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Showcasing the wines of Viñedos Balmoral

SPANISH WINES WITH A FRENCH SPIN

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 (http://vinedosbalmoral.com/en/) 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 colin@colinharknessonwine.com 629 388 159. Don’t be slow though we are already half-full!

Australian Prosecco? How Can This Be?

THE PROSECCO WARS!

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).

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

Bodegas Joan de la Casa

AFTER ORANGE, COMES RED!

My recent discourse about the ‘Orange Wines’ of bodegas Joan de la Casa (www.joandelacasa.com/en/) provoked a number of comments and questions from readers (you can always e-mail me with yours – colin@colinharknessonwine.com). In the article I also alluded to his red wines.

I’ve often said that wine is all the better for it also having a story attached – and so it is in this case. This morning I’ve been chatting with a vineyard worker in Jalón valley about the apparently on-going Garnacha/Giró confusion/debate (though, mostly concerning the vine that takes centre stage on my current, bite-sized Blog ‘A Season in the Life of a Vine’ seen here: [www.colinharknessonwine.com click Blog) .

Let me explain: Giró is a black grape variety prevalent in the Jalón area, and in Alicante in general. However, there are those who say that it is just another name for Garnacha, the Spanish variety, called Grenache in France – a rose by any other name would smell as sweet! A trawl through Google, won’t particularly help here, and anyway, as a romantic by nature, I prefer the story that is attached to the Giró variety, which I believe, on balance, is in fact a wholly different grape.

I’m not sure when, but let’s say several hundred years ago, the King (I’m not sure which but . . . . ) whose domain included what we now know as Cataluña as well as Las Islas Baleares was concerned that the farms of the latter were not being properly attended because of a drop in the population. In order to address the situation, by way of inducement, he offered free land to people willing to move there and look after his estates as well as the new land that they would own. The incentive was taken up – with several taking vines with them.

Fast forward (I’m not sure how many years . . . ) and some of the ancestors of those who’d taken ‘the King’s shilling’ decided that they’d move back to mainland Spain, though further south, in order to requisition land that had belonged to the now banished Moors. Some arrived in the Jalón area, and, yes, they brought with them some vines to plant here!

Now, whether the Giró that they planted was a vine that was originally indigenous to the Balearic Islands, uprooted and brought to the mainland; or if it was a hybrid, perhaps developing naturally from Garnacha, or maybe with the help of human hands, I’m not sure (as you might guess from the above!) – but no matter, it’s a good story and certainly fits with the absolute conviction of Joan de la Casa, that Giró is not Garnacha!

In his atmospheric, rustic converted finca/bodega, just off the N332, going down the long hill from Benissa to Calpe, and home to antique wine making paraphernalia positioned alongside its more modern equivalent, we tasted his two red wines, after the aforementioned ‘Orange Wines’. Considering the nature of Orange/Amber wines, it wasn’t a huge contrast, as one could argue that Amber/Orange wines are whites that wannabe reds! (Why? Visit www.colinharknessonwine.com and click Articles)

Whilst Joan’s ‘Orange Wines’ are all made entirely with Moscatel, Giró figures highly in his reds, but not exclusively. Terra Fiter 2012 (the latter a Valenciano word for stones, therefore stone strewed soils) is made with 100% Giró, harvested from 60 – 80 yrs old vines. The juice macerates for 15 – 20 days and is then transferred to oxygen-free sealed deposits – few yeasts can survive without oxygen, the natural yeast found on Joan’s vines, can, so it’s a natural selection of yeast that turns the juice into wine!

This is a fruity wine, with fresh acidity, though five years old now, with balsamic notes and alluring blackberry fruit. Joan reckons it has three more good years, I’d say perhaps a year less – though certainly drinking well right now! 10€.

The 2008 Terra Fiter is a blend, Giró taking top spot with 60% of the mix, the rest being Tempranillo. This wine has had 18 months in oak, hence its ability to age. The wine has some blackberry notes again, aided and abetted by earthy undergrowth and ripe strawberry, with a little plum/damson. There is also an endearing touch of coconut coming from the oak. 12€

There are some places left for the wine pairing lunch at La Parrilla, Javea Old Town, Wednesday 16th May, starts 13:00 hrs – we are tasting quality: white, rosado and red wines, paired with different dishes, cooked, of course, by Pepe! If you can join us, please call me on 629 388 159 or e-mail colin@colinharknessonwine.com

Bodegas Hacienda Grimón and their Monovarietal Range

BLACK GRAPE VARIETIES FOR RED RIOJA

If you visit http://haciendagrimon.es/ you’ll see just three lines about the history of Bodegas Hacienda Grimón – they prefer to let their wines do the talking! And why not, when they are so eloquent?

 

There’s an impressive portfolio of traditional red wines – Joven, Crianza and Reserva; there’s a trad white too, Viura with some oak ageing, as well as a new wave white with a contribution from the would-be usurper, Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoyed the precise wine making of the reds above which I believe to be exemplary of their styles, in the modern way, details and tasting notes to follow. (I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try the whites, nor the pretty rosado).

 

However, it’s their medal winning monovarietal range that really captures the imagination! Understandably, I believe, most people think first (and probably, only) of Tempranillo, when considering Rioja red wine. Far more often than not, this is correct – I don’t have the figures but I don’t think it too much of a risk to state that ‘most’ red Rioja has at least some Tempranillo in the blend (if indeed it is a blend). It’s what made Rioja famous!

 

So, there’d be something wrong if Hacienda Grimón didn’t include a Tempranillo in their monovarietal range. They do, of course, and when you taste it you’ll realise why it is that Tempranillo is now grown in many different countries, to the extent that there is actually an annual ‘Tempranillo’s of the World’ competiton. I’d suggest that they should enter next year’s competition!

 

However, red Rioja is not just about the early ripening Tempranillo. Graciano, is another of the favoured varieties of this famed region – and the truth is, we couldn’t decide which we liked most when we did a comparative tasting recently. Both are outstanding, and incidentally, very attractively packaged.

 

I wasn’t able to taste the other variety in this triumvirate – the 100% Garnacha, but I’m certainly hoping to in the future, if these two are anything to go by!

 

Desvelo Graciano is something of a chameleon, in that it seems to change in the glass, from one guise to another! When I first tasted the wine, it having breathed for sufficient time, there was a lightness about it on the palate – elegant and graceful. Ten minutes later, the elegance was still apparent, but is had seemed to have gained weight and presence. Similarly, on the finish, there is a lightness on the palate, with a pleasing rush of lasting fruit after swallowing!

Picota cherry in colour, there are delightful cherry and loganberry notes in the mouth with some liquorice and mountain herb in there too.

 

Finca La Oracion Tempranillo has also enjoyed its malolactic fermentation in new French and American oak, which gives both wines a little extra depth, flavour and aroma, though, nowhere near masking the varieties’ expression – which, after all, is the main objective in this portfolio.

Mature dark fruits on the nose and palate, which sit nicely with the lovely dark red as the wine settles in the glass. Some earthy, fallen leaves aromas add an extra dimension – the wine has presence, filling the mouth and warming the taster. A long finish and we reach again for the glass!

 

Hacienda Grimón’s Joven Rioja Red when poured initially had a fresh strawberry node to it. Quite lightweight on the palate, as the wine warmed it became fuller. I’d recommend decanting this wine an hour before tasting – it’s a lovely example of modern, fruit driven, uncomplicated young Rioja.

The Crianza is also 100% Tempranillo and has rested in oak, French and American, for a minimum of 12 months, with added time in bottle to finish the wine’s cellar development before release. I’d recommend this Crianza to anyone who wanted an intro in this Rioja style. Meat dishes and cheese – a lovely match!

My final wine (for now!) from this family owned bodega was the Reserva. Here the Tempranillo has the addition of 15% Graciano, and the difference is pleasantly noticeable. Full, but elegant, with dark cherry  notes as well as a little blackcurrant and leafy brambly fruit. A light touch of liquorice completes the picture and the finish is long, fruity and satisfying.

Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine

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