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 The resulting article has been archived and can be seen here: www.colinharknessonwine.com click Articles and scroll down a little.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! (www.vinsdelcomtat.com/en)


Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com  Twitter @colinonwine

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