COSTA BLANCA/COSTA CALIDA WINE TASTING TOUR
I’m now just about recovered from a delightfully hectic three-day wine tasting tour which took in: the Costa Blanca and the Costa Calida. Three splendid locations, approximately 150 clients and eight different wines. Frenetic, exhausting, at times stressful – but what a buzz!
Our venues were: the absolute luxury of the Asia Gardens hotel in Benidorm; the elegance of the Denia Marriott; and the golfer’s sheer paradise, the Intercontinental La Manga Golf and Spa Resort. It took quite an effort not to be overawed!
In this matter, though, I was considerably helped by those who both organised the tasting tour and particularly by those who attended the tastings. Each different group had their personalities, their critics as well as a host of interesting and informed questions. Many also sheared my passion for Spanish wine – especially the fine wines that we tasted.
I often like to start a tasting with a Sparkling Wine – it just fits! Now, in Spain there are in fact lots of sparklers from which to choose – and they certainly aren’t all Cavas, as regular readers will know. However, I chose a lovely Cava, actually from Valencia, which is one of the locations outside of Cataluña, that is a permitted to make Cava. A Cava Valenciano also fitted my remit – to present wines that are made ‘locally’ as well as those from more fashionable areas.
Bodegas Domino de la Vega, from the Utiel-Requena area, whilst continuing to make good quality still DOP Utiel-Requena wines, now makes only Reserva Cavas. This is another reason why I chose a Cava to start the tasting – I’m on a mission to promote the different styles of Cava!
Expression Cava Brut Reserva has had a minimum of 15 months ‘en rima’, resting in bottle on its lees down in labyrinth-like underground cellars of Bodegas Dominio de la Vega. This time has added depth of flavour and extra complexity to this Macabeo based wine. It’s full in the mouth and able to take on various dishes as an accompaniment, without losing at all it’s raison d’etre, that fresh, clebration that we all love!
The first of two whites, is for me, the equal best white wine made under the auspices of DOP Valencia! Using the indigenous, little heard of, Verdil variety which has been fermented in oak, it also makes room in the blend for the: fuller, Chardonnay, the aromatic and clean Sauvignon, as well as one of my favourite varieties, Viognier.
Imagine the mix! It’s so fruity, a blend of pears, citrus, apricot, slightly under-ripe pineapple, gooseberry all bound together with a very slight vanilla and a whisp of smoke! Blanc d’Enguerra, from the eponymous Bodegas Enguerra – I love it!
Whilst DOP Rueda is quite rightly known for it’s Verdejo, that variety that has some of the aroma and taste profile of Sauvignon Blanc, there is also some very good Sauvignon made there too. One of my favourite Rueda bodegas is Palacio de Bornos and their Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is a vinous breath of fresh air!
Herbs, gooseberry, nettles and a faint aroma of asparagus are all there, along with a very slight aroma of peaches (as a very helpful lady pointed out), peach schnapps, for me. It is exactly what we want from a Sauvignon – super perfume, with racing acidity and a really thirst quenching, fruit filled flavour!
Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, DOP Ribera del Duero, will be know to many readers – for their rich red wines, and if you’re lucky, their luxury hotel and spa! However, with such good grapes from old vines in well situated vineyards which enjoy their own micro-climates, it’s not a quantum leap to realise that they may also make top rosado wines too!
And they do! Rosae is in a rather sexy bottle, and the wine enhances that theme. It’s delicate and yet is full for a rosado. It’s elegant, and yet has power as well. You’ll find raspberries in abundance, with a faint reference to some bigger, black fruit.
I’ve written several times about Gran Caus rosado from Can Raffols, DO Penedés – which I believe to be the best rosé in Spain. Its colour almost startles when it is poured into your glass from an opaque bottle. And the Merlot, plum aromas start to slowly come out as the wine warms a little in the ambient temperature.
The dark bottle is deliberate, this rose defies the general rule that Spanish rosado has to be drunk young. We tasted the 2015, as young as it’s possible to be, of course, but this wine is built to last as well. Super rosé wine that will shock those who denounce our pink friend!
DOP Bullas is a rising star in the Spanish Wine firmament – and yet it has, for many decades, made wines of high quality. The reason it’s rising now is because people are cottoning-on and because the Consejo Regulador are focussing on promoting the jewels that are fashioned there!
Bodegas Monastrell makes top quality wine, based largely, but not exclusively, around the Monastrell variety (the clue is in the name!). Valché is their flagship wine, winning the Gold Medal in the DOP Bullas Competition last year (I know, because I was there – as Max Boyce would say!). Aged in French oak for 17 months the wine, at first gives a lovely smoked vanilla aroma, quickly followed by the essence of Monastrell, delightfully rich black plum aroma and flavour, with a sometimes quite illusive dark chocolate note too!
Our final dry red wine was also made with 100% Monstrell, this time from nearby DOP Yecla. The limited edition, top wine of Bodegas Castaño, Casa Cisca, at about 35€/bottle, sells out every year, with many cases going to the USA. It’s not flattery at all to say that this wine is one of my favourite Spanish red wines – excellent quality!
From the oldest vineyards, over 60 yrs of age, only the best small bunches are selected for this iconic wine. It’s aged in oak for 16 months but, judicially, so as to enhance the depth, the richness, the fragrance, the complexity and the flavour, without at all diminishing the glorious fruit. The epitome of top quality Monastrell wines!
Would it be too much Monastrell to use another for the final wine? Well, not at all, as Castaño’s Monastrell Dulce, although made with the same variety, is a whole different story. Rich dessert wine whose grapes were left to turn raison-like on the vines until November, it is aged for six months in American oak. Probably the best red dessert wine in Spain!
Try with summer pudding, dark berry and/or chocolate desserts, and for me the best pairing – blue cheese! Amazing!
PS My next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91·8 www.totalfm.es is on Sunday 3rd March at 7pm Spanish Time. We’ll be tasting wines from Bodegas Castaño, DOP Yecla. Why not buy a bottle and ‘join’ us in the comfort of your own home?
Contact Colin: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness