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Vins Abadal

Plà De Bages . . . . one of the smallest DOs in Spain . . . . also one of the newest . . .

DO PLÀ DE BAGES

In wine terms, whenever Cataluña is mentioned we all probably think Cava first. These days, certainly if you’ve been reading Cork Talk over the last few years, we may also think other sparkling wines. However Cataluña certainly isn’t just about Fizz.

At my last count (things change so quickly in such a dynamic wine scene), there were eleven different Denominaciónes de Origen, extra to DO Cava. Spanish wine lovers will probably think straight away of Penedés and Priorat – well done, but that’s still nine more to go.

One of the, not forgotten, as this presumes knowing it beforehand, specific areas of production, DOs, is Plà De Bages and, in common with others, we’d be making a mistake if we ignored it. It’s one of the smallest DOs in Spain, covering about 500 hectares (that’s about 500 rugby pitches!). It’s also one of the newest as it was only officially founded in 1997.

I visited the Plà de Bages stand at the Barcelona Wine Week in February – part of my plan to get around as many of the smaller, less well known areas of production, and I’m very pleased I did. Time is always at a premium at these huge wine events, so I didn’t visit many of the producers, proudly displaying their wares.

Abadal was the bodega that took my eye and I met Ramon Roqueta Segalés, who took me through several wines. http://abadal.net/

The indigenous white wine variety of the area is Picapoll, and Abadal were the first to show their faith in the variety by making a crisp white wine made from 100% Picapoll. The wisdom of their decision can be seen from the fact that other producers are now doing likewise.

It’s had four months on its lees, giving body and a slight creaminess to the wine, to go along with the baked apple and slightly under ripe pineapple skin fruit. Very fresh, wonderful with salads and fish/shellfish, and with an added bonus of a little complexity too.

A very good start – but the second white I tasted, wow what a wine! Abadal Nuat has the simplest of labels, telling a lie to the complexity and sheer delight of the wine inside the bottle! Again Picapoll features highly but there is the addition of Macabeo, another fixture of the Cataluña wine scene. The Picapoll vines have seen 68 summers, therefore produce few bunches per vine, but oh how rich they are!

Eight months on lees make a significant contribution to the depth of flavour and complexity, with a lovely creamy mouthfeel, yet retaining a fresh acidity. Top class winemaking here!

Ok, so the above vines are pretty old, but relative youngsters compared to the 90+ years of the Mandó variety which make the first red wine I tasted, Abadal Mandó! This is a variety which was becoming extinct, saved largely by the Abadal bodega, and now grown in other areas as well. It’s a variety which is slow to ripen and can handle extreme heat well. It is therefore a vine which will be able to take on many of the problems associated with climate change. As such, it’s stock will increase over the coming years!

I noted its light colour, a surprise, given the vines’ great age – and my lack of experience with the variety. Looking in the glass a little like a Pinot Noir, or a Gredos Garnacha. There is a touch of liquorice on the nose, more leafy blackberry than blackcurrant, with mountain herb notes and an extra aroma that I couldn’t put my finger on, until it was suggested to me – that from a wild carob tree. The wine has been aged, 40% in oak and 60% in clay amphora. It really is a lovely red wine, to which I will return!

I also really liked Abadal Matís 2017. Made with Mandó, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot it has a far darker colour than the above. On the nose there is some blackberry fruit mixing very nicely with sage, thyme and a faint rosemary aroma too, as well as eucalyptus and a little trodden undergrowth. The 10 months I French oak have added depth and a very faint vanilla.

Matís has a long finish and it is going to go well with game, steak and meat dishes.

So, friendly readers – I urge you to look into the DOs of Cataluña generally, and particularly to Plà de Bages and, of course the wines of Abadal!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com www.valleyfm.es

Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

www.colinharknessonwine.com

FUNKY & WILD IN CÁDIZ!

If I was asked to name a winery that best illustrates the diversity and dynamism of the Spanish wine scene in 2020, at this moment I’d probably opt for Bodega de Forlong

BODEGA DE FORLONG

VINO DE LA TIERRA DE CÁDIZ

When visiting Cádiz, Andalucia, it’s best not to mention Sir Francis Drake! Whilst initiating a surprise attack on the Spanish Armada moored in the bay, itself apparently poised to set sail to attack England, in April 1587, our Frank decided to nick a few butts of the local wine, known today as Sherry. In fact 3,000 butts, with each containing about 500 litres of the fortified wine that was about to take Elizabethan England by storm!

Nowadays Spain and the UK have a far better relationship, with a great history of trading Sherry, rather than stealing it, and of course the Sherry producers around the Cádiz area still make an excellent product. So, in a region where Sherry is queen, readers may think it odd to start a winery there that makes, well, anything and everything but Sherry!

If I was asked to name a winery that best illustrates the diversity and dynamism of the Spanish wine scene in 2020, at this moment I’d probably opt for Bodega de Forlong! Tasting my way around the eleven whacky labelled samples on show at the Forlong stand at the recent Barcelona Wine Week was a voyage of sheer pleasure, rather better than those mentioned above! www.forlong.hermesinteractiva.com/vinos/

This winery, operating out of nearby Puerto de Santa María, makes sparkling wine, white, rosado, red and orange wine – by a number of different and innovative methods. As such it is a microcosmic glimpse of what’s taking place in happening Spain right now. Fascinating – but how good are the wines?

The first wine I tasted was a fizz, made by the Ancestral Method, as the name suggests, the oldest method by which sparkling wine is made, pre-dating, in fact, Dom Pérignon’s sterling efforts. The Ancestral Method is wholly different in that there is no second fermentation. Grape juice is fermented as if making normal still wine, however, before the fermentation finishes, the wine is gently filtered to remove any impurities and then placed in bottle and sealed. This initial, as yet unfinished fermentation then continues in the bottle. The bubbles are of course trapped and Sparkling Wine is the result!

For me, wines made by the Ancestral Method have more in common with Prosecco than Cava and Champagne, in terms of their presence on the palate – I’m not referring here to the slightly sweeter style of Prosecco. Forlong Burbuja is made with the Palomino variety and is dry, with a touch of bitterness on the finish.

Bodega Forlong is also making Orange wine. Regular readers will know that so called Orange Wines are best referred to as Skin Contact wine, wines which are made from white wine varieties whose juice is left with the skins, as in red wine making. The resulting wines often have an orange colour, and some wonderful flavours and aromas!

Forlong have two, by differing methods. I liked the 100% Palomino skin contact wine which is also left in old Oloroso Sherry barrels for a year. It has lovely balance with some mandarin zest on the nose, and a good mouthfeel.

Even better, for me, was their Palomino which was placed in contact, not with their own skins but with those of the Pedrom Jimenez variety, for 25 days – a revelation! Full, complex with subtle nuances, big flavour and a slight bitterness making this wine perfect for pairing with a multitude of different dishes, certainly not only fish and seafood!

More traditional is their 100% Palomino dry white wine which has been fermented and aged in French oak on its lees for 12 months. Butter pastry on the nose with orchard fruit and blanched nuts on the palate.

Palomino reigns at Forlong – and the next wine I tasted also shows how innovative this winery can be, with super results. Here the Palomino is harvested and left in the sunshine for two day to dry out a little. They are then pressed and the juice is fermented in Sherry casks under the flor that develops naturally, as in Sherry production. It’s then left alone, without the addition of any alcohol (as happens in Sherry, it being a fortified wine) for over two years. On the plate the wine is Sherry-esque in flavour and style, though, different too!

It’s only March I know, but so far my favourite Rosado this year is Forlong’s! Made with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Tintilla de Rota (another new variety to me!). It has presence on the palate, as well as finesse. A long finish, excellent rosé wine!

Red wise, it was difficult to decide on my favourite, with five to choose from and little space left in this column! All the wines were made in such interesting ways and all had their attributes – wines to drink now and on their own, through to those which needed some more time, and those which are perfect with food!

My favourite red might have been Forlong Assemblage 2017 whose Merlot, Tintilla de Rota and Syrah blend had spent 6 months in Anfora and 12 in French oak, which is drinking very well right now, but also with time on its side.

Or it may have been their Forlong Tintilla, made with 100% Tintilla de Rota which was fermented and aged in Anfora for 6 months and then aged in French oak for a further year. This wine is a super dinner wine, to accompany light and hearty meaty dishes, as it combines elegance with power. There’s a lovely fragrance on the nose – floral, forest blackberry fruity and leafy with some vanilla and a little cedar wood.

www.valleyfm.es Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness  YouTube Colin Harkness On Wine  www.colinharknessonwine.comcolin@colinharknessonwine.com

DO CANGAS

DENOMINACIÓN DE ORIGEN CANGAS

One of the best things about the recent Barcelona Wine Week (BWW) that I attended recently, was the opportunity to visit the stands of many of the less famous wine producing areas of Spain. Often quite small, in comparison to the more well known Denominaciónes de Origen (DOs), and generally with a rather more limited production, their wines aren’t easily found. A shame – because they can often be home to some hidden gems!

I’ve been to many of the large/huge wine fairs here in Spain, and in time gone by, in the UK as well. You have to have a plan. It’s definitely best, in my view, to have an idea as to what you’d like to see – and taste. If not, the sheer scale of these events can be just too overawing! Part of my plan for the two half days and one full day in an unseasonably warm and sunny Barcelona was to taste wines that I hadn’t tasted before, from areas of which I had no experience, using grape varieties which were new to me.

DO Cangas ticked all those boxes, as well as some of the taste and aroma boxes that I was hoping to open! Although this beautiful part of Asturias has a long history of wine making for domestic use, the main drink from the surrounding area is, of course, Sidra – Cider, and wonderful stuff it is too.

However, certain forward thinkers realised that there was also a market for quality wines, made on a small, but commercial scale. DO Cangas was formerly inaugurated as recently as 2014 (though it had been working since 2000) has only 50 hectares of land under vine and just eight bodegas! It’s the smallest DO I’ve come across, but my experience suggests it packs a pleasant punch above its weight!

Permitted varieties for white wines are Albarín, Albillo and Moscatel – so nothing new there (provided you are a regular Cork Talk readers!). The reds though, well that’s a different matter – ever heard of Verdejo Negro, Albarin Negro and Carrasquín? Me neither, but these varieties, along with the better known Mencía, are the approved red wine grapes. I couldn’t wait to get started!

There were only two white wines represented on the day I visited. The first, from Bodegas Vitheras is made from all three of the above and was a hit for me! There was a clear apple skin aroma, not the perhaps overly acidic Granny Smith, but something a little softer. Really enticing and it followed through slightly onto the palate too. Medium to short finish, a really pleasant aperitif drink, that I’d definitely buy again.

Cien Montañas, from Bodegas Vidas was made with 100% Albarín, dabbling with a little oak resting on its lees. There was a slight nose of sulphur initially, though some exotic fruit – peach, arrived in the nick of time, along with a blanched almond quality too. I preferred the fist wine, and it started me wondering about oak in Cangas. Is it needed?

The 3rd wine, Valdemonje, was a Carrasquín 2016 monovarietal, indigenous to Cangas, that has had 12 months in French oak and made by Bodegas Monstasterio de Corias. Pale in colour, like a Garnacha or Pinot Noir, and pleasant – but I couldn’t help wondering what it would have tasted like without the oak,

The next red wine, from the same bodega is called Finca Loa Frailes Robles and has had 5 months in French oak. It’s a 2018 and the colour was still quite purple, attractive. Some acidity, dark forest fruit and a little black chocolate on the finish, with tannin a little too pushy.

The next wine wasn’t oaked and it was here that I thought again about the need, or not, to have oak aging in Cangas. Aroma de Ibias is made with Carrasquín, Albarín Negro and Verdejo Negro (I know that you are wondering – but I’m told it’s no relation!), by Señorio de Idias. It’s 14%, quite dark in the glass, which gave a clue as to this wines richness. Blackcurrant chocolate liqueur, invitingly fruity.

Bodegas Chicote makes Penderuyos, which means very steep in the local dialect, and refers to the vertiginous slopes of the vineyard! It’s made with the three above, but with the addition of Mencía. Again there’s no oak and it, too, is on the high alcohol side at 14.5 abv. It’s also rich and dark coloured. I really liked its dark chocolate, damson and blackcurrant fruit and its presence on the palate.

So – is oak not really required in Cangas? Well, I can’t say, as the next wine, Selección Especial, my final Cangas – for now – was from the same bodega, using the same varieties, but it’s had 14 months on French oak, and did I enjoy it! In truth the oak was perhaps a little overstated, but the rich fruit can handle it well. It’s a big wine, meaty itself, so a good partner to game, casseroles, steaks, venison et al.

I’ll definitely re-visit DO Cangas wines!

NB next Valley FM www.valleyfm.es programme is on Tuesday 3rd March – celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and Las Fallas, and will include an interview with British winemaker, Andrew Halliwell!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness  www.colinharknessonwine.com

DO JUMILLA @ BWW

DENOMINACIÓN DE ORIGEN JUMILLA

Whenever the year 1966 is mentioned, it always makes me think of one thing – The Football World Cup. England won it, if you didn’t know, and on home soil too. I was a young lad, annoying the family by noisily rotating my wooden football rattle (does anybody remember those?), whilst wearing my England scarf (it was June) and my World Cup Willy cap (who on earth came up with that name?!).

However, over on the Continent(!), to be specific in Spain, there was another event occurring –  Denominación de Origen Jumilla was founded. And henceforth I’m sure I’ll now remember the two in tandem! I love the wines from Jumilla!

When recently in Barcelona for the Barcelona Wine Week (BWW), a huge wine fair referred to in Cork Talk over the last two columns, the first organised tasting I went to was a presentation of the wines of DO Jumilla, by a member of the ruling council, the Consejo Regulador. It seemed that I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of wines made in this South Eastern region of Spain, inland from the Costas, as the designated Tasting Pavilion was full to bursting. I was pleased I’d arrived early!

There are 45 bodegas making wine in DO Jumilla, using 1,900 grape growers in the vineyards surrounding the eponymous town, whose name has its origins in the Arabic word meaning ‘strong wine’! Vineyards are between 400m – 800m above sea level and about 90% of them are certified as Organic. During the last 25 years or so, there has been a very successful move away from making just ‘strong wine’, with bodegas concentrating on quality bottled wines rather than the bulk wine for which Jumilla had largely been known.

There was a power-point presentation running simultaneously with the actual tasting, where we were told of the soils, temperatures, climate etc of the area (notwithstanding certain differences nowadays, attributed to Climate Change). I found it all fascinating, adding an extra dimension to the wines we had in our glass – perfectly poured by professionals, incidentally!

The first we tried was a Rosado – at 10:30 in the morning it was good to have a light, quite delicate start to a day’s tasting! Made with Monastrell, this wine was a lovely shade of pink, which actually matched my pullover perfectly! Rose petals on the nose, with a little pomegranate fruit, mixing with raspberry. Light, not particularly distinguished, but perfectly pleasant, and so fitting with the weather outside at the time, which was really Spring-like. Señorio de Fuenteálmo – inexpensive, easy drinking rosé!

The next wine, a red, reds being the style of wine for which Jumilla is most famous, came from a bodega I’ve know for many years now, though this one I hadn’t tasted before. The grey labelled, Luzón Monastrell Colección, is a 2018 young wine with no oak ageing. The lovely damson/plum fruit with which we associate this variety really comes to the fore. It’s a lovely juicy, giving, red wine, exemplary for unoaked wines of the area, with soft tannin and fresh acidity. Good on its own and with food too – try it with BBQ!

I remember that last year Bodegas Alceño won several medals in the DO Jumilla internal wine competition so I was keen to taste their Aleño 12. I enjoyed the wine, I think it would have been very good with meat dishes and cheese too. However, as drink alone wine, I thought it a little too tannic.

It was the 2016 vintage, made with Monastrell (clearly the darling variety of the DO!) and it’s had 12 months (hence its name) in oak, French and American, but the fruit was beginning to fade, and, in truth I wondered why they hadn’t brought with them perhaps the 2017 version. I’m certain that the grapes will have been ripened perfectly in 2016 – there is intense heat and many hours of sunshine during the growing season in Jumilla, but I wonder if the wine might have come from vines allowed to crop too much? Let’s say it’s a food wine!

The final wine we tasted was one of a style that in fact I first tasted from DO Jumilla, though not from this wine’s bodega. The style to which I refer is actually quite prevalent down here in SE Spain – and I love it! Red dessert wines, made with Monastrell, whilst quite common here, are a rarity elsewhere.

Such wines are harvested late. When their buddies have long gone, the grapes for dessert reds are left on the vine for a while longer. The climate is such that sunshine is more or less guaranteed so the grapes have plenty of sunshine, which over time mans that the water content of the flesh inside begins to evaporate. When eventually harvested there is far less juice, but it is far, far richer and sweeter.

These wines are usually found in half bottles as they are necessarily from a limited production. They can be a tad on the expensive side, but they are so often worth it! Silvano Garcia Dulce Monastrell has lovely, plumy, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours and aromas and a long finish. It will be lovely with chocolate desserts as well as, for example dark fruit pavolvas, but try this also with cheese, mature and blue too!

N.B. My programme www.valleyfm.es on Tuesday 3rd March, 5pm – 6pm Spanish Time, covers what to drink on St. Patrick’s Day as well as Las Fallas, plus there’s a fascinating interview with Oxford Uni educated, Andrew Halliwell, who changed from engineering to winemaking and, though much travelled, is currently making sublime wines here in Spain! Plus, I’ll be raising a glass to toast World Book Day – it’s all happening in March!

Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness

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