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!



Our intrepid and thirsty group arrives at 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 ( 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 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!


A New Bodega & Boutique Hotel Opens In Yecla!

It’s not every day that one is invited to the inauguration of a brand new bodega here in Spain. The more so when the opening also includes a luxury boutique hotel, surrounded by its own nascent vineyards . . . .


It’s not every day that one is invited to the inauguration of a brand new bodega here in Spain. The more so when the opening also includes a luxury boutique hotel, surrounded by its own nascent vineyards. So, you can imagine my delight when founders, Katherine and Harald Schalde*, sent us an official invitation!


We weren’t alone! Local and national press and radio were represented (including, of course, the Costa News Group and Total FM!), along with regional television too. There were also representatives of DO Yecla as well as owners of the other bodegas in the area, who have welcomed the new kids on the block with open arms.

And why not? Although Casa Boquera could be considered competition to the established bodegas, this new concern also adds a highly attractive extra dimension to the area, from which all will benefit. The concept of wine tourism is already firmly embedded in the psyche of the wineries of DO Yecla. Now, however, with the arrival of the luxury hotel whose restaurant is driven by Michelin Starred Chef, Fran Martínez, Enoturismo has been taken to the next level!


And, of this, I can talk with experience. I will soon be taking a group of twenty wine, food, culture and travel enthusiasts to stay for three days at Casa Boquera, visiting and tasting their wines, of course, but also touring other top DO Yecla bodegas where we will also taste (claro) and lunch! Plus, located as it is, equidistant from Yecla and Jumilla, visitors to Casa Boquera will also be able to take in Jumilla’s fine wine bodegas with the same ease. Everyone’s a winner!


The sight of several ladies and gentlemen dressed in the national costume of Norway must have been quite startling to any of the locals who have not been following the progress of this new venture. The reason – well Harald is Norwegian, and his wife, Katherine, whilst being originally Welsh, might just as well be considered Norwegian too – even to the point that she has forgotten some words in English, having lived for so long in Norway!

Together they have been extremely successful in business back home – they must have been, as I dread to think of the extent of their financial investment in this new oh-so-impressive business in the sunshine of Spain! After visiting the coast of South East Spain frequently in years gone by they felt, each time they returned to Norway, that something was missing. Once they realised it was not just the weather, but also the culture and people of Spain that was calling them, they set about finding a way of enjoying the best of both worlds.


They had always liked the sunshine that seemed to be bottled along with the wine that they’d tasted from Yecla and the surrounding areas, and when they heard of a bodega that was for sale, as the owners had no descendants; a bodega that had been farming organically for many years with the certificates to prove it – well it must have seemed like a sign! The purchase was a short story, however, the project has been, and will continue to be, a long story.

Old and unproductive vines were taken out. New, young vines were planted, site specifically, three of four years ago. Queen Monastrell is the principal variety, supported by Garnacha Tintorera, Syrah and Petit Verdot for the reds, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel for white wine. The old finca that had housed the previous owners was used as a rather bucolic base camp for Katherine and Harald, and continues to be so, whilst the builders of the bodega and the hotel converged on the area set aside by the architect and design team.


Knowing that the date set aside for the official opening was 1st April, I initially visited on a cold, though sunny, January day when it was clear that there was still a lot to do. Were they being a little ambitious, I’d asked, considering the scale of the task yet to be completed. No, I was told, with unshakeable confidence, they were sure that all would be well for the Spring opening. And how right they were!


Katherine’s brother, also practically a Norwegian, played a very appropriate violin immediately before the ribbon (diplomatically decked out in the colours of the Spanish flag) was cut by their immensely proud father, whilst the, what 200 invited guests(?) looked on appreciatively. We were then invited into the pool area for cocktails whilst Claire Marie ( sang her selection of classical and contemporary music as well as playing some flute favourites.

Some steps (as well as a ramp for disabled visitors – the hotel is very disabled friendly) led us all down to the courtyard where some impressive flamenco dancing took place, followed by a parade of those in Norwegian dress. Whilst excellent tapas (well they would be wouldn’t they, designed and cooked by such a chef!) were served, local, regional and national dignitaries and politicians addressed the crowd welcoming the newcomers and thanking them for their confidence in Spain in general, in Murcia and in Yecla specifically.

Plus, of course, the first ever wine made at Bodegas Casa Boquera, a rich, young red, was served copiously, along with white wine from nearby DO Jumilla, and beers etc, throughout the afternoon. The red wine, incidentally, was made by Casa Boquera’s Head Winemaker, Rafael Lopez Perez, from organic grapes bought in from local Yecla growers. The Casa Boquera vines are not quite mature enough to make wine, though their first, from their own vines will come on tap this vintage. Watch this space!


I knew what to expect with this wine, as I’d tasted it live on-air on Total FM with Harald and Katherine as my guests some weeks before. I’d considered it very good then and was gratified to hear my friend, Mariano, Head Winemaker at Bodegas Castaño (and surely one of the best at his trade in the whole of Spain) also praise the wine!


Our little group was then taken on a tour of the hotel by Katherine herself, as if she hadn’t enough to do! Well, luxurious alone, doesn’t really do Casa Boquera justice! It is stunningly beautiful! The rooms, termed Reserva and Grand Reserva are wonderful, all en suite, and all having superb views from their private terraces. Plus there is the private Grand Suite, which is amazing!

Some of us, and we count ourselves to be so lucky to be included, were also invited to the superb, gourmet dinner at night. Chef Fran Martínez had clearly been given carte blanche to design and cook imaginative, beautifully presented and delicious dishes, ably supported by the kitchen brigade he has himself trained. What a wonderful experience! @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

Please note: Katherine and Harald* will be returning to the Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme, Total FM 91.8 &, on Sunday 21st May, 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, to chat about their progress since opening!


Vinoteca, a Spanish company specialising in the supply of all manner of wine coolers, from tiny 2 bottle jobs, to far larger affairs that can hold, in perfect wine storage conditions, up to 400 bottles, is the leader in the field . . .



I’m fortunate, I know. I receive wines from all over Spain each month, sent by bodegas hoping for a review – they know that the readers of the Costa News’ four titles are very wine friendly! A good Cork Talk review is valuable to them. The result of this, significant continuous supply of bottles of wine, is that in my house there forms a queue of wines to taste!


When can I taste them – if not now, then when – and will they be in the same, perfect condition? Living as I do, on the Costa Blanca, there is a wide variance in the ambient temperatures of the four seasons. This isn’t good for storing wines. Plus, as we know on all of the Costas, the temperature in summer is sometimes unbearable for us, and frankly, always, for wines.

So what can we do? Well, we could hire a digger and dig down, what 10, no, more – perhaps 15 – 20 metres where the temperature will remain a fairly constant and a fairly wine friendly, maybe 16 – 18ºC. But, hey that’s a lot of effort, and of course, money – moreover money that could be spent on wine! But don’t worry, there’s an answer.


Vinoteca, a Spanish company specialising in the supply of all manner of wine coolers, from tiny 2 bottle jobs, to far larger affairs that can hold, in perfect wine storage conditions, up to 400 bottles, is the leader in the field – and that’s in Europe! My problem solved – so much wine, and now somewhere to keep it until the time is right!

If you go to the Vinoteca website ( you’ll see a huge array of wine coolers, comprising the best brands in Europe – Le Nez Du Vin; Caveduke; La Sommeliére; Liebherr; Vitempus; to name but a few, from a list of  14! If you can’t find a wine cooler here, you can’t find a wine cooler!


Your choice will depend on the number of wines you want to store until it’s time for drinking them and, of course, the space you have available for the wine cooler. I don’t have much space available so I went for the 36 bottle La Sommeliére LS36A, which will suit my needs perfectly. This is the newest model in the well respected La Sommeliére range, the first units only arrived in the warehouse last week! It is Class A Energy Efficient (a concern for all of us these days), has a digital display and touch-button technology.


And, check this out – I’ve negotiated a 5% discount on all models, for Cork Talk Readers! Simply add the code COLIN5 in the appropriate box when ordering online – and that’s a 5% discount, extra to any discounts available for the model you choose!


When saddled with having to make a choice from such an array, I’m not the quickest! I therefore went back to the website a number of times over a period of about three weeks. Each time I visited I noted that there were always discounts, indeed the cooler I chose had 19% off the usual price, translating to an 80€ saving!


I spoke with the Sales Department. Now, whilst I’m fairly confident in my wine related Spanish (I should be, after 20 years working in the Spanish wine sector!) and was certainly prepared to chat about my requirements etc in that language, whenever I was stuck with a certain word, I was given the word I sought. There were times when we spoke just in English and I asked if this was normal. The Sales Department is as happy talking to clients in English as they are in Spanish, and I wouldn’t be surprised, in a number of other European languages too.


Talking of clients, I was also informed that they have many on the Costas of Spain from further south than Marbella, reaching to Barcelona, and inland as well. These, apparently well satisfied customers include many of the different nationalities of Europe as well as Americans and others from several parts of the world – including, claro, Spanish!


So what are the advantages of having such a wine cooler? I know from the tastings I present that there are always those who tell me, with a knowing smile, that they don’t need such assistance, as they drink their wine, almost on arrival! I know what they mean of course – but what about when you see that offer in the bodega or supermarket? It’s 36º+ in the house in the summer; there are 12 bottles of this lovely red going for a really  good discount, but today only! Well, the idea of a wine chiller starts to look a little more useful, no?

And what about that special celebration that’s coming up, but isn’t here yet? A wedding anniversary or a special birthday. What about buying a fine wine for your grandchild’s 18th (hoping, like me, that he/she doesn’t like wine when that landmark age is reached!). Why not buy the posh wine for it now, put it in the cooler and know that it will be perfect for when it’s needed.


Bear in mind also that, sadly (almost criminally, in my view), many of the supermarkets are not at all concerned with storing their wines under correct conditions. So you will find that wines you buy will sometimes be disappointing, if you wait. Buy them now and put them in the chiller!


Wine coolers keep the wines at the correct temperature and humidity. Depending on the model chosen, there is a range of temperatures that can be set, and at different levels of the chiller. They usually also have an anti-vibration system built in, as well as shaded glass – two other problems that wines do not like! Their designs can be ultra modern, traditional, and a combination of each.


So, Tracy (Chapman, the title of whose song I’ve plagiarized above!) – it doesn’t matter when it is, if it’s not now! Twitter  @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness