Dolce Divas Concert – the Wines!


It’s quite an honour to be asked to recommend and source the wines for a Classical Music Concert. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so, provided by the Javea International Baptist Church for their Easter Concert, featuring the beautiful music of the equally beautiful Dolce Divas!

However, I’ll admit, it wasn’t a difficult task! Firstly I knew I would soon be travelling to Bodegas Fariña, DO Toro (more on this superb visit soon!) where I would surely be able to find either a red or a rosado of suitable quality.

Secondly, I’d also be visiting DO Rueda and considering that every 3·6 bottles (don’t you love statistics!?) of white wine sold in Spain comes from this amazing rags to riches area of production, it was clear that there would a plethora of white wines from which to choose.

And of course there was always my good friends at Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla, who, although they sell 97% of their wines abroad, still keep some for the domestic market. As I said, easy job!

Sauvignon Blanc is considered to be a French variety, it makes the wonderful Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé wines in Loire Valley. However the success of wines from these areas seemingly gave Sauvignon Blanc itchy feet. It travelled all over the world, and as we know it made more than a significant mark in New Zealand, from whence now hails, some would argue, the world’s best Sauvignon.

Let’s remember that Sauvignon’s passport has many stamps – one of which is from Spain, and in particular, the wine growing area to the north-west of Madrid, DO Rueda. Here, Sauvignon competes for vineyard space with the curiously similar (in some respects) local indigenous variety, Verdejo. And, as you’ve read here in Cork Talk, one of the bodegas in the vanguard of quality Rueda wine making using Verdejo is Palacio de Bornos.

They don’t do a bad Sauvignon, either! So it was this Bornos Sauvignon 2014 that I selected for the white wine offering (pun intended – offering, church, get it?!). Judging by the post concert comments, I think I got it right! Palacios de Bornos Sauvignon has all the classic characteristics of the Sauvignon that everyone wants to drink these days.

Highly perfumed: look for gooseberries, a touch of nettle and asparagus with some slightly under-ripe kiwi fruit (those New Zealanders again!) and a passing nod to fennel, it’s a super fruit driven, clean and refreshing dry white wine. If it’s not in your fridge already – do something about it, now! Well, immediately after you’ve read the rest of this column, at least!

Bodegas Fariña’s Rosado 2014 is made with their Tinta de Toro grape variety – though regular Cork Talk readers will know that this is really indicative of their   homage to Spain’s most grown and loved variety, Tempranillo – as it’s the same grape by another name. A grape by any other name, would smell as sweet? Well, no, William, it’s not sweet, actually!

In the glass the wine has presence – it’s not a shrinking violet and it’s not the pallid pink that seems to be de rigeur these days. Darkly coloured, it’s a wine in the classic Spanish rosado category. I’ve often said that Spain champions rosé wine better than any other country. Known, primarily as a red wine country (though this is definie tly changing), it’s only natural that winemakers of the past would have also made rosado wines.

It’s a tradition that still holds sway. Look at any Spanish wine shop and supermarket and you’ll see lots of rosé wines for sale. It’s a difficult choice, so let me help a little. For example, Bodegas Fariña, a family owned and run winery in DO Toro, has an enviable reputation as a producer of top quality red wines, with a very fair pricing structure too.

Their Colegiata Rosado 2014 is a lovely, bright cherry colour and looks beautiful in the glass. Swirl and sniff and you’ll find lots of soft red fruit aromas, the primary one for me is loganberry – raspberry, with attitude! There’s a lurking strawberry presence as well as redcurrant and cherry that follow through onto the palate too.

The red wine I chose, was in fact that which I chose for my recent wedding – to the lovely Claire! Hécula, from Bodegas Castaño is the wine that put the bodega, and indeed DO Yecla on the world wine map! Sold at an incredible value for money 6 – 7€, Hécula received over 90 points for Americna wine guru, Rober Parker, the first time he tasted it – and it has consistenty in the early 90s since.

It’s made with Monastrell, the favoured variety of South East Spain, which, although exhibiting slightly different aroma and flavour profiles depending on where it’s grown – i.e. DOs Valencia, Alicante, Yecla, Bullas, Almansa and Jumilla – invariably produces super-juicy, fruit driven wine.

Monastrell (known as Mourvedre in France) is also happy to spend time in oak, which when judiciously handled adds an extra depth of flavour, of course, and complexity too – but always retaining the fruit presence. Hécula has had six months in French oak and the balance is, well, perfect, making it a lovely wine for drinking on its own as well as with food, light and dark meats as well as cheeses.

The JIBC ( members provided an excellent ‘Bring and Share’ tapas choice for post concert drinks and bites and I was delighted to receive positive wine comments on behalf of the bodegas above. Plus, it was a real pleasure to hear the praise heaped upon Dolce Divas ( for an excellent concert whilst the stars were also enjoying a glass (or two!) of wine!

Contact Colin: and through his website and via Twitter @colinonwine.

Colin is also posting videos on Spanish wine – please see and hear more at search Colin Harkness On Wine.

IWSC 2015

Day 4 and an overview of the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2015:

After 60 – 70 wines per morning for four days, I’d like to think I could be forgiven for being a little late with this final blog about my experiences judging on the Spanish Panel of this year’s International Wine & Spirits Competition! Indeed, the more so when you consider that I was up at 04:55 hrs on the day after the last judging session, to make my connections in order to fly back to Spain!

Well, what an enjoyable experience, as it is every year, of course. It is such a pleasure to sit with like minded people, who invariably become friends, tasting wines from all over Spain and then, when the scores are in and the session over, discussing the wines and latest developments in the Spanish wine world.

And, being honest, I have to admit to a certain satisfaction and indeed delight at being asked for my views in such august MW-rife company! Of course I take my hat off to such highly qualified wine experts, not only the Masters of Wine, but others who clearly have such a profound knowledge of wine.

I admit to being in awe of such people so when my views are sought and when I’m given the opportunity to update here and there with the latest information from the Spanish wine world in the middle of which I live, well I’m glad to help, of course!

Plus, it’s a two way thing. Whilst Masters of Wine and their ilk have a huge and most enviable knowledge, understanding and experience of wine – there is, of course, nobody who knows everything! Not even those who teach and examine those who take the MW exams. Nobody – as wine-making is continuously evolving.

The wine world is dynamic. For example, 20 years or so ago innovative methods assisted by state-of-the-art technology totally transformed wine production in Rueda and brought the Verdejo variety to world acclaim. Look back also to whenever it was that stainless steel fermentation tanks, now considered an integral part of every winery, were invented. Again a whole new grape game followed.

I wonder if in 20 years I’ll be looking back at the technology/wine styles/wines/wine accessories/knowledge/etc of today a displaying at least a wry smile if not a full on belly-laugh!

Day 4, my final day the the IWSC 2015, but not the last day of the Spanish Panel – there are three more this week, as well as days scheduled for other country’s (lesser!!) wines – was a super way to end! One wine enjoyed so much in Room No.1 where I was lucky enough to have been, was awarded the top prize – Gold Outstanding.

You’ll have to wait until the results are published to find out which though – and in case you are wondering, so will I!

The IWSC is very professional – we taste out of numbered glasses, the numbers corresponding to the actual wine which is poured in secret before being brought in to the panel. No phones are allowed  during judging, which is done in silence so as not to influence fellow judges.

Each room has a ‘Chair’, a lady or gentlemen, always with lots of previous experience judging at the IWSC and invariably with a most impressive CV in the wine business. Often, but not always, the ‘Chairs’ are Masters of Wine.

Before judging starts all present are asked to taste two example wines about which we are told their country/area of provenance and often the grape variety and to judge them – scores are collected by the ‘Chair’. If there is a great divergence, for example with some marking the wine in the Gold category whilst others mark it as being outside the medals, then judges are asked to justify their marks.

A discussion will take place and if no agreement is reached then these wines could be sent for review by the other room. Plus further example wines could be brought in.

This has never happened when I’ve been there!

If, as has always been the case with me, the judges are more or less in accord then the first ‘flight’ of wines will be brought in for us to assess and score. And so it goes on! 60, 70 or more(!) wines later, we adjourn to lunch where we chat about all things wine! Great!

One of our discussions this year was about the rise and rise of Prosecco sales in the UK and the toll that this has taken on Cava sales. Somebody wondered if this might affect the cava makers, making them lean towards a sweeter style.  Heaven preserve us – is my answer to that!

When Cava was first made here in Spain, before it even had the name ‘Cava’ it was basically just an attempt to copy Champagne – for a number of reasons, too many to discuss here, it failed. Fortunately somebody had the multi-billion Euro (pesetas in those days, and more of them!) business saving idea of saying, and this is a rough translation(!), ‘No let’s not copy, let’s use our own varieties, let’s be proud of what we do here in Spain, let’s be an alternative to Champagne, not a copy!’.

I rest my case re any possible change in Cava land!

Well that’s it for this four part blog about the IWSC 2015. I hope it was of interest? I’d be delighted to receive any comments/suggestions/questions you may have, of course.

Next Blog – well, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about when I visit Spain’s largest Spanish Wine Fair, Fenavin, in Ciudad Real in early May.

Thanks for your time.



Annual Blevins Franks Wine Tasting




Unfortunately I’ve never been in a position which required me to seek the assistance of a Financial Services company. If you have no money, you can’t invest it! However, if a small fortune ever did come my way (some hope!) there’s no doubt that I’d contact Blevins Franks, straight away.


I’m sure that their financial advice is excellent (indeed, I’ve heard nothing but praise) but, as you might imagine, it’s their annual wine tastings which attract my attention! A few years ago I was invited (by friends who remain clients of Blevins franks) to attend one of their tastings, their second, I believe, presented by my friend and colleague, Ed Adams MW (Master of Wine).


Ed is not only a Master of Wine, one of just over 300 MWs in the entire world, but he also puts his knowledge to practical use, by making wine up in the hills of Cataluña – and top wines they are too, excellent! I was impressed with the tasting and wondered if I’d ever be able to attend another.


You can imagine my delight when, a couple of years ago I was invited to present a tasting for clients of the Blevins Franks Office in Alfaz del Pi; and even more so when in March 2015 I was invited to do the same, this time in the plush Marriott Hotel.


Essentially the choice of wines was left to me. There was a budget of course, though this wasn’t restrictive at all – with the most expensive wine priced at around the 35€ mark! It was also a most generous tasting for their invitees – eight wines were listed, with a final, mystery wine to finish. Then any wine left over was to be consumed in the nearby Jazz Bar, with tapas to boot!


We started with Sparkling Wine (and this after the Sparkling wine aperitif, welcome drink!). The idea was to have wines served in pairs, with a view to giving tasters the opportunity to compare wines within the same category. With the aperitif fizz being a young, bright and refreshing Brut (like the paired wines to follow, coming from the Albet i Noya Bodega, Penedés), I thought it apt to taste their Reserva Brut alongside their Pinot Noir Rosado.


Clearly there’s an obvious comparison, one is white and the other rosé – but the contrast went deeper than that, of course. The Brut  (approx 11€) has had the benefit of 18 months ‘en rima’, that’s stored upside-down with its lees (the dead yeast that was added to provoke the second fermentation). This is twice as long as the minimum allowed in the nearby DO Cava (please note that, although made largely by the same method, Albet i Noya sparklers are not Cava – regular readers will know something of the history of this), and 18 months is three more than the minimum allowed for Cava Reservas.


The wine is full bodied with depth of flavour and super, aged fizz aromas – and a long finish.


The Pinot Noir (approx 15€) has had 12 months ‘en rima’. This traditional Champagne grape variety also adds a flavour of its own. There are loganberry notes, with some strawberry too and again a depth of flavour complemented by some complexity.

 ALBET ROSÉ pnrosat

The white wine pairing was one that I was looking forward to – I love the full range of Palacio de Bornos wines from DO Rueda, so it was difficult to choose! I went for the straight Verdejo 2014 (approx 5€), the wine that really made the bodega’s name, along with its elder sister the Verdejo Fermented en Barrica (approx 8€).

 Bornos Verdejo

The comparison here was the same grape variety, but treated differently. The former was stainless steel fermented allowing the glorious fruit to be at the forefront in terms of aroma and flavour; and the latter, that same fruit but with the integrated, yet still noticeable, beneficial influence of the oak barrels in which it had been fermented and aged. Both excellent!


For the rosado wines I wanted to give the tasters an opportunity to taste, perhaps the best rosé wine in Spain – the darkly coloured Gran Caus Merlot! The contrast here was two fold – the other rosado is made with Bobal, indigenous to Valencia, but also made in such a way that the very pale pink, almost onion-skin coloured, rosé makes it a very different animal, in looks alone!


The delicate perfume of the Pasión de Bobal Rosado (approx 6€) suggested a delicate flavour on the palate, but rather than being a touch weak in taste, in comparison to the meaty Merlot, I’d prefer to term it elegant – and certainly the personification of prettiness in the glass.  The Gran Caus has such a depth of flavour and oh so long finish, some might term it a wannabe red. This is rosé excellence (retailing at around 15€ so quite a lot more expensive than most, but trust me – it’s well worth it!).


I used a Bobal again for the first red – and from the same Bodegas Sierra Norte, DO Utiel-Requena. Deeply coloured with dark cherries emanating from the glass the moment it is poured, it too has elegance as well as the dynamism of youth. The comparison wine was wholly different. Elevated to the impressive position of a very close second wine (if not its equal) to Bodega’s Castaño’s superb Casa Cisca flagship, this second red is really excellent!


Casa de la Cera (approximately 35€) has Monastrell at its heart (50%) with Garnacha Tintorera, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot making up the rest of the blend. I love it!

 CASTAÑO casa_cera

The mystery wine was also made with Monastrell and also by Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla. However, the mystery is that this wine is a ‘late harvest’. The grapes for such a wine are left on the vine for much longer than those destined to become dry wines. Harvested in November, the grapes look more like raisons. Some of the water content of the juice has been evaporated leaving less juice, but with a higher sugar content as the increased sunshine has over-ripened the grapes.


Dulce Monastrell Bodegas Castaño (approx 16€ for a 50cl bottle) is then aged for 6 months in French oak. The result is, well stunning! It’s a wonderful red dessert wine which is also happy with strong/blue cheeses – there is sweetness, yes, but like all the best dessert wines, there is also the necessary acidity to keep the wine fresh and alive. Excellent!

 Castaño dulce_sin_anada

PS I have 10 places only left for the super Bodegas Castaño Dinner and Concert at the Swiss Hotel Friday 8th May. The Castaño wines have been selected to be paired with the super four-course Swiss Hotel dinner; and the beautiful music will be performed by the equally beautiful Dolce Divas ( If you would like to secure some of the last few places, please contact me asap! Please call 629 388 159 or e-mail


PPS please remember to regularly visit where you’ll see the Events Page, the Blog etc. Also you’ll be able to see and hear my comments on various wines by weekly visits to – search Colin Harkness On Wine.

IWSC 2015

Day 3 of the Spanish Wine Panel judging at the International Wine & Spirits Competition near Guildford, UK.

We’ll, it’s called the International Wine and Spirits Competition because we receive wines from all over the world. There is judging in the Northern Hemisphere, where I am now; and there is judging in the Southern Hemisphere – where I’d like to be one day!

Plus there is also the IWSC in Hong Kong – again, I’d love to have a crack at that, too!

However, it’s  not just the wines that are international – so are the Judges!

During the three days I’ve been here this week my fellow judges have come from several different countries: South Africa; Hong Kong; Germany; Italy; USA/Canada; Great Britain and probably more – well, me from Spain, for example!

It means that we are able to gain a real understanding of perspectives across the planet, and it makes the judging that much more accurate, when you consider that IWSC medals are proudly displayed on winning wines made and sold all over the Globe. It’s an honour to be a part of it!

Today was a good day, really good. The standard was high, in some cases very high. Plus there were, yet again, a number of Spanish Wine producing areas represented that often are in the shadow of the fame of some of the better known wine zones. And what a delight to see so many of the wines hailing from these lesser known areas achieving the same medal level as will wines from the ‘sexy’ areas in the coming week!

It’s further proof that Spain continues to be in the vanguard of dynamic, innovative quality wine-making!

I’m not allowed, yet, to reveal anything specific about the wines we tasted today. But I can say that the standard was high and that my fellow judges, and that includes a number of Masters of Wine (there are only 301 MWs on the planet!), and I thoroughly enjoyed the wines and the experience!

Last day for me tomorrow, but there are another three days of Spanish Wines in the coming week. Wish I could be there!

More tomorrow.