ALL THE BEST STORIES START WITH A PLOT
BODEGAS ENRIQUE MENDOZA
It is far better to travel to a winery for a tour, and crucially, a tasting, with somebody else driving! The more so, when the winery is as generous in terms of numbers of wines to be tasted and the amounts poured! Therefore, and please take note if you are in the area, I’ll be doing this again!
It was really the ‘appearance’ of Pepe, award winning winemaker, and eldest son of the founder, Enrique Mendoza, on my radio programme (www.totalfm.es alternate Sundays 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, next show April 23rd) recently that was the catalyst of my advertising a visit to Bodegas Enrique Mendoza. Pepe was such an animated and passionate guest who clearly enjoyed his two hours of broadcasting fame, that his enthusiasm was really quite contagious.
When our mixed nationality group of intrepid travelers (well, not that intrepid, it was only down the road!) arrived we were met, in perfect English, by tour guide, Marta, who during the course of the visit was elevated, in my book, to be one of the best in the business – and in twenty years, I’ve worked with many.
Marta explained that, following local farming tradition, Enrique Mendoza decided to give a ‘plot’ (all the best stories . . . , are you following?!) of land to his first born, Pepe in fact. Having always been interested in grapes and the family wine, Pepe elected to plant vines. Soon, the family had 2,000 litres of wine to keep them going. And, when second son also planted vines, well, there was more than enough to give to friends also.
And, yes, you’ve guessed it, when the 3rd son also planted vines, the 10,000 litres of wine now being produced, forced the family to contemplate a journey into the unknown – commercial wine-making! They’ve never looked back and little did they know that, very altruistically, they were also paving the way for others in the Alicante DOP to follow. Despite the critics of the time (the generation before mine, I hastily point out) pronouncing that good quality wine was not possible in the Alicante region, Enrique and sons set about proving them well-wrong!
The principle vineyards for the Mendoza wines are located up in the hills inland from Villena, in fact quite close to the start of the DOP Yecla. In part support of those nay-saying critics of another generation, I can understand why it is that they believed that fine wine cannot be made in Alicante. They clearly hadn’t visited inland.
Sure, making certainly top quality red wine near to the coast would be practically impossible. However, inland there is a wholly different climate, helped, of course, by the difference in altitude. The Mendoza vineyards around Villena are at about 700+ metres above sea level (which, incidentally, is measured for the whole of Spain from a post placed inside the Ayuntamiento of Alicante).
In these plots Mendoza Bros. have planted their red wine grape varieties as well as Chardonnay. Nevertheless there are vineyards that surround the bodega in Alfaz. The vines growing here are Moscatel, used for making the luscious dessert white wines, which, though sweet, of course, still have a crisp acidity coursing through them, making them ideal for pairing with semi and curado cheeses, as well as for desserts.
These vineyards are also an ideal place to show visitors some of the strategies and technology that help make Mendoza wines the medal winners that they are. The vines are sprayed with a sulphor and cinnamon mixture which keeps fungus, and spiders, at bay! The now oft used ‘sexual confusion’ bands that are placed on a branch every few vines, were largely pioneered here, and are very effective at controlling a certain moth that is deadly to grapes.
Here too is a weather station which records the rainfall, temperatures and humidity – all very relevant re the comfort of the vines. Plus, and here’s where modern technology step into the fray, there are sensors inserted into the soil which detect if the vines are suffering any unnecessary stress through lack of water. Expensive, yes; effective – well just taste the wines!
Speaking of which – I’d arranged with Marta to taste 6 different wines, the penultimate of which was to be one of their three flagship wines, and a personal favourite of mine, Estrecho – made with 100% Monastrell.
All went to plan, initially! We tasted the 2016 barrel fermented Chardonnay, which I thought lovely – a chilled white with good fruit and an extra dimension because of the 3 or so months in oak, to start proceedings. Then, as expected we tasted Enrique Mendoza Petit Verdot 2013 which has had a quite long 15 months in oak barricas, though you’d never suspect this, as the wood adds complexity, and a little flavour and aroma, but does not at all mask the fruit, which was clearly picked at the optimum time.
It was then that we went slightly off-piste – and I’m not complaining, as you’ll see! It was an honour for us all to meet the bodega’s founder, Señor Enrique Mendoza himself, who came amongst us – bearing bottles of the legendary Santa Rosa 2012 (needless to say one of the other flagship wines!)
I was astonished as there is in fact none of this wine left to sell – these bottles had come directly from Pepe Mendoza’s own private cellar, Pepe having asked his father to do this as he was expecting to be delayed and not able to join us! Most, generous indeed – but there’s more!
In fact a short time later Pepe also arrived and joined his father, clutching the third of the three top, top Mendoza wines – Quebradas 2011, which is also sold out! Our cup ranneth over, that’s figuratively speaking – you don’t spill wines of this quality!
Colin’s next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on www.totalfm.es is Sunday 7th May, 18:00 – 20:00 hrs. I’ll be chatting with my guest Diego, from Bodegas Finca Antigua, DO La Mancha, as well as tasting some of their wines – plus there’s a Magnum of Finca Antigua to be won!