Bodegas Casa de la Ermita




Now, be fair – I did warn you!

This is the third article I’ve written over the last couple of months that features a bodega which comes under the auspices of Denominación de Origen Jumilla! I’m not apologising because I know that readers won’t be complaining, after they’ve tasted the wines featured in this week’s column! Once again, Jumilla proves itself to be a supreme source of southern Spanish wines – an alliterative, as well as a vinous, mouthful!

To say that in the growing season, Jumilla is hot, could well qualify me for the understatement of the year award! It’s more like a furnace than an oven! However, where the vineyards are planted at 600 – 800 metres above sea level, there is some respite from this heat at night when temperatures do cool down considerably.

Along with earlier picking than in past, bulk-wine-only days, and a greater emphasis on canopy management, allowing more leaf growth to provide shade, this ensures sufficient acidity to be present in Jumilla wines. There is still a richness, opulence even, in Jumilla reds, but there is freshness and an increased aromatic profile too, making wines from this region all the more desirable.

The traditional permitted white wine grapes Airén and Macabeo have been supplemented in recent years by more international varieties, making Jumilla white wines, refreshing and clean with lovely flavours and fragrances. Those bodegas lucky enough to have north facing, high altitude white wine variety vineyards are finding that their whites are becoming almost as highly prized as their red wines.

And it’s with a white Casa de la Ermita wine that I’d like to start my notes this week, the more so when, at the time of writing it’s 33ºC at 5pm in the afternoon! Fresh, clean, tasty and aromatic wine is just what I need!

For some reason (I’m not sure I approve actually!) it seems to be a mystery as to which varieties are used for this wine. One of my favourite white wine grapes is Viognier, whose home is in the Rhône Valley, France. However, according to the website ( it is adapting very well at Casa de la Ermita and this, along with a slightly subdues apricot nose makes me think that there must be some Viognier at least in the blend of the simply named Casa de la Ermita Blanco.

It’s a refreshing and cooling aromatic white wine that will be perfect with salads, fish and shellfish and there’s enough acidity to cut through any accompanying sauces too.

There’s also a slight mystery about the idiosyncratically named and labelled Lunático Monastrell red wine, that for me has to be a flagship wine, which speaks of the quality of Monastrell, its history as the variety of choice for the area for hundreds of years, but designed also to enfranchise younger wine drinkers.

ERMITA lunatico

I think that sometimes bodegas over-simplify their wines in a, probably unconsciously patronising, effort to sell to the younger generation. I agree that aromatic (red, rosado and white) fruit driven wines will be attractive to younger consumers, but this doesn’t mean that appreciating depth of flavour, complexity and length are concepts beyond them!

Youngsters may not want to talk in such terms. Wine-speak may not be in their vocabulary yet, or indeed it might be, but they may well eschew the ramblings of the older wine cognoscenti, preferring to simply enjoy the wines. They can still tell a quality wine from an entry level, fruit cocktail!

I wonder if Lunático, which actually means ‘lunatic’, was hit upon as the name for this wine in criticism of the above ‘crazy’ approach, adopted by some bodegas which fail to recognise that ‘jovenes’ can have sophisticated palate too? No matter, because the wine will speak for itself. Indeed it has to! There is no description, no tasting notes on the label, in an effort to avoid leading the drinker (whether young or older), preferring that he/she make their own discoveries using their own language.

Lunático has a great label and it’s a super wine. Made from 100% low yielding old vine Monastrell it also enjoys 12 months in French oak, which adds depth plus a little extra flavour and fragrance (some spice, mountain herb and the faintest stony, dry soil aroma). And, yes the wine is fruity (dark plum, black cherry) but that’s not all! Hightl recommended!

The multi award/plaudit winning Casa de la Ermita Crianza 2011 is proud to be a traditional and indeed exemplary Jumilla wine. There’s Monastrell, of course, but joined by Tempranillo and a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives greater colour, dark fruit flavours and some extra longevity. It’s typical of the region in that it’s so rich in flavour and whilst it has presence and weight in the mouth, there’s an understated elegance too.

ERMITA tinto_crianza

A wine to enjoy with meats of course, game too and cheeses, but also one to relish on its own. You’ll find blackcurrant wrestling (in the nicest possible way!) with blackberry fruit and damsons. On the nose there’s rosemary as well as some stony minerality all complemented by some spice and a little coffee and cinnamon from the American and French oak in which it has been aged for nine months.

Often, visitors to the costas of Spain, are amazed by the concept of a red dessert wine. Such wines are white, aren’t they! Well, it’s true there’s more white sweet wine than red, but in the South East of Spain there is a real demand for sweet red wine, a demand which has now been noticed by other countries who import them with impunity from DOs Jumilla, Yecla, Alicante, Bullas and Valencia to bolster their wine lists and offer something a little more exotic.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like Dulce (sweet) Monastrell and Casa de la Ermita’s is no exception! The 60 yr old vines are naturally low yielding. Their grapes are fewer, but richer and, when left on the vines in the sweltering sunshine for a couple of months after their sister Monastrell grapes are harvested for the dry red wines, a large percentage of the water content of the flesh has evaporated.

ERMITA smce_dulce_tinto

A lengthy low temperature fermentation followed by a three month period in oak results in a luscious, really naughty, wine! Desserts yes, but also use it as the dessert, either on its own, or, as with PX Sherry, lob it onto some vanilla ice-cream. Plus, try it with blue and other strong cheeses, perhaps as you might with Port!

So, another success story from DO Jumilla – and there are others. Why not investigate further?!

Contact Colin: and through his wine services website , where you can also subscribe to his newsletter (free of charge, of course) and therefore have firsthand and early news of the various wine events he organises, most of which are sold out very quickly! Plus you can also follow him on Twitter @colinonwine for the latest on the Spanish Wine scene!



Hola a todos!

Yes, I know – it does seem a bit previous to be talking about Christmas! My apologies!

However, it’s the early worm that catches the Cava, as the saying goes!

I’m delighted to be able to tell you that I have been able to arrange another visit to Bodegas Dominio de la Vega, near Requena, inland from Valencia for a very entertaining, informative and visitor-friendly tour and Cava Tasting, with a view to our purchasing all the Cava we’ll need for the Christmas Celebrations, and indeed on-wards.

It’s an excellent opportunity to taste before you buy, and to buy at the best possible prices, direct from source, where, of course, the Cavas have all been kept in perfect conditions – unlike in some of the shops!

We’ll be tasting three top Cavas, including the one pictured which, for two vintages, was voted the best Cava in Spain! Plus we’ll taste their very good still red wine made from the indigenous variety, Bobal!

Also included is a three-course lunch in a nearby restaurant, with wine, of course!

Places are limited, so please reserve yours early (well, very early, considering it’s July!), if you are able to join us!

The date of this trip is Wednesday 18th November – and the price, including all the above, as well as a Prize Raffle and an optional Prize Quiz with questions on the day’s events is 45€!

The Ariyanas Portfolio



So, what’s the first thought that comes to mind when somebody mentions ‘Málaga’? The, shall we say, vibrant, tourist industry? Being able to ski on the nearby Sierra Nevada in the morning and sunbathe on Málaga’s exceptional beaches in the afternoon? Pablo Picasso’s birthplace; Antonio Banderas’ too? La Liga?!

Anybody come up with ‘Wine’?

Probably not, methinks, but, I urge you to thinks again. There is, and has been for millennia, a wine making culture in the province of Málaga, for nearly 3,000 years. Málaga, first called Malaka, was founded by the Phoenicians around 770 BC (making it one of the world’s oldest cities). These ancient Greeks liked a drop or two of wine. Indeed, theirs was a seafaring nation, of course, but also one based on trade. Wine was a valuable commodity!

In terms of trade during more recent history a graph of Málaga wines’ popularity would show spikes during the Renaissance period, as well as in Victorian times. Shakespeare, when penning his line, ‘I pray you do not fall in love with me for I am falser than a man in wine’, may well have been referring to wine from Málaga for it, Sack (Sherry) from Jerez, and Canary, well you can guess where that was from, were commonplace during his time.

It’s quite probable that Queen Victoria also drank wine from Málaga, her courtiers and from the Aristocracy downwards certainly would have. However, other than these peaks, it’s true to say that the Málaga wine trade has been modest during most of the last 3,000 years. However, it seems to me that another spike is about to appear, and it may not be just a passing peak.

Clara and André, the Dutch owners of Bodegas Bentomiz, have been living in Málaga’s Axarquía region since 1995. In 2003 they began commercial production of the Ariyanas wines: premium wines from local grapes, beginning with a sweet moscatel, the Naturalmente Dulce.

Its success encouraged them to expand their portfolio, and their efforts have been rewarded with various medals and plaudits, including the fact that several of their Ariyanas wines are now an integral part of the wine lists of Michelin Starred restaurants, including the UK’s The Ledbury, and El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, recently voted, for the second time, The Best Restaurant in the World!

I was as delighted to be asked to review their wines, as you will be to taste them. The following are my comments.

Sweet dessert wines are the most typical of the area. Indeed it was a dessert wine that first put Bodegas Bentomiz on the vinous map of Spain, so this is where I’ll start. However, first a comment about the closure – no cork here, it’s a glass stopper with a special seal that should help you to keep the wines longer, in the fridge. I think they make the wines (they all have this closure) a bit special!


Ariyanas  Dulce 2010 is made with Moscatel de Alejandria, a variety which is responsible for luscious dessert wines. But such wines have to have an acidic lift to them, or they are flabby, cloying – simply sweet.

None of that here. This wine has the typical raison and very ripe grape aroma characteristic of the variety, with some Clementine or Mandarin notes too. The grapes are harvested late so that a lot of the water content has evaporated leaving a rather rich must, providing the required richness. It’s naturally sweet, unfortified and comes in at a very reasonable 13% abv.

Ariyanas Dulce 2018 Terruño Pizarroso is a sublme wine. Again 100% Moscatel but this time with some oak ageing, in fact 8 months in new French barrels. Even the colour is rich, it’s bronze/gold hued, the colour of honey – and on the nose you’ll find honey, as well as some orange peel spritz, with a touch of minerality too, coming from the slate strewn vineyard. Look also for the dried fruit you might add to Christmas cake!


It’s an exotic wine, rich, deep, sweet, but with acidity, a partner for Foie Gras, for sure, as well as tropical fruits, plus, try it with blue cheese. A high pointer in all the guides, with a string of plaudits and medals – wow!

I’d never heard of the variety Romé before I tasted the excellent Bodegas Bentomiz’ Rosado. Apparently Jancis Robinson is on record as saying this is the 2nd best rosado in Spain! (No, I don’t know what she thinks is the best. Perhaps she concurs with me that it’s probably Gran Caus from Can Rafóls dels Caus?).


In the glass, it is Tizer-esque in colour and on the nose there are delightful soft red fruit nuances. There’s a lick of minerality and some red wine notes of mature tannin. It’s a fragrant delight, one to be enjoyed as a gorgeous aperitif, but also with salmon and trout, as well as with seafood, and even lighter meats.

Romé also figures in Bentomiz’ red wine, Ariyanas Tinto 2012, along with Petit Verdot (such a success nowadays here in Spain, where it ripens perfectly), Tempranillo and the other Cabernet, Cabernet Franc which is also enjoying a little renaissance here on the Iberian Peninsular.

It’s described on the bodegas website ( as a modern wine, meaning, I believe, that it’s more fruit orientated than previous Spanish reds have been, having had less time on oak – just 6 months, notably less than the dessert white wine above!


There’s a good fruit line-up on the nose and palate, some soft red strawberry and redcurrant, with a plums and red cherries too, and a depth provided by the oak, though this is wholly integrated. It’s very easy to drink and at just 12·5% abv it’s light with a touch of elegance.

Contact Colin: and through where you can sign-up for regular wine news updates as well as information about Colin’s wine related events. He’s also on Twitter @colinonwine and is currently making Youtube Videos on Spanish Wine search Colin Harkness On Wine.

Godello, for excellent white wine!


I’m not really conversant with social media abbreviations. Perhaps I should be? I heard recently that some are now accepted as ‘words’ in Scrabble – the, apparently, classic, text abbreviation, ‘lol’, for example. Whatever that means! And, if they are now permitted in the Scrabble Lexicon, such a prestigious British board-game, maybe the next step is the Oxford Concise and therefore the English Language, proper?

I’m sure that readers will have seen many others via text/facebook messages, twitter etc (I don’t actually know the others, so I wrote, etc, to make you think I do!), received from daughters, granddaughters, perhaps just around the corner, and of course from the UK, as well as other further flung places as they travel.

(A note here – it seems to me, as can be gleaned from the above, that it is mostly the fairer sex who use these abbreviations. Would you agree? I don’t think I’m being sexist, it just seems to be more of a girly thing?).

Well there’s another particularly prevalent abbreviation of which I’m sure you’ll be aware – OMG! However, I wonder how many of you know that this actually translates to the above – Oh My Godello!

Ok, I’m perhaps stretching a point here, but you know, the wonderful white wine grape variety of North Western Spain really should be common parlance!

Now that summer is well and truly upon us our go-to drink is often white wine. Many of us think of looking first for cooling, refreshing whites, rather than reds. Indeed, we often change our diet accordingly, eating more salads, fish and seafood – food that is usually considered best to be paired with lovely dry white Spanish wine. It’s certainly true of me.

Now, the white wine scene in Spain really has changed beyond recognition, and for the far better too. In the past Spain was considered a red wine country, with white wines playing merely a bit part, if that. And my experience twenty and more years ago told me that this was largely deserved. The reds were often excellent (and still are) whereas the whites were, mostly, fruitless and so acidic that one had to be so careful not to spill any lest it burned a hole through the table!

However, during those lean years, and today as well, the white wines that stood out as being exemplary were those made from the Albariño grape – of which you have no doubt heard. I’m sure most readers will have tasted Albariño based wines from Galica, and specifically those from DO Rías Baixas. In a word, splendid.

However, not all that delights from the area that the late wine aficionado, John Radford, called Green Spain, is made with Albariño. In nearby DO Valdeorras you’ll find a more than worthy contender, Godello. Remember the name and seek it out!


Much of DO Valdeorras’ vineyards are planted at altitude in soil that is strewn with slate and it’s this poor quality earth, lacking in nutrients, that brings about a certain desirable mineral quality to the wines that are made here. The vines have to dig deep into the mountainside searching for food and water and, as Cork Talk readers know, it’s this struggle for survival which results in the best grapes.

It’s an added element to the wonderfully fruit driven, dry, rich white wines that are only now starting to receive the recognition that they too should have been enjoying for decades! Whilst international commentators are, quite rightly, blowing Godello’s trumpet, don’t forget that you heard it here first folks, several years ago!

I recently returned to an old favourite wine of mine made in DO Valdeoras –  Bodegas Valdesil’s Godello Sobre Lías. If looking (and I urge you do) for an exemplary wine made with 100% Godello – this is it. You’ll find, on opening a certain shyness, a momentary slight reticence to reveal its true self. However by the time the glass is poured you’ll be aware of a lovely floral fragrance, with the faintest of hints of fennel, all of which blends perfectly with the white stoned fruit that you’ll smell when you swirl the glass and sniff the pale gold coloured wine.

valdesil bottle

As you sip the wine you’ll also notice that slatey minerality before it hits the palate where all that the aromas have promised is delivered in flavour with a rounding delicate creaminess too. Excellent and not expensive!

Or you might like to turn to Adega (bodega, but in the Gallego language) Coroa’s wine eponymously called A Coroa, again made with 100% Godello, though this time displaying a faint lime green as well as the straw colour. You’ll find some delightful jasmine and magnolia white flower aromas tempered with a fascinating whiff of new mown grass, which, just for a moment, took me back to my tennis days!

A COROA botella

White peaches blend with pears and the fresh acidic lick of citrus fruit, ripe lime, to match the colour. On the palate it’s clean and correct, fresh and fruity and there’s a little more fennel to come as you swallow and savour.

The 30 years old vineyard that provided the grapes for Joaquín Rebolledo’s Godello leaves its mark on the finished wine. It’s rich on the palate, full for a white wine and finishes with a flourish. There’s fennel again on the nose, a little less so on the palate, though this vegetal note is the backdrop to a wonderful slightly under-ripe apricot and juicy fresh peach fruit filled mouthful. It’s an award winner and has a very impressive 92 points in the Peñin Guide.

Godello is also happy with a touch of oak and a visit to the Valdesil website (shown below) will give you some examples, all of which I’ve tasted over the years and I highly recommend.

OMG – to finish I have a tip for you!

Following the dramatic International Wine and Spirits Competition success of one particular Sparkling Albariño last year (it was the only Spanish sparkling wine to win the ultimate award, Gold Outstanding, beating all Cavas as well), plus the fact that other DO Rías Baixas Albariño sparklers are of a very high standard, I’m predicting that you’ll soon be able to choose from several Godello Sparkling wines too!

I’ve tasted three (one of which, from Bodegas Godelia, is actually from another Galician wine area, DO Bierzo) and they really are good – with lots of potential to improve when demand encourages more bodegas to take the plunge!

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Contact Colin: & via where you can also subscribe to his Newsletter to receive updates about his wine tastings, wine pairing dinners with classical music, bodega visits and wine orientated Short Breaks. Plus you can follow Colin on Twitter @colinonwine