JUMILLA copas1-07-mvl



This is the second article I’ve written recently about bodegas in DO Jumilla – and I’ll be writing another soon.

So, does this mean I’m biased towards this sun-scorched wine-making zone of southern Spain?

Well, on the one hand, no. I’m not biased to Jumilla, at the expense of other wine-making areas of the Iberian Peninsular. However, on the other hand, yes I am biased. As biased as I am to any area of wine production that consistently turns out really, really good wines!

One of the wineries at the core of this consistent quality is Bodegas Luzón, several of whose very impressive portfolio of wines I’ve recently had the great pleasure of tasting. That’s pleasure with a capital P! Although I’ll be going into some detail about each of the wines I’ve tried, a general, ‘fits all’ comment would be that their wines are fruit orientated, rich, silk-smooth and hugely enjoyable. Now that’s a good start in anyone’s language!

The bodega is part of a group, as indeed are several bodegas these days, but it seems that their masters are content with encouraging them to carry on doing what they’ve been doing so well. If it aint bust, don’t fix it!

Firstly, the design team have done an excellent job. The bottles all look the part – they speak of good quality wine before you’ve even pulled a cork. And the labelling is cutting edge – from, ‘it does what it says on the bottle’, through idiosyncrasy, to classy art!

Secondly, the commercial team has the pricing right too. I’ve tasted Luzón wines from entry level to flagship and they’ve all been very fairly priced (indeed, but don’t tell them, a couple of their top wines would, I’m sure, command a heftier price were they produced in one of the more famous DOs!).

And the wine-making team? Well, there’s nothing wrong there either!

It’s not often that I write Cork Talk with a glass of one of the wines under review, close to hand – but I’m making an exception today. It’s a lovely, hot day – lunchtime on my shaded terrace and a well chilled Luzón white is just what the Doctor ordered (I’m not long out of hospital as I write – though it is a slight exaggeration of the truth   to say that it was the Doctor who ordered – it was more the Physio!).

Luzón Blanco 2014 is made with Macabeo and Airén – yes, that variety again, one to which I’ve referred a few times recently, and one which, when treated correctly, can give a lie to the grape previously known as characterless! I like Macabeo, in all its forms – it usually has a green apple tinge, often in terms of the colour of the wine, but also in its aroma and taste profile and it blends very nicely here with Airén.

To add depth of flavour and some added personality the wine has been partially fermented in new French oak with its lees to accompany it for nearly a couple of months. I do believe I’ll pour myself another! 6€.

Alma de Luzón, the Soul of Luzón, is the flagship wine and understandably so, as it speaks of the soil in which its elderly Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell and Syrah vines have been growing, as well as the bodega’s philosophy. The grapes were harvested by hand in small baskets and transported with care to the bodega where they were chilled before maceration and separate fermentation.

luzon alma

The resulting wines were placed in New French and American oak, but it was only the best barrels which were chosen to make this limited edition wine. In total the wine has benefited from some 22 months in barrica, but whilst this has added some flavour of course, it’s the richness, you might even say, opulence, of the fruit that you taste, and indeed, feel, on the palate.

On the nose there’s some sweet cedar and vanilla with a little coconut and coffee, though it’s the dark blackberry, blackcurrant and picota cherries that you’ll first encounter, a fruit compote that will remain with you from first hit, through the mid-palate and onto the long finish. It’s rich, yes, and at 15% abv, you may think, before tasting, that it’s a bit of a bruiser – but no, this wine is so elegant too!

At 40€ it is, for most of us anyway, a special occasion wine (think Christmas this year and/or the next two years – the wine I tasted was 2009 and drinking perfectly, yet with time on its side too), but real value for money!

Which brings me onto the idiosyncratically labelled, hugely pleasurable Portú – a wine that retails for just over 20€, so still on the expensive side, I agree, but which really should be priced at least in the 30€+ range!

Luzón portu

A modern label to go perfectly with a wine made in the modern style, whose roots are also in the past. It’s been made with Monastrell and Cab Sauv grapes whose vines grow at 600 metres above sea level, allowing for cooler temperatures at night, which bring essential fresh acidity to such a full bodied wine.

It’s easy drinking, worryingly so, and yet there is concentration and complexity there too. A structured wine, but non-conformist, with layers of enjoyment. You’ll find some worn leather sofa and coconut on the nose, with understated vanilla, but again with super dark, brambly fruits to the fore, with a noted black plum aroma and flavour. Long lasting and impossible not to admire!

I’d also place Altos de Luzón in the same category re its undervalued price-tag – at about 20€, it really is a steal – perhaps one for you to enjoy for that special occasion, without having to pay twice as much!

Into the fray (though there’s nothing inharmonious about this wine) they’ve pitched Tempranillo, now Spain’s most grown grape, and of course practically synonymous with Spanish wine in general. Adding a slightly lighter soft red fruit Tempranillo nuance to the dark blueberry, plum and blackberry of the Monastrell and Cabernet, it’s rich and powerful, though again, elegant, as well.

Luzon altos 2010

We enjoyed this wine immensely with a pork dish, and I’m sure that it would suit other meats, darker still, perfectly well too. On the nose there is also a slight herbaceous note, with bay leaf and thyme being slightly more powerful than the trace of rosemary that you’ll also find, if you look deeply enough, along with a more pronounced, for me at least, earthy minerality.

Finally, as space is running out – a quick nod towards Luzón Crianza as well as the much more moderately priced Luzón Roble, which I found locally for the bargain price of under 5€! Both wines are most enjoyable!

Contact Colin; and via where you’ll be able to see his forthcoming wine events and where you can also subscribe to his newsletters. Plus you can follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine for all the latest Spanish wine news!

Celler Vermunver DO Montsant

VERMUNVER logo_principal



When, thankfully, sitting down with the charming Aïda Vernet (this was but a few days before my recent knee replacement), I was as amazed as I was humbled to hear that all the members of the close-knit family who are involved with Celler Vermunver’s also have ‘day jobs’!

Amazed because the quality of their wine is such that one would think they’d been  crafting quality wines for generations; and humbled, to see that they had taken the gamble of following a dream! To me, this is as admirable as the wine that they produce. They are a new, 21st Century, business and they’ve entered a very competitive field, so their passion isn’t yet providing them with a full-time living. However, watch this space!

Whilst not making their own wine, commercially, before, the family, like many in Spain, have made wine for their own use. For this, they needed to keep back some of the grapes that preceding generations had traditionally sold to others for their wines. Viticulture, they know very well, and whilst not on a commercial basis, they also have a history of wine-making.

Enter Roger Vernet Muntané, brother of Aïda, who had the vision to see that there was potential to continue growing for others but also to start a bodega making their own wines. To his family’s generational, traditional domestic wine making knowledge and commercial grape growing experience and success, Roger added a degree in oenology (winemaking).

For a start, their vineyards are right next door to the hallowed ground of Priorat, from whence comes one of Spain’s three most expensive wines. Indeed, DO Montsant, as their area is now known, used to be called the Falset sub-zone, where all the best DO Tarragona wine was made. After considerable pressure the authorities did concede that the consistent excellence of wines from Falsett was such that they should be granted DO status independently.

So, Roger and the family knew that the quality of the basic ingredient, the grape, was as good as is necessary to make fine wine. Consider also that the majority of the vines  used for their production are between 70 – 80 years old, and you may wonder why it took them so long to get cracking!

In 2004 Celler Vermunver launched its first wines. The limited production sold out and they knew that they were onto something. How the  business is financed, is not my affair of course, but it seems that they are, sensibly, taking it ‘poco a poco’  (little by little) until such time as their success enables them to concentrate solely on wine making and promoting their wines.

I tasted all of their small portfolio and am confident in recommending them to readers. I’m not alone in this as the company have already garnered medals and top Peñin Guide and Parker points.

First into my eager tasting glass was their Garnacha, Cariñena and Merlot Joven 2013 Vinum Domi (Latin, meaning Home Wine, so a real connection with their traditional past). You’ll find bags of fruit with this wine as well as a touch of liquorice on the finish. (7€)

VERMUNVER vinum_domi_330px

Next I tasted Petit Gènesi (small beginning) – this time it’s 20 yrs old Syrah that joins the old guys, giving a touch of peppery, added juiciness. The wine has had 6 months in French and American oak, giving it a little more authority than the youthful previous wine. However, none of the fruit is lost to wood – the oak provides some structure and some depth of flavour, giving also a longer finish. (9€)

VERMUNVER petit_genesi

I loved the labels of the two mono-varietal wines. Both proudly display the picture of the leaf that each distinct vine produces. I tasted the magnificently fruit orientated 100% Gènesi Cariñena 2012 (95 Peñin Points!) which has enjoyed (and I mean that!) 12 months in French and Hungarian oak (which is the French oak species , grown in Hungary). This wine, along with the other mono-varietal, is made using wild yeast as found on the vines in their own vineyards.

VERMUNVER carinyena_peque

The 2012 Gènesi Garnacha is made in exactly the same way, but with Spain’s second  most planted variety which has been grown so successfully in this part of Cataluña for centuries. Again, the by-word here is fruit, but with elegance, depth and structured complexity . Both of these single variety wines do what was intended – they delight the drinker, both when eating and when simply contemplating life, as well as being excellent expressions of what each variety is about.

VERMUNVER garnatxa_peque

At 20€ per bottle they’re not cheap – but of course quality never is! Outstanding wines!

Finally, I tried Gènesi Seleccio 2008, 60% Cariñena and 40 % Garnacha – a signature wine of the bodega and a homage to the soils in which the varieties have been growing for 80 years, planted by Aïda and Roger’s Grandfathers!


Adorned with several medals and top level marks in the guides the wine is drinking perfectly now, and at 15€ it’s a very good buy! However I don’t think it has long left. Readers may therefore want to wait until the following vintage is available (which may be now? ).

Contact Colin: ; and via his unique wine orientated website where you can subscribe to his newsletters and learn of his Wine Tastings, Bodega Visits, Short Break Wine Tours; Blogs etc; and via Twitter @colinonwine

With or Without You!

I feel a bit of a fraud here, really – I’m not a big fan of U2 (though I do like this particular song), so I’m not perfectly comfortable with this tiny piece of plagiarism. However, it fits both sides of this blog so I’m sure the U2 members will approive when they read it, avid followers of that they are!

The two sides of this blog are namely: wine orientated (well, you’d hope so, wouldn’t you?); and politically orientated. Diverse corners, I agree, but linked, I think!

I’ve recently signed what amounts to a ‘political ‘ petition, most unusual for an apolitical person such as myself. Indeed, my signature has nothing at all to do with any political party’s view on the subject. By definition, I clearly have no knowledge of any such views. It’s plain common sense to me, albeit that I don’t fully understand the financial implications involved, I admit. (Perhaps some would think this lack of understanding makes my opinion worthless, but I’d argue that it isn’t just about finance).

The Costa News Group, for whom I have been writing the wine column, Cork Talk, for 18 years now, is running a petition , in the probably forlorn hope(?) of making a change in UK Law to allow those of us who have been living out of  Great Britain for over 15 years, the right to vote in the forthcoming UK referendum regarding Great Britain’s membership of the European Union.

I presume that the right to vote in UK elections generally has been taken away from the hundreds of thousands (I’ve no idea of the actual number, though believe it to be at least 200,000, pence the plural!) of us because it is believed that as we have ‘abandoned’ Great Britain we no longer have the right to have a say in what goes on there. I have to admit, I do have some sympathy with this view.

However, membership (or not) of the EU does impact upon all Britons living within its boundaries, therefore, for me, rightful ownership of a British Passport should entitle us to a vote in a referendum which will seriously affect our lives, rights and status!

Personally, in case you ask, I’m in favour of continued membership, albeit with perhaps a re-think re its rules and regulations. Safety in numbers, is relevant, I think, but that’s not all – it just makes more sense to me to be working together for the common good, rather than perhaps/probably against other European countries with a worryingly nationalistic, in my view, myopic, agenda.

However, my view is of no consequence. It’s my right to vote that is important, I believe, as is that of every other British ex-pat living within the EU, of course.

Now, a walk on the wine side (a play on words and another piece of musical plagiarism!).

Thinking of the way in which wine making is organised here in Spain and (here’s an aforementioned ‘link’) indeed in the rest of Europe and in particular about the government sanctioned Denominación de Origen controlling system – is it  better to make wine with, our without the auspices of a DO? 

I’ve written Cork Talk articles before referring to this debate. There is a mounting body of evidence which suggests that there are increasing numbers of wineries that are opting out of the DO system.

Their reasons vary –  but it’s all really about a level of dissatisfaction within the DO concerning: their self-policing regulation by the Consejo Reguladores; degenerating quality standards; financial considerations; lack of incentives for innovation; permitted grape variety restrictions; harvest yields; and more. Whilst probably not, ‘never ending’, it’s certainly an exhaustive list!

In the North East, DO Cava (although now strongly fighting back with their new designation about to be improved) has suffered an certain exodus; there are/have been stirrings in DO Valdeorras in the North West; similar changes have occurred in the South East, in the Valencia region; and even in the hallowed pastures of La Rioja discontent has reared its challenging head.

Bodegas which have presumably being trying to effect change from within whichever DO to which they’ve been affiliated, have had enough and decided to go their own way. They’ve wanted to make distinctive, singular wines, in their own way and according to their own passions and beliefs and have decided, no doubt after much heart searching, to quit their respective DOs.

But it’s a big, cruel world out there! Consumers are accustomed to the DO system and it will take a generation before entrenched attitudes are broken down. Some, not necessarily larger, but certainly very well established, famous wineries with a strong fan-base will survive the split and probably prosper too. Others are not finding it so easy.

Plus there are signs (DO Cava for example) that now it has come to the crunch, there has been a considered, positive reaction to some of the criticisms leveled at the DOs/Consejo Reguladores. Change, albeit late, perhaps too late, is happening. This may cause some of the rebels a fair degree of apoplexy as well as, perhaps, regret, even though it was their actions that precipitated the change!

But there’s a way around that too, for the go-it-alone gang – it’s in the phrase, ‘gang’. It’s not easy to be a lone-wolf (mixing metaphors is a problem of mine, I admit!), and it’s certainly expensive having to promote yourself without any backing. So bodegas have been ‘clubbing together’ – for example in DO Penedés, a large wine making area which is included in the DO Cava, several bodegas which defected from DO Cava, still make sparkling wine but under the name of ‘Classic Penedés’, a separate category under the wing of DO penedés.

Thus they are now no longer going it alone – safety in numbers (another link!).

Similarly, in a way, there are bodegas in Spain which have opted out of their DOs and joined/formed other groups. There is, for example the very prestigious Grandes Pagos de España organisation which makes wines of top quality, some of which are no longer made under the rules and regulations of the DOs to which they did, or still do, though more tentatively, belong.

There’s another ‘organisation’ too, though it’s  name is a little confusing. Pagos status is granted to some bodegas which apply according to a number of criteria, one of the main ones of which is a proven, consistent history of fine wine making and a certain individuality of soil makeup and climate. The Pago designation has the same level and importance as a DO, with, of course, many of the approved bodegas insisting that it is of a higher quality.

Plus, there is still the possibility of remaining ‘with’ a DO and achieving change from within. I know of one bodega whose top wine did not conform to the regulations of the DO under whose auspices all their other wines were made. This resulted in the bizarre situation where the bodega’s flagship wine (it’s excellent quality and always to be found in my ‘cellar’) has to be termed a ‘Table Wine’!

After some considerable lobbying, a rule change was implemented, allowing the wine in question to be permitted. Labels were changed and it is now accepted as one of the top wines of its Denominación de Origen! 

So, often it’s with you or without you – as long as the ‘you’ can either the the same, with change, or another group entirly. Solidarnosc – and that’s the final link!

Go on then, one more – things can only get better!

All comments welcome!                                                                 


Beauty and the Beast!


Best Stand Design at Fenavin 2015?
Best Stand Design at Fenavin 2015?

If my wife, the lovely Claire, was Spanish; if she was a Miss and not now a Mrs; and if she were to enter the Miss Spain Competition, I’m certain she’d be successful! However, for such a competition, one out of four aint good enough!

I thought it best to preface this article with such heartfelt compliments lest there be a fall out following its publication. Think of it as insurance on a self-preservation theme!

You see, I’ve recently been tasting wine with non-other than Miss Spain (please see the photographic proof)! The young lady, whose name I didn’t catch, is obviously the eponymous ‘Beauty’. Had I auditioned, I’m sure I would have walked the part of ‘The Beast’, but in fact I’m not referring to myself above, but a ‘real’ beast – a wolf! And I’m not crying!

Best Design at Fenavin?! Miss Spain decants wine for the press, beautifully!
Best Design at Fenavin?! Miss Spain decants wine for the press, beautifully!

Quite the reverse – the wines coming from this new venture are not only drinking nicely now, that are also a work in progress.

If there was a prize for the best stand at Fenavin, Spain’s National Wine Fair, that of Bodegas Luparia would have certainly been a contender – probably the winner. Add to this the fact that Miss Spain (did I mention that I was tasting wine with Miss Spain?) was happily dispensing wine to the queue of international buyers, journalists, radio and TV presenters and it’s clear to see the attraction.

But what of the wines? Well, firstly, as you can imagine, the wine labels were eye-catching to say the least. Each bottle was displayed on a neo-Roman column (indeed one of the labels depicts Romulus and Remus) with the wine’s concept and story stenciled on the backdrop of a larger than life leaf, which could also be taken for a tree in the forest in which the wolves prowl.

Airén has had a bad press – largely deserved, in the past, at least. However, this low-profile, though hugely planted variety, is now enjoying a renaissance. In the hands of dedicated winemakers whose modern thinking, allied with traditional know-how and new technology, Airén can produce characterful wine.

Airén's ' bad press' days soon to be a thing of the past!
Airén’s ‘ bad press’ days soon to be a thing of the past!

‘The Mockery’ 2014 from Bodegas Viña Luparia is 100% Airén grown near Toledo at 800 metres above sea level. At 11·5% abv it’s a refreshingly relatively low alcohol wine that displays clean and fresh citrus acidity along with an alluring white flower perfume. A good start!

‘The Rebellion’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014 harvested from 20 yr old vines has tropical fruit aromas with understated gooseberry and asparagus notes, with a faint flavour and nose of grapefruit. In the bodega’s wine notes there’s a reference to the Inuit legend of the wolf Amarok, and whilst not yet legendary, this wine is getting there. Refreshing to have a subtle Sauvignon that is not as in-your-face as others!

La Rebeldia
La Rebeldia

‘The Lovers’ is made with Garnacha, Spain’s second most planted grape, and another that has been criticised in recent years – though this criticism should have been leveled at those who have encouraged the vine into over-production thus ‘diluting’ the qualities it possesses, rather than the variety itself.

Los Amantes - The Lovers!
Los Amantes – The Lovers!

This wine is so pretty in the bottle, and when poured there is a strong strawberry aroma, rather than the typical rosé nose of raspberry. The vineyards are located at an altitude of 900 metres above sea level (did you know that Spain boasts the highest vineyards in Europe?) and this fact, coupled with the night-time harvest, means that the wine retains its fresh acidity whilst the Spanish sunshine has assured its full ripening.

The notes talk of the wolf being hopelessly in love with the moon, hence its incessant howling whilst staring at the milky orb in the night sky. A romantic wine for the ladies, for sure – but this is a super mouthful for anyone!

It’s Little Red Riding Hood who’s depicted on the label of ‘The Innocence’, the first of their red wines. The connection here is the youth of the Tempranillo vines and that of the poor girl in red.

Little Red Riding Hood!
Little Red Riding Hood!

The wine is cherry red, with lots of soft red fruit on the nose. It’s light on the palate and as it warms in the mouth strawberry, raspberry and the lightest coloured cherries impress the taster. Easy drinking, fruit driven, short on the finish – it does what’s asked of it!

‘The Origin’ is based on the legend of the founding of Rome. We are stepping up here, in terms of mouthfeel, depth of flavour and complexity. Tempranillo again, this time from 50 yrs old vines, and a short, 4 month, crianza (ageing) in American oak.

Romulus & Remus!
Romulus & Remus!

Still juicy and fruit orientated the wine is structured with a light layering of complexity and depth of flavour. Drink it with food, light meats as well as steak, by all means, but also enjoy it on its own. Tray it in two years time too!

‘The Freedom’ adds a bit of spice to the Viña Luparia portfolio. Syrah, grown at altitude in Spain, can deliver black peppery notes, as it so often does in its native France, and with the added dimension of many hours of ripening sunshine, Spanish Syrah can offer rich depth too. There’s also Garnacha in the blend, each variety being fermented separately and then enjoying four months’ ageing in subtle French Oak (so the Syrah doesn’t become homesick?).

A touch of Spice!
A touch of Spice!

I tasted the 2014, which, whilst being an attractive drink now, will evolve further in the bottle for another three years. I’d like to taste this wine again in a few years to see how it has developed. It, like the winery itself, is a work in progress and is therefore one to watch out for!

Contact Colin: and through his wine website (where you can also subscribe to his newsletter, read his articles, his blog etc as well as see notice of his wine events and bodega visits etc). You can also see and hear Colin on Youtube – just search Colin Harkness On Wine. Plus you can join the 800 others who follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine