DO Bullas Wine Tasting


 BULLAS DO LOGO vino-do-murcia-bullas

It’s not only a great honour to be appointed to join the judges panel of the annual DO Bullas Wine Competition – it’s a great pleasure too!


The Consejo Regulador (the Regulating Council) of this medium sized are of production in South East Spain is becoming increasingly more dynamic. Their belief, I’m sure, and it concurs exactly with mine, is that it’s time to come out of the shadows!


Let’s face it, when thinking of the zones of production here in Spain, there are other DOs that come straight to mind. Of course we think of DOCa Rioja, DO Ribera del Duero, DO Penedés et al. But it’s not just these world famous DOs in whose shadow DO Bullas has shyly stood for years, it’s also those of their near neighbours: DOs Alicante, Yecla and Jumilla.


Maybe it’s this that rankles the Consejo Regulador DO Bullas, and indeed the member bodegas, the most. After all they share the principal grape variety, Monastrell as well as very similar climates and soils and yet it’s these other DOs who are stealing the limelight.


Along with fellow judges, politicians, a horde of other invitees and the local and regional media I found myself in the atmospheric catacombs underground at the Museo del Vino, Bullas, for an excellent pre-competition tasting evening. (Incidentally, I doubt that there is another Wine Museum in Spain that is as dynamic and pro-active as this one!).

I’m not sure if it’s 11 or 12 member bodegas within  the DO Bullas, but it’s a small number and they were all there showing off their wares, which equates to a lot of wine to taste! I started with the whites – easy as there were only three!


It’s true that DO Bullas is mostly about black grapes, which means lots of red wines and also a good number of rosados. However, whilst tradition (and conditions) dictate that reds are the predominate force, it doesn’t mean that whites can’t find their niche. Exhibit A – There’s a lovely and economically priced Macabeo/Chardonnay in DO Yecla Bodegas.


Chardonnay and the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel varieties are permitted in DO Bullas but there were none on show, even as blends. Personally I’d like to see some experimentation looking at the make up of the soil, the micro-climate etc to see where best to grow these internationally popular white wine varieties.


Of the three whites available, all made with Macabeo, I favoured the Bodegas del Rosario for its floral perfume, over the iconic (as it’s so commonly available) Cepas del Zorro, whose finish was a little sharp for my tastes. Bodegas Carreño’s white came between the two.


There wasn’t a poor rosado wine and there were a number all vying for pole position. I like the label, the bottle shape, the colour and the aroma and taste of Rosmarinus Organic Rosado which is a blend of Monastrell and Garnacha. This wine subsequently won the Gold Medal, which is no mean achievement, given the competition.


Rebeldia from Bodegas Tercia de Ulea was full-on with its 100% Monastrell rich flavours of dark cherries and a touch of stewed plum. Cepas del Zorro has 80% Monastrell and the rest Garnacha – the blend seems just right, providing a super raspberry and redcurrant nose and lots of flavour. Bodegas Carreño also provided a super rosado with loganberry on the nose and a slight bitterness on the finish making is a super food wine too!


There was one other rosado that stood out – for it’s colour! Bodegas del Rosario has followed the current world-wide fashion for rosado wine, making a ‘classic’ onion skin coloured, Provencal style rosé. Their representative, the charming Mara Martínez, explained to me that whilst the wine is becoming a hit in the wider, more global sense, it was difficult thus far to break down the local traditionalist barriers which dictate that Rosados should be pink!


At lunch, the following day, after judging, I really enjoyed this wine.


The night was getting on, I had to have a clear head for the competition the next day (I even, regretfully, turned down an invitation to dinner after the tasting, so devout and diligent am I, on your behalf!) so I was unable to taste all the reds. However I was impressed with all I tasted, and some were outstanding 90 pointers!


Bodega Balcona is often referred to as Bodega Partal, as a result of their first Partal wine which came onto the market some years ago, initiating an all too brief inspection of DO Bullas. They haven’t worried though, they continue to make super wines and have more in their portfolio.


I loved the vibrant plum fruit content of their Mabal 2013. It’s fresh, but wholly integrated acidity cuts through the mature tannin and oh so fruit laden flavour, plus there’s a faint hint of dark chocolate on the finish (a common tasting note for Monastrell) – more so on the 2014. It was difficult, but of the aged wines I preferred their flagship wine Partal d’Autor.


Of the reds I was able to taste (remember my dedication to the task in hand forcing me to retire early!) there were two bodegas whose red wines I thought outstanding – Bodegas Monastrell and Bodegas Lavia and I couldn’t really place one above the other.


I was delighted to recognise my friend Sebastien Boudon whose success at Bodegas Sicilia, DO Alicante, had caused him to be ‘head-hunted’ by Bodegas Lavia, which itself is a member of a group of three bodegas (I must investigate the other two!). Sebastien is French, in fact from the Bordeaux area where he learned his wine-making skills. Skills which he is putting to great effect in DO Bullas.


Lavia 2010 is made with 80% Monastrell and 20% Syrah, which has to be a winning combination, and is indeed a top class wine. The 2009 may just have beaten it, though it was close! Sadly, for reasons I wasn’t quite able to fathom. Lavia wines were not entered into the competition.


The wines of Bodegas Monastrell however were entered – and how! Two Golds and Two Silvers. Look out for Valché (priced at about 19€ but worth more for sure!) from this bodega, as well as Chaveo (about 10€) and Almudí (brilliant value at about 6·50€).


Contact Colin: and through and via Twitter @colinonwine


You may also like to see Colin’s Youtube 2015 videos, giving tips about tasting technique as well as specific wines – please go to and search Colin Harkness On Wine!

An Update on Oak!

Yes, there was a time, late 70s and through the 80s, when UK wine consumers were tired of drinking wines where you couldn’t see the fruit for the trees. Oak first, fruit later (if you were lucky) seemed to be the mantra of the times, and consumers reacted against it.

Wine Writers started referring to the ABC Club, the Anything But Chardonnay/Cabernet Club, which was coined in response to there being far too many wines made with these two varieties and whose styles were far too oaked.

The plea went out – please give us wines whose oak influence doesn’t mask the fruit that we all crave. Eventually, winemakers listened and a period of equilibrium prevailed.

However, it is still true to say that many of us like to have some oak in our wines, white, red and even occasionally rosé. So, winemakers perhaps felt stuck between a rock and a hard place – damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

Judicial oaking was considered key, and still is. When wine is crafted with care, ensuring that the fruit is to the fore, but with back-up, in terms of integrated oak-driven aromas and flavours, as well as the depth, complexity and perhaps intensity that oak can bring to the final product most people will be happy.

Well, most, but maybe not everybody and certainly not the over-stretched wineries for whom the world’s financial crisis is still a constant worry. Oak barrels cost a lot of money!

Enter the cheats!?

It’s well known in the wine world that an oak influence can be applied to wine, without the need to age the wine in oak barrels. I once wrote and article, several years ago, entitled: ‘Planks in Tanks’. Yes, you’ve guessed it – here, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks are used to make the wine, but before fermentation takes place staves of oak are added to the tank.

Oak planks ready for the pot!
Oak planks ready for the pot!

The fermenting juice is constantly moved so that all the wine is in contact with the wood as well as tiny oxygen bubbles being pumped into the tank throughout the whole process. Bingo – an instantly oak aged wine!

It’s the same with oak chips/cuttings, placed either directly into the tank, as above, or in huge ‘teabags’.

Oak Chips fermenting in Chardonnay!
Oak Chips fermenting in Chardonnay!

But is this actually cheating? The wine has those fruit aromas blended nicely with the oak characteristics of aromas and flavours and, of course, the wine is on the market far more quickly where it is sold at a more consumer-friendly price!

Enter the scientists!

The men in white coats have also been brought in. During the last few years experiments have been going on, which have resulted in a new mini-industry – the production of essence of oak liquids. I kid you not – now, grapes happily growing and maturing in the vineyards before harvest are being sprayed with these liquids. It’s almost DIY oaking!

Soon the grapes are picked, brought to the presses where the resultant juice already has an oak influence – before it even goes into the fermentation tanks!

And now, just in the last couple of days is has been revealed that our friends in white have been meddling again! Wine is made with the addition of yeast. Thess can be cultivated yeasts, those which have been cultured and manipulated in the labs; or those which are often referred to as ‘wild yeasts’, those which are found naturally in the vineyards and indeed on the very grapes themselves.

Cultivating yeasts.
Cultivating yeasts.


Yeasts, it has been discovered, are not detrimentally affected by the injection of, yes you know what’s coming – oak extract!

Very recent research has found that wines whose fermentation has been provoked by such oak-influenced yeasts are indeed displaying similar aroma and flavour profiles to wines that have been traditionally aged in oak barrel

Does it matter? The above ‘cheating/scientific research’ is consumer led, we like oak in our wines and these methods bring the per bottle price down.

What do you think?

All comments, via this website and/or by e-mail to will be gratefully received.

Thanks for your time!

DO Toro & DO Rueda – coming soon!

Impressive selection of wines from Bodegas Prado Rey!
Impressive selection of wines from Bodegas Prado Rey!

I’m really looking forward to the coming week – I’m taking 29 wine enthusiasts on a five day trip to Segovia, Toro and Rueda. We’ll be visiting Bodegas Fariña (one of the esteemed sponsors of this site!) and Bodegas Prado Rey, respectively – and we’ll throw in a bit of history and culture too!

Bodegas Fariña - the 'Art' of fine wine-making!
Bodegas Fariña – the ‘Art’ of fine wine-making!

It’s fully booked – but watch this space as I’m currently working on a trip this coming October 2015 to Spain’s most famous area of production – DOCa. Rioja!

One of the reasons I moved to Spain!
One of the reasons I moved to Spain!

Please don’t forget that in order to hear first about such visits (as well as all the other wine related events I organise) you can subscribe t my e-mail list (it’s easily done via the website, and is gratis, of course).

Or please simply send me an e-mail and I’ll add you to the list with great pleasure!

See you soon?


Blevins Franks Wine Tasting


I’m delighted to have been asked to present the now annual Blevins Franks Wine Tasting at the Denia Marriott Hotel, on Wednesday 18th March 2015.

We will be tasting wines in pairs: Sparkling Wine; White Wine; Rosado Wine; Red Wine; plus a Mystery Wine!

Bornos Verdejo

There are various themes running throughout the tasting and clients will be encouraged to make comparisons between the different wine styles.


Should be an excellent night – but sorry, it’s by Blevins Franks invitation only!

castaño logo

An example invitation is below, please click the link.