Many thanks for the excellent description of the Brut Nature Cava Reserva . . .
Many thanks for the excellent description of the Brut Nature Cava Reserva [please see below]. Shame that we don’t know the producer or where to buy some. I was lucky enough to be at the cava dinner you referred to and enjoyed it immensely. Shame about the denim shirt though – I got rid of all mine years ago!
Having received my invitation a couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to be one of the 600+ wine professionals to attend the hugely successful Monastrell Congress organised by D.O. Alicante
@ EL CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL DE MONASTRELL
Having received my invitation a couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to be one of the 600+ wine professionals to attend the hugely successful Monastrell Congress organised by D.O. Alicante and held in the City’s very impressive Auditorio Provincial de Alicante (ADDA).
Wine makers, agricultural experts, university professors, sommeliers, officials of several D.Os., government ministers, journalists and bloggers, all of many different nationalities were there to celebrate, Monastrell. The grape variety indigenous to SE Spain, but in fact grown in many areas of Spain as well as several different countries of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. I’m sure I wasn’t the only onlooker to be more than satisfied that at last Monastrell is being given the acknowledgement that it surely deserves.
Readers may remember an article I wrote on my return from Cahors, France, in the Summer. Whilst there I couldn’t help but be enthused by the pride that the locals felt in their prized grape variety, Malbec. Everywhere one went there were references to Malbec in a soft, but determined, ‘sell’ of the variety which makes wine that used to be known as the Black Wines of Cahors! It was infectious!
Now is the time of Monastrell, the fourth most grown variety in Spain. Out of the 90 Denominaciónes de Origen recognised in Spain there are 24 where Monastrell is a permitted variety, including D.O. Cava. Plus there are another 47 officially recognised areas of production where Monastrell is used.
It is most prolific here in the autonomous regions of South East Spain, where Murcia has the largest vineyard area under Monastrell, followed by Castilla la Mancha and then Valencia. D.O. Jumilla grows the most Monastrell, with 68% of its vineyards to Monastrell, then come D.Os., in order: Alicante, Yecla, Bullas, Valencia, Almansa and Manchuela.
Regarding exporting wines made with Monastrell, Yecla leads the way with 68% of its wines going overseas, with Valencia and Jumilla coming 2nd and third respectively.
But it’s not just Spain where Monastrell is grown, albeit often called by its synonyms: Mourvédre, and Mataró (though there are in fact over 90 more names for this grape variety!). Monastrell is 14th in terms of worldwide production – with France boasting the second largest (Mourvédre) production, to Spain. In the USA and Australia it’s called Mataró and it’s also grown in Greece, Malta and Cyprus.
Monastrell is a late ripening variety. It’s happy in vineyards at 400 – 850 metres above sea level with dry soils where there is little rain and few nutrients, and in climates where temperatures are high during the growing season. Given the correct climate and soils it is resistant to botrytis as well as to pests, with little ‘vine treatment’ i.e. spraying deemed necessary. Its grapes are highly coloured producing aromatic wines that have high tannin levels, making the wine fit for ageing, as well as being an excellent bedfellow for other varieties (a common blend is GSM, Garnacha, Syrah and Monastrell). You can see why it’s so popular in Southern Spain, where it has adapted perfectly!
In Spain you’ll find that most Monastrell was grown ‘en vaso’, as bush vines. Once called ‘goblet’ vines because of their similar shape to the ‘Paris Goblet’ shaped wine glasses, these are vines that have stood the test of time. Often planted before trellising was thought of in Spain, the vines have adapted to the conditions, with their shape helping the production of good, healthy grapes as it provides some shade in the fierce sun.
Why change a winning team? Well, with the onset of climate change growers are looking at alternatives. Trellising is being used more often with new plantings. This will allow a better circulation of cooling air, with the grape-bearing ‘arms’ of the vine being orientated the way the grower wants (North/South is best), plus the ‘sombra’ (shade) can still be present by careful leaf pruning.
The prediction is that both forms will continue, with maybe trellising being used even more as we approach the mid-point of this century, and beyond.
Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of Monastrell. It’s often included in Cork Talk, either as a mono-varietal or as part of a blend. When judging the wines of D.O. Yecla and D.O. Bullas (and probably D.O. Jumilla as well in 2016) as well as other Spanish wines containing Monastrell in the mix, I never faiol to be delighted by its contribution to the taste and aroma profiles of the wines.
I couldn’t resist tasting some of the Spanish Monastrell wines that I already know (I told you, I like it!) but for research purposes I also tasted others that I do not know very well, or not at all. Plus, I was excited to try Australian Monastrell (Mataró) as well as the rose by another name, the French Mourvédre, the latter in the form of AOC Bandol wines from southern France, whose regulations stipulate that at least 50% of all red wines must be Monastrell!
There’s no space to include my notes on all but . . .
I must admit (though I’m sure my Spanish friends will understand) that I went first for an Australian Monastrell (called Mourvédre in this case). Grown where Philoxera didn’t make it, the Hewitson Old Garden 2012 comes from vines planted – are you ready for this – in 1853! The soils are amongst the oldest on the planet and the Hewitson vineyard is believed to be the oldest Monastrell vineyard in the world!
At 150 AUD (Australian Dollars – you do the maths, I’ve got a bad knee!) you’d expect the wine to be fine, the more so, given its pedigree – and you wouldn’t be wrong! It’s been judicially aged in French oak and has a colour far lighter that the Monastrell wines of Spain. Perfumed, elegant, excellent!
The French AOC Bandol wines were an interesting contrast, though it’s a mite frustrating, as is often the case with French wines, to such scant information on the labels. Bandol wines must have at least 50% Mourvédre in the blend, but it wasn’t clear at all if there were any that were 100% Mouvédre, nor in many cases were any of the varieties mentioned. Sorry, but it’s a failing of French wines, in my opinion – consumers who are becoming increasingly more savvy like to know this information.
I also liked (among many others) DO Almansa’s Bodegas Piqueras Valcanto 100 – a wine to commemorate the bodega’s centenary!
At the bodega of Marques de Murrieta Jill and I decided to purchase two bottles of the flagship wine Castillo Ygay 2007 vintage . . .
We now call ourselves seasoned travelers, having completed our third super wine tour with you, Colin.
At the bodega of Marques de Murrieta Jill and I decided to purchase two bottles of the flagship wine Castillo Ygay 2007 vintage, quality wine for quality price.
You and others on the trip hoped we would open one of the bottles at dinner for tasting, but, we selfishly kept both for the Xmas holidays!
On Boxing Day we invited six friends for a late Xmas dinner and opened the wine for all to taste. We tried to use much of the advice we have gained from Colin during the tours and tastings.
The consensus from all was:
The wine felt medium bodied with quality fruit of the rich dark kind. Aromas of balsamic, vanilla and earthy. All softly on the palate with great finess and smoothness of the finish. Superb and recommended. Two bottles drunk quickly with happy friends.
We await your next trip and thought of you as we drank the fine wine.
David and Jill
The conclusion from all was superb and possibly the best red Rioja we had all tasted and drunk.
. . . a new annual feature which allows me to go back over 2015 and pick out the highlights of my year in wine . . .
THE CORK TALK WINE YEAR 2015
Regular readers (thank you so much, you are really appreciated!) will know that I was dreading last week’s article. The Costa News Top Ten Wines of the Year is always a difficult one to write – there are only so many places available (10, actually!), but so many wines that should be similarly honoured.
Well, I’m also in a state of trepidation about this week’s article, a new annual feature which allows me to go back over 2015 and pick out the highlights of my year in wine. It is of course a year in which you have shared, albeit indirectly, and I wonder if any of the following were Cork Talk highlights for you too?
“January, cold, desolate,” – did you have to learn that poem at school too? Anyway, it was accurate when I arrived at Stansted the day before the Liberty Wines Annual Portfolio Tasting. The grass crunched as I walked to the hotel, whose approaches had been salted to keep the ice at bay, as well as possible litigation from injured guests!
In an effort to maintain a decent cash flow during the quiet months many sporting venues open their doors to all sorts of events these days and so I was delighted to visit The Oval Cricket Ground for the first time and, whilst I would have loved to have seen a game of top class cricket there on the hallowed, immaculately tailored, almost dazzlingly green square, it was the interior to which I was directed.
Put simply, this Liberty Wines tasting is excellent. Liberty is a major player in wine distribution in the UK, therefore there is an extensive range of wines to taste as their portfolio is so large. In truth they aren’t so strong on Spanish wines, but in fact I was there to taste international wines, and translate for my friend Mariano, Head Winemaker at Bodegas Castaño. We both learned about wine from a host of different countries and I learned so much from him too! My Cork Talk Year had a good start!
February (I can’t remember any more of the poem, but it certainly wouldn’t have been accurate for here in Spain!) saw me in Murica for a few days, judging the wines of DO Bullas as a co-opted member of the Consejo Regulador’s panel for their annual wine competition.
As a regular on the judges panel of DO Yecla’s annual wine competition I knew what to expect in terms of the wines and my fellow judges, several of whom I knew from other sessions. Sharing similar terrain and climate as well as, of course, the well loved grape variety, Monastrell, I was sure I was in for an excellent tasting. I was right – there are some fabulous wines coming out of DO Bullas right now. Look for Bodegas Monastrell, Lavia and Rosario, for a start – and then carry on researching!
March saw me on the road again – this time with a group, visiting Segovia and Toro, the latter, for what I have to describe as the best wine tour I’ve ever had. Readers may remember my waxing lyrical about the tasting, tour, lunch and tapas route that began in the early hours at Bodegas Fariña’s icy vineyards and ended, at about midnight, in the final tapas bar of the night, in the historical and bucolic town of Toro.
Our guide, Nicola, who is actually the Export Director of the company, had arranged her packed diary around our visit, putting off journeys to China, Korea, Japan et cetera to make sure that we had the full Fariña experience was really excellent. She even included a visit, just for us, to the underground hideaway cellar where Columbus tasted the wines before buying to stock his famous journey of discovery! Fantastic!
I’m not sure how many different forms of transport I used in April – several, for sure, as I was in Guildford, UK, first, for the annual International Wines and Spirit Competition, as well as Ciudad Real, for my first visit to the large Spanish Wine Fair, Fenavin.
The IWSC first – I love this competition! Having taken an introductory course and sat and passed an initiation exam, I was asked to sit on the Spanish Wine panel for the first time, about five years ago. Since then I’m delighted to say that I’ve become a regular, as well as being appointed the IWSC Agent for Spain.
The judging rooms are perfectly fit for purpose and full of eminent judges, several of whom are Masters of Wine, of whom there are fewer than 350 in the world! The standard of the judges is high, to say the least, so it’s an honour to be with them, and indeed flattering to often be deferred to about current Spanish wine trends, traditional grape varieties etc, during the judging.
This year saw a very large entry, 952 wines in fact, a 20% increase on the previous year, which itself was a 16% increase on the 2013 entry! There were many medals awarded, including 6 Gold Outstanding, the highest award possible, equalling the total of last year. I’ll be there in 2016 – and can’t wait!
Fenavin, was a new and exciting experience for me. Ciudad Real, as the name implies, used to be a centre for the Royal Family in centuries gone by. Though some of the ancient architecture survives, including the cathedral, it’s now a really modern, quite vibrant, small city – with an Ave connection, of which I took advantage, for another first!
Just out of town is the Feria Centre where all manner of trade fairs are held throughout the year – including the Fenavin Spanish Wine Fair, which celebrates Spanish wine, bringing together the press, the buyers and sellers and the winemakers. Thousands of wines are presented, tasted and hopefully bought, both nationally and internationally. The packed aisles are like the Tower of Babel in that the number of different languages being talked is mind-blowing!
In May, two days before my knee replacement operation (which wasn’t a highlight of my year!), we held the Bodegas Castaño Dinner, where Daniel Castaño and his family came to the Swiss Hotel, Moraira to co-present (with me) five of his top wines, which were relished when paired with a sumptuous five course dinner and the fabulous Dolce Divas duo (www.dolcedivas.net).
The concept of pairing wines with similar characteristics found in food and music was refreshingly new to Daniel who was really taken with the idea. So much so that he invited Dolce Divas back to do the whole thing again in the restaurant that his bodega, this time with a mostly Spanish full house of like-minded people! Another great success, and highlight for me!
And briefly: My visit to Champagne as a member of the Champagne Bureau UK’s press trip in celebration of Champagne’s elevation to World Heritage Site status, was amazing! Our five day visit to Rioja staying in the wonderfully original, modern Finca de Los Arandinos and having two fantastic visits, one to Marqués de Murrieta, the oldest Bodega in La Rioja; and the other to Bodegas Muga, whose lunch with their super wines, was legendary! The Cava Dinner in Moraira where I was once again asked by the President of the Consejo Regulador, DO Cava, to present different styles of Cava to accompany a four course dinner.
And finally the Telitec Tasting Tour with joint sponsors Blu Property Group, a novel idea of tastings held in venues along the Costa Blanca, the final two of which, at Nox, Javea; and Republic, Denia, were superb!