DO Yecla Annual Wine Competition 2018


I was delighted to be invited, once again, to join the judging panel of the annual wines of DO Yecla competition, in fact my sixth invitation. For four of these competitions, including this year’s, I have been the only foreigner on the panel, which I take as a real compliment, for this is not just a parochial contest, akin to the village vegetable show, as was. The results of this competition reverberate around both of the world’s hemispheres, covering all of the continents.

An amazing 95% of Yecla’s wines are exported, to I don’t know how many different countries, and it’s clear that in these established markets, as well as those in their infancy, there is bound to be keen interest in the medal winners of 2018. However, it’s not all positive – for some inexplicable reason, a mere 5% of production is sold in Spain!

It’s not a problem for the bodegas, most of whom sell out of wine, on their foreign markets – it’s just that it’s a tad lamentable that Spaniards out of the area, just don’t appreciate the beauty of the products that my fellow judges and I enjoyed recently. Plus, of course, this means that ex-pats living in different parts of Spain do not have the chance to try them, as distributors don’t take up the option. Yecla wines rock – and if/when they become known in the rest of Spain, sales will inevitably soar – reaching the level of some of the more famous areas of wine production!

The Judging Director, Señor Adrián Martínez Cutillas, had decided that there were too many wines (approaching 80) entered this year for them all to be tasted by all 12 judges. Two panels were needed, one panel tasting all the white wines and rosados, whilst the other panel (mine, it so happened) tasted all the young reds. After the break, both panels tasted all the red wines which had been oak aged and placed in different categories: for example ‘Tinto Joven Madera 2017 & 2016’, Young Red With Some Oak Aging 2017 & 2016, and so on. Finally, we all tasted there three delightful, delicious Red Dessert wines!

The venerable, older wines were poured from decanters!

The Consejo Regulador offices are to be found on a modern industrial estate, outside of the bucolic, atmospheric town centre. It’s not pretty, but it’s perfectly practical. There is easy access, plenty of parking and, particularly wine tasting/judging-wise, it’s custom made and fit for purpose.

The tasting rooms are a few metres below ground level, naturally cooler therefore, but also supplied with the necessary wine chillers which keep the various styles of wine, all wrapped in aluminum foil to ensure that prying eyes (not that there ever are any!) do not learn of a certain wine’s provenance. It is, of course, a blind tasting, so that no favouritism can be shown.

When judging at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, as I do, we are given similar information to the above, i.e. category-wise, as well as general information about predominant grape varieties – e.g. Rioja Crianza, Tempranillo dominated etc. This isn’t to help the judges, it’s because we are also expected in that competition to consider typicity.

At the Certamen Vinos de DOP Yecla this information is not available. Therefore, whilst it’s very likely that the red wines we are tasting, for example, will have at least some Monastrell in them, it’s not certain, and there may well/probably will be others in the blend. For me it adds a little excitement – can I identify the varieties used?

The judging panel!

Judging starts at 10:00 hrs and continues – well, until it’s finished. This year we were in there, admittedly with a snack break, until 13:50 hrs – a long session. We then retired to lunch, where a some of the wine-makers, bodega owners and Consejo Regulador members joined us. If you are ever in Yecla – go for lunch at Bodegas Barahonda! It really is exceptional!

Eventually all, workers, owners, growers, their families etc, as well as the giltterati of the the Yecla Wine World, dressed to impress, of course, descend on a restaurant for the annual dinner, and the presentation of the prizes, as yet kept under lock and key! It really is quite atmospheric and, whilst all are friendly in this area of production, there is nevertheless an air of competition – it goes with the name, I guess!

On my table, for example, two ladies, owners of a winery making strictly vegan wines, were noticeably disappointed that their two Gold Medals of last year, were not repeated this time. Whereas, a lady and gent (my friends Catherine and Harald of Bodegas Boquera), who did not medal last year (in this competition) were delighted to learn that they had been awarded a Silver! And so it went on.

Medal & Prize Winners!

Space does not allow me to give details of all medals, but a special mention must be recorded for Bodegas Barahonda, whose representatives were called to the podium more frequently than any of the other bodegas. Enhorabuena (congratulations) to them as well as all who entered as I really believe that this year was one of the best, in terms of the overall standard. Plus, a huge thanks and congratulations to DOP Yecla, for my invitation and for their perfect, professional organisation! Hasta la proxima – espero!

BREAKING WINE NEWS: Thurs. 21st June at the exciting La La Land Piano Bar and Restaurant, Denia, a super Wine Pairing Dinner, 32:50€. Exceptional value for money! To reserve: or please call 629 388 159. Places limited!

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