Showcasing the wines of Viñedos Balmoral


I’m not too bothered if the Champagne Police are about – they surely can’t complain at my writing, and saying, that the winemaker who crafted the Sparkling Wines (and the still ones) for the Spanish bodega, Viñedos Balmoral, learned his trade in Champagne. Because it’s true!

Hervé Jestin has made fine Champagne in several large Champagne Houses in Champagne, obviously – as that’s the only place where you can make Champagne (he’s said it again!). Amongst those on his CV, Möet et Chandon – of whom you may have heard?!

Hervé was convinced that fine Sparkling Wine could be made in Spain, providing he could find a site where the micro-climate wasn’t too dissimilar from that of the old country. He, and Viñedos Balmoral ( were looking to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the prime movers of Champagne, as well as using other varieties, for a Spanish spin! The answer was securing land in an area where the grapes were sure to ripen, but where the temperatures were not too severe to render their sparkling wines and still wines, flabby, lacking that essential fresh acidy, so crucial, particularly to Sparklers!

1,000 metres above sea level should do it! And that’s where you’ll find Hervé and his colleagues working in the Albacete region, where the normal temperature during the growing season hovers at around 40ºC (phew!), but on Balmoral land drop to 30ºC. Plus, as Cork Talk readers will know by now, at this altitude the night-time temperatures take a dramatic tumble, perhaps by 15ºC, which certainly contributes to that freshness that we seek.

The gap is deliberate – please read on to see the wine that should be there!

I recently tasted five Balmoral wines, with a full-house of eager tasters and diners at Restaurante La Parrilla de Javea, Javea Old Town – like Chef-Patron, Pepe’s food, they all went down very well!

We started with some fizz – well why wouldn’t you?

This wine is made by the Traditional Method (of course, given its maker!). 100% Chardonnay, the 2nd fermentation takes place in the bottle, but 3% of the still base wine has had some oak barrel aging before blending with the rest – and it makes a difference.

Following fermentation, the wine sits on its lees, the sediment left after the yeast has finished making the second fermentation, and rests there for 24 months! That’s two years – why? Well, essentially this resting ‘en rima’ adds depth and complexity, mature flavours and added mouthfeel.

If this were a cava – it’s not, it’s a Spanish Sparkling Wine – it would qualify as a Reserva, whose minimum time ‘en rima’ is 15 mnths, but, in fact, its 24 months nearly qualifies it as a Gran Reserva, were it cava, whose minimum time en rima is 30 months.

The same applies to the Viñedos Balmoral’s Rosé (note the French, ‘rosé’, not ‘rosado’ – you know why!), which has also had 24 months en rima. However, the varieties are different of course. Given the provenance of the wine-maker and the fact that Hervé has not only brought with him Champagne’s Chardonnay variety, but also black grape variety, Pinot Noir, you may expect his rosé to be made with the latter, as it so often, and effectively is back home!

Well, here he elected to make his Spanish rosé with Tempranillo and Shiraz – which is perhaps a unique blend for rosé fizz. Does it work? Well, yes, for me it was my favorite wine of the tasting. Made at Brut Extra level re its very low grams of sugar per litre, the wine is satisfyingly dry, without the biting acidity of some of the zero dosage sparklers.

Our next wine was a monovarietal, Chardonnay, still wine – lovely fresh acidity, with none of the tropical fruit that can be found in ‘New World’ Chardonnay, and an absence of oak too! Here we have the fruit – a little lemon acidity with perhaps some under-ripe pear, and a lick of apple, plus, owing to its time spent on its lees (as with the sparklers above, but in tank before being bottled) a pleasing slight creaminess. Try it with creamy cheeses!

There were two reds to finish – I chose to taste first, the Tempranillo. Paired with the lomo de cerdo, pork dish, I think it worked nicely. Maravides Mediterranean Wine has been aged in a combination of French Oak (you know why!) Vats of 8,000 litres capacity, and also American barrels of 300 litres and 225 litres.

Whilst the wine isn’t a blend, its making has been – the large vats ensure that the fruit is always going to be to the fore. The American oak adds a little depth, and some slight leather and coffee aromas – but when you think back about this wine, it will be the blackberry and mature strawberry fruit you’ll remember, with, if you want to search, a faint note of loganberry too.

This missing wine! A lovely Shiraz, pictured with Santiago, representing Viñedos Balmoral.

Our final wine was also a monovarietal – Shiraz this time, and a real joy! Made in the same way as the above, it gives totally different aromas and flavours. You can find some bay leaf and other mountain herbs on the nose as you open this, year older wine, which act as the support act to the main event – the lovely blueberry, damson and picotta cherry fruit.

NB the next such Wine Pairing event at La Parrilla, Javea, will be a dinner – Thursday 14th June, starting at 8pm; let’s start the weekend early! You can reserve by emailing 629 388 159. Don’t be slow though we are already half-full!

Australian Prosecco? How Can This Be?


I’m almost certain that everyone reading this column will have tasted Prosecco in the last few years – if you’ve resisted, sticking solely to Cava, and maybe occasionally Champagne, as a second choice, of course, then I congratulate you. However, I digress from my theme!

As I’ve said before there has been a tidal wave of Prosecco, of almost tsunami proportions, flooding the UK High Streets, which apparently goes unabated. (In a decade UK sales of Prosecco grew from 1 million bottles to 60 million!). Whilst the UK is in fact the largest market for the Italians, Prosecco sales have been increasing very nicely in other parts of Europe, and indeed, the World! It’s a marketing dream, which brings in millions for the Italian Prosecco producers!

Now, you’ll have noticed that I say ‘Italian’ – well, of course, Prosecco is Italian, obviously! Well, hold on – perhaps it isn’t!

Wait – I implore all of you brand-loyal Prosecco drinkers, don’t yet chuck this article on the barbie! There is mounting evidence which suggests that whilst Italy does of course produce Prosecco, this is not exclusive! At this moment, and it seems to me, having read into the debate, that there is also Australian Prosecco; and if current high level discussion/argument between the Aussies and the Italians eventually leads to the courts, and ultimately judgement favours our Antipodean friends, there will be Prosecco produced in several other countries too!

Brown Brothers, of Australia, producing Prosecco!

And why not try and ‘steal’ a piece of the lucrative action? (In Australia already year on year growth is 50% with Aussie Prosecco sales worth 66 Million dollars and estimated to grow to 200 Million by 2020!)

Well, the Italians, argue that there should be no inverted commas around the word ‘steal’. As we know, DO Cava, for example, is protected by European law, as is Champagne, Chianti, Bordeaux, Port and so on. Therefore, the Aussies have stolen the word Prosecco as it applies solely to an area of production of Sparkling Wine using a specific grape variety – in Italy!

Ah, but the Aussies argue that it’s exactly here that the Italian argument falls – Prosecco is in fact the name of the grape variety and not, despite what the Italians say, the product!

To which the Italians would retort, no, Prosecco is made with the variety Glera!

Enter my esteemed colleague, Jamie Goode, whose blog writing under the sobriquet of ‘Wine Anorak’ is world famous! I’ve been following Jamie’s Tweets, which would appear to present a convincing argument for ‘Australian Prosecco’.

You see, when the Italian grape came to Australia, it’s name was Prosecco, as it was in Italy, and always had been. Thus it was duly planted as such in Oz in order to make sparkling wines. As Jamie says, in 2009, the Italians, aware of the danger of competition and the fact that nobody ‘owns’ the name of a grape variety, decided to rename it, to Glera. They then successfully applied for the name Prosecco (using the Glera grape variety) to be a PDO, a protected regional name – something, as I’ve said, which cannot be done for a variety.

So – they were safe and millions of bottles have been subsequently sold. However, it seems they weren’t in fact as secure as they thought, for the reasons above, and they have therefore, to an extent, become ‘victims’ of their own success. Prosecco sells like hot-cakes (and for me, mostly, tastes as sweet!) so others are trying to emulate the Italians, unsurprisingly.

Italian Prosecco, of course?

What will be the outcome? Well, Jamie believes that, whilst legally the Aussies are right, morally they may not be. Prosecco (that’s Italian Prosecco!) producers have worked very hard and been so successful, should they not be able to continue to enjoy this success, without others, basically just copying them?

Well, I suspect that the Aussies won’t back down (in fact, unless recent Cricket abuses quickly work their way into the Australian psyche causing an easing of their competitive spirit, I’d say it’s a given!) – so how can a compromise be found?

I’ve suggested that Italian Prosecco producers label their product something like ‘The Original Italian Prosecco’ to differentiate it from ‘usurpers’. Jamie seems to concur with this idea and also thinks that, to be fair, the Aussies (and others, for there surely will be a queue of countries who will want to cash-in) should be able to call their wines Prosecco as long as they include their country name.

However – personally, I’m not too bothered, I prefer Cava, by a distance!

(My thanks to Jamie Goode, Max Allen of the Financial Review (whom we both quote) and also Nik Darlington). Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness