their Marco Real Pequeñas Producciónes Range along with the Marco Real Crianza and Reserva wines – an award winning group of wines that I have enjoyed very much.

I’m quite often known to bang on about Spanish Syrah – for me it’s a variety that does so well under the Spanish sunshine. Navarra, of course, is in the north of the country and its vineyards are at an altitude but even so it has a far better chance of ripening perfectly here than in its native France. Therefore Spanish Syrah has all the spicy notes typical of French Syrah but with an added juicy fruit element making it a wine to drink with and without food.

As the name of the range, Pequeñas Producciónes, suggests there is a small number of kilos harvested from the vineyards. Only those which pass muster are selected. There’s a long maceration period where colour, flavour and tannins are naturally extracted and when fermented the wine is placed for five months in French Oak – perhaps to make it feel at home!

The result is a black pepper spiced, blackberry and slight blackcurrant mouthful with some autumn leaves notes on the nose. Lovely.

Tempranillo is of course known as the noble variety of Spain and of course a mainstay grape of nearby Rioja. However Tempranillo is just as comfortable growing in the vineyards of DO Navarra, where it has been happily making good wines for as long as those in Rioja – as this Marco Real, DO Navarra, wine proves.

The grapes are harvested and treated largely as above and again the wine ages for some five months in oak. Dark fruit abounds (the whole range is fruit driven) but this time you’ll find a pleasing note of liquorice as well as a slight cinnamon and vanilla from the oak.

The Pequeñas Producciónes Garnacha is the final wine in this range – and it’s a super fruity wine! Look for some very dark cherries, a touch of floral violets on the nose, slight earthiness and some restrained power in there too. It has some complexity and it seems to combine easy drinking with a slightly deeper note that will endear it to meaty foods and some mature Manchego!

Marco Real 2009 Crianza Colección Privada is made with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Graciano and it’s a super medium+ weighted wine with depth of flavour and a good mature tannic grip that might have been a little overpowering in its youth but which has now mellowed. Fruit filled, the wine is lovely with roast dinners as well as meaty casseroles.

Its dark brambly fruits are underpinned with an earthy aroma and there’s some spice from the new French barrels in which it has spent just over a year. Totally harmonious, all the individual flavour and aroma notes are integrated and the drinker simply sits back and enjoys.

MARCO REAL reserva_de_familiaThe Reserva de Familia 2007, featured in the well respected Guía Proensa Los Mejores Vinos de España, is made with hand picked 40 year old Tempranillo, Cabernet, Merlot and Graciano vines. It’s fermented on French Oak foudres and then spends another thirty six months in new French barricas, which may seem like a lot of oak, but it’s totally integrated adding depth and complexity.

There is plenty of fruit in this full bodied wine – blackcurrant and mature red berries and you’ll notice some bitter coffee and vanilla notes too. Drinking perfectly now, it’s an elegant and yet powerful wine, which I’ll certainly seek out again!

PS please see the ad on this page for a super wine and sherry orientated Short Break in March 2014 – there are only a few places left!

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com and you can now follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine – and keep right up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in Spanish wine!