Spanish Fizz to stem the Prosecco tide!


As regular readers may remember, I used to be rather heavily involved in the world of football, from both amateur and professional perspectives. Like Spurs’ Manager, Pochettino (according to a recent BBC interview), I used to eat, sleep and breathe footy. (Seems like a good bloke – shame they’re going to be hammered tomorrow by the Mighty Reds – I’m writing this article on Sat. 3rd Feb!).


Nowadays, I don’t have the time – but it’s also because I’ve become rather less enamoured with Pele’s ‘Beautiful Game’ when I see the antics of players and clubs in today’s football. My thoughts on this, and indeed the reason why I’m writing about football in this, the wine column, can be seen archived here:, click Articles.


Of course, it has to be remembered that good news, doesn’t sell newspapers, so the good, often charitable works etc that lots of players and clubs are doing are not often reported. So, this week’s wine column (linked with the archives) attempts to redress the balance.


Professional footballer, Andrés Iniesta, of Spain and currently perhaps the world’s greatest club side, Barcelona CF, as a gesture of thanks to his father, for all the trips to training, matches, coaching etc when he was just a boy, went out and bought the land on which his father had toiled. And, pruning a long story short, built a wine bodega for his Dad, and indeed for the village. The details of this heart-warming story are in the archived article, mentioned above.

Andrés Iniesta, second from the left, one of the greatest professional footballers of his era – wine maker too!

Just before Christmas I heard that they had branched out into making sparkling wines as well as the still wines I’d tried, and were announcing the arrive al of their latest addition to the fizz portfolio. So, I called my pal, Andrés, well, not exactly – I contacted the bodega to ask if they would be able to send me a sample!


I’m always up for some sparkling wine, but I was particularly keen to try these as they are made by the same method as Prosecco – heard of Prosecco, have you?! It isn’t doing too badly, is it? Well, not surprisingly a number of wineries in different parts of the world are currently making sparklers by the Charmat Method, in an attempt to have a piece of the action.


Unlike the Traditional Method, where the second fermentation occurs in bottle, the Charmat Method has this happening in tank. The argument being that it makes a lighter, more delicate style of fizz, than Cava – oh and that other one from France, etc! It’s also less expensive – which, of course is part of the appeal.


Bodegas Iniesta has decided to make their sparkling wine, mostly, in a lightly drier style, and crucially, they are not using the Glera grape variety, and of course their vines are growing in different soils with a different climate. It’s the Charmat Method, but it aint Prosecco.


I was impressed. Their Corazon Spumante White is a blend of Macabeo and Verdejo and this alliance, made to the Extra Dry style (in fact, at 12 – 14 grms/litre, the driest end of that style, really works. Firstly, as the cork is gently pulled, the escaping ‘sigh’ at first exudes a pleasant floral fragrance, in tandem with fruit notes  – some baked apple (we can thank the Macabeo for this), with ripe pear and kiwi. For me it’s this inherent fruitiness that puts it a distance above Prosecco! Try this with SE Asian food!


Whilst all three of the fizz portfolio are well packaged in nicely shaped bottles with pretty labels, the ladies will certainly admire the Corazón Rosé. We really like this wine – it’s made to the Provençal style in terms of its very pale pink, so looks compelling in the glass, and, were I asked, I’d say it has 12 grms sugar/litre, though the notes tell us it is again 12 – 14.


There are cherries on the nose and the palate, again that fruit element is to the fore, with some fresh pomegranate juiciness. This will be brilliant with mushroom risotto, and indeed other rice dishes, though not too spicy. It’s also interesting to know that it is made with the Bobal red wine grape variety, giving it a little extra body for some lighter meat dishes.


Finally, the new release Corazón Spumante Moscato! For me this is a dessert wine, and a great way to finish off the evening, for those with a sweeter tooth. Lovers of the UK supermarket Proseccos will delight in this one particularly. It’s fun, with Jasmine flowers and white rose petals on the nose and a grapey, raison flavour. Plus, considerably in its favour, considering the copious volumes drunk by admirers of its Italian rival, it’s just 5·5%!!  You can buy them all online at


colin@colinharknessonewine ; Twitter @colinonwine ; Facebook Colin Harkness ; Youtube Colin Harkness On Wine



It’s just two years since I was invited to taste a new wine from Bodegas Vins del Comtat within the hallowed portals of DOP Alicante’s headquarters. The Vins del Comtat Monastrell approved by all the journalists in attendance, including myself, the only foreigner.

It was on the basis of this value for money wine that I contacted owner, David Carbonell, asking if he may have any other tasty secrets in his closet. I was impressed, not just with the quality of the wines, but also their sensible prices – the quality/price ratio has to be an important consideration when buying wines, of course. The resulting article has been archived and can be seen here: click Articles and scroll down a little.


So, when I was contacted again by DOP Alicante advising that the wine’s ‘big brother’ was just about to be released I contacted David with some alacrity. It’s a solid bodega crafting consistently good quality wines. Therefore when a new wine is trumpeted onto the scene I was pretty sure it would be a good one for Cork Talk readers, and, ok, for me too!


You may have heard a lot about ‘Single Estate’ and/or ‘Single Vineyard’ wines. Let’s be honest, it’s a marketing ploy – both phrases strike a chord that smacks of higher quality, premium wines. And mostly, it’s correct – as indeed it is in this case.


Perhaps you remember the entertaining Oz Clarke & James May wine series on TV, where, at a blind tasting, two wines made from the same variety, in exactly the same way, and in adjacent plots owned by the same winery, were markedly different in aroma, flavour, depth et al? It may sound odd, I know, but there is plenty of evidence to bask this up. It’s a question of the make up of the soil in which the vines are growing, the aspect to the sun, the micro-micro climates that each vineyard enjoys – well, in short, the differing terroirs.


In this case the ‘single estate’ gives its name to the wine, El Salze. It’s an area of vineyards adjacent to each other at an altitude of 630 metres above sea level. The vineyards enjoy a Mediterranean climate, away from the actual Med, where temperatures are almost unbearable for vines. Inland, and at this altitude there is a significant diurnal temperature variation during the growing season, when it’s most needed.


It’s a win-win situation for the vines, there is (easily, I give you the beached tourists!) plenty of sunshine to ripen the grapes, and there’s also respite at night (I give you also, poetry!). And what of those vines?


Well, they are old, that’s 40 – 60 yrs, Monastrell vines planted and cultivated in the traditional manner, that’s kept in the bush (goblet) shape without being attached to posts and wires. Such vines have to dig deep for their nutrients – their roots can reach 10 metres in length, and of course, they have to be adapted to a climate that sees little rainfall (decreasing year on year, actually).


Now, as Cork Talk readers know, a vine has to suffer to give of its best, so you’d expect these grapes to few, but rich as you like! And, judging by the finished product i.e. the wine, you’d be correct!


On opening there escapes a noticeable plum fruit aroma, tempting – but don’t taste just yet. Wait for back-up – as there is also a certain mountain herb aroma (bay leaf and faint traces of thyme). In the glass it’s deeply coloured and this depth is found also on the palate. It’s a rich wine that fills the mouth with its plum flavour and there’s a greater complexity provided by its 12 months in lightly toasted new oak barrels of 500 litres capacity.


I wonder if David has an interest in fishing, not that I’d pair this wine with very many (any?) fish dishes? It’s just that, in a manner of speaking the Vins del Comtat Monastrell that I tasted in 2016 acted like bait for me! I’m hooked on these wines and I’ve not been let down by the full-bodied El Salze (12€), a step up in quality with an admirable length, and bags of pleasure! (


Contact Colin:  Twitter @colinonwine

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Getting ready for the new vintage!



My first experience of the phenomenon this season was in fact during the dying embers (pun intended!) of December. A thin blanket of frost had been left on the vineyards quite early one morning. On my car windscreen too, evoking less than happy memories of trying to get to work during winters in the UK. Hands and head frozen, because I didn’t have that little plastic tool, and I’d had been forced to put my head out of the window to affect some sort of visibility! Come on, be fair, we all did it!


Presumably following to the letter the traditional advice (had the folklore ever been written down) that last year’s vine growth should be pruned after the first frost, to ready the vines for the new season of growth, a lone  vineyard worker (owner?) must have been up at dawn. An almost mystical plume of smoke had ascended above his vineyard and started to gradually disperse, Harry Potter spell-like, slightly above the land in the windless sky. Quite poetic, don’t you think?


I went to investigate the source of the smoke, and of course, found a small, controlled fire on which he was placing more and more of his Moscatel prunings. I wondered if he knew, or cared, given the difference between Jalón wines and those of Bordeaux, that some of the grand chateaux collect their prunings, bundle them together and sell them to (naïve and wealthy!) would-be BBQers hoping to add a touch of fine Bordeaux wine to their grilling meats!


I left him to it and went on my way.


Now, in January, others are following suit. If not left on the rows between the vines waiting for their cremation, the prunings of Moscatel, Giró, Garnacha et al are all making their contribution to this bucolic countryside vista. It’s a beguiling sight to behold, the more so in these worrying, political, times, when some lunatic could press that button and we’d all go up in a funereal pyre!


But let’s not go down that road – I’m being positive here! Similar to the Native Americans’ way of communicating, these misty, smokey columns are telling us that Mother Nature (with a little help from her friends) is preparing for another season of growth. The sap that was left to descend into the roots of the vines, from when they’d been denuded until now, will soon be on the rise, bringing with it, new growth.

And so it will be all over the wine producing areas of the Northern Hemisphere as vineyard workers in those countries north of Spain slowly start to copy their southern colleagues. For wine consumers like ourselves it’s an exciting time of renewal and of anticipation. Will the 2018 vintage be the same, better, worse as/than last year? Are we starting a process here that will result in some exquisite wines in the future after they’ve perhaps matured in oak and then bottle? (Told you I was being positive!).


I wonder for example if the multi-medalling first wine of the new winery, Casa Boquera, in Yecla will be able to ‘follow that’, as the saying goes? Their first red wine, made with organic old vine Monastrell and Syrah did very well, as you may remember from a previous Cork Talk. However, it wasn’t all bottled to be sold as joven, young, wine. They, rather cleverly, kept some back, in oak barrels, and in October I tasted their Casa Boquera Tinto Roble, 2016. (

Firstly, the blend, Monastrell teaming up with Syrah, is a good one, and becoming increasingly prevalent in South East Spain. Fully ripened Syrah, as it invariably is in such a climate, adds a slightly spicy, peppery element to back up the dominant fruit of the variety. When coupled with the plum/damson aroma and flavour of Monastrell it’s certainly a winning combination.


So, the Casa Boquera Roble starts on the front foot. Then, of course, there is the addition of the French oak influence, six months adding depth, complexity and a greater longevity. There’s also an added, endearing aroma of coffee beans being smoked in the distance, along with a very faint dark chocolate flavour on the finish.


When I tasted the wine, which I certainly enjoyed, my notes indicated a wine that wasn’t quite the finished article – the necessary parts were all there, the fruit in abundance, but I felt it needed a little more time to become fully balanced. I estimated six months to, maybe, a year.


Seems I was wrong, it needed far less time! I’ve just heard that in December, so just a couple of months after my tasting, the wine was awarded a valued Silver Medal at the Mundus Vini Biofach competition in Germany! Plus, this wine will last too!  Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness  Youtube  Colin Harkness On Wine

Article from 2016 – relevant to current article 02/02/2018




I wonder if my fellow tasters noticed an apparent light-headed dizziness about me when I first set eyes on the new bottle of wine that was about to be launched onto the market by David Carbonell of Bodegas Vins del Comtat?


Along with others in the professional wine world of Alicante and beyond, I’d been invited to the very professional tasting rooms of Denominación de Origen Alicante in the city itself. The tasting ‘Sala’, along with the administrative offices of the Consejo Regulador (ruling council) sit atop a showroom below that looks like, and indeed occasionally acts as, a wine merchants – though in this particular wine shop there is more than a slight bias towards Alicante wines!


Although the tasting was above the shop, it wasn’t the altitude that had made me a little dizzy, and as I hadn’t yet tasted the wine, nor any other, it couldn’t have been the alcohol either! It was the label!


I wonder if any readers have ever walked (with care?) the tiled pavement that leads from the beach next to Alicante’s impressive Marina, just as it approaches the nearest tall hotel, Melia, I think? If so, I’m sure you too will have noticed the optical illusion tile design that makes you question whether your feet will meet a solid surface.


I wonder if it is designed to steady those who have just left their yachts after a long time on the waves. Most altruistic, if so, but what about landlubbers like myself who have often bashed their heads against jewellers’ windows thinking that the security grill behind was the first solid you’d meet!


And the relevance, you may ask? Well the label on Vins del Comtat Monastrell has the same sort of design, you can almost touch the blue, black and white cubes, apparently stacked Giant’s Causeway style! Well why not, labels sell wine – though any second purchase of the same wine is, of course, dependant on the quality of the wine inside!


Vins del Comtat have no need to worry there, though – this wine really does represent excellent value for money (about 7€), as well as being a perfect introduction to the locally loved grape variety Monastrell, which, as witnessed at the recent Monastrell Conference, also hosted by DOP Alicante, is appreciated world-wide (scroll down


After hundreds of years (a thousand, or more?) Monastrell is perfectly adapted to the climate of SE Spain. It can bear the oven-like temperatures of the growing season, as well as the, at best inadequate, rainfall, (which is now worryingly reaching a drastic point!). Plus, when grown at a respectable altitude where there is some night-time relief as temperatures drop, it can produce fruit filled wine of distinction.


Vins del Comtat 2014 100% Monastrell delivers this juicy, plum flavoured fruit in abundance. The wine has also enjoyed, and I used the word deliberately, three months in oak – not the traditional 225 litre oak barricas, but larger, 500 litre French oak barrels whose influence is softer and more subtle. The oak gives depth of flavour and a little complexity, rather than greatly influencing the taste, which is the winemaker’s laudable intention.


I highly recommend this wine – if looking for a BBQ wine now that the season is about to start, this will be perfect!


However, Vins del Comtat is not all about red wine. In a very impressively shaped bottle with transparent labels (incidentally, fine when the bottle is full, but a touch difficult to read as the level goes down!) you’ll find something of an oddity – albeit a very pleasant drink!


Viognier is not a grape variety that one would immediately think of for planting in soils where the climate is that which is described above! I was first introduced to Viognier via a stunning wine which I often used on my ‘Wine Specials’ board in my restaurants in the 90s. Any readers will know what I mean by ‘stunning’, if you have tried Condrieu, the northern-most white wine appellation of France’s Rhone Valley.


Whilst it’s true that the best Condrieu Viognier wines come from south-facing  vineyards, the sun there is rather less intense than in South-East Spain. And the soils resting on the granite rock above the River Rhone are very different from those which are home to Vins del Comtat’s vineyards.


Nevertheless when tasting their 100% Vioginer (under 7€) you will be able to find traces of the wonderful apricot aromas of their cousins in France, albeit not as potent. However, that’s not what Vins del Comtat’s Vioginer is all about. It’s a very refreshing  white wine which manages a little tropical fruit on the nose, and more so on the palate, with some complementary mountain herb notes too, plus a faint whiff of fennel along with a floral note too.


Coincidentally the Moscatel grapes that make their Vino Dulce Cristalli (9€, 50cl bottle) come from vineyards planted some 40 years ago in an area which I can just about see from my house! These vineyards are at a decent altitude and very close to the sea. Thus they are subject to cooling sea-breezes during day and night time as well as full-on sunshine.


These grapes are as fully ripened as you can find – yet the wine retains its crucial acidity, partnering a luscious lick of sweet sultana and grape aromas and a long, long finish.


On the nose, extra to the typical Moscatel raison notes you’ll find a honeysuckle floral aspect as well as a faint suggestion of the aroma that comes from the spray as an orange is peeled. Then, on the palate that orange, though now more like a Clementine, perhaps, perversely, slightly under-ripe, can be detected too. Faint citrus flavours provide the acidity of this gloriously thrilling, mouth filling sweet wine which we enjoyed with a chocolate based Valentine’s dessert!


There’s a full range at Vins del Comtat – starting at about 5€ with their most expensive wine, Montcabrer weighing in at just under 18€. I intend to try the whole range, and recommend you do too! You can buy on line at