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Spectacular Tinácula

WHAT HAVE THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US?

Well, although the link is at best rather tenuous, indirectly, at least, they have brought us the wines of Bodega Las Calzados – and I’m very glad they did! (www.bodegalascalzadas.com)

Linguists will know that Las Calazados means ‘the roads’ in English, and of course we all know about Roman Roads – they go in as a straight a direction as possible from one place to another. The eponymous Bodega Las Calzados is located at the intersection between two ancient Roman Roads which ran, respectively, to Cartago Nova (Cartagena) and Complutum (Alcalá de Henares). And I have a feeling that I have to visit!

It’s not quite accurate (well, not at all, really!) to suggest that Romans also brought us amphorae – the Ancient Greeks can be credited for this – but they certainly made use of them. Like their predecessors, the Romans used amphorae to carry liquids – water, oil and of course wine. So, given this, and the Roman link above, it seems a perfect fit that Bodega Las Calzadas makes and ages their wines in amphorae (large clay pots) and calls them Tinácula (Latin for Tinajas – large clay pots!).

I was sent three examples and I really enjoyed them all, in fact I’m sipping a glass of their flagship wine Tinácula X, as I write!

Tinácula White is made with 100% Chardonnay. The bunches are harvested during the cool of the night, and placed carefully in small 15kg baskets. The grapes are pressed manually and the resulting juice macerates with the skins at a cold 4ºC temperature for 12 hours. After a fifteen day fermentation the wine is placed, as you might imagine, in 150 years old tinajas, of 2,000 litres capacity.

During its 3 months ageing, this wine is subjected to daily stirring, where the lees are hardly allowed to settle. I really like the style of this wine – apart from its pale yellow colour, it’s not like any other Chardonnay I’ve tasted!

It’s refreshing, initially with a little lemon on the palate, a pleasing floral aspect – faint honeysuckle, chamomile and a little earthy hay in there too. Hold it on the plate and it will give you a little more fruit, more apple than exotic peach/pineapple, as can often be found with Californian and Australian Chardonnay. The regular stirring doesn’t give much of the creaminess you might expect, but as the wine moves around the clay it takes with it a mineral earthiness, that is a common characteristic of the whole, small portfolio.

Its big brother, Tinácula Red, is also a monovarietal this time Bobal, the signature grape variety of DO Ribera del Júcar, under whose auspices the full range is made. Here the earthiness is a little more pronounced, threading its way through the dark cherry and plum fruity notes.

It has a lovely colour in the glass and in the mouth you’ll find rounded tannins, prominent enough for there to be some ageing potential, though as smooth as you like too. The some fresh acidity, making the wine a juicy mouthful with mineral notes, a little mountain herb too.

The vines are 45 years old, grown at 800 metres above sea level, producing rich grapes. Maceration ensures the deep colour as well as tannin to age. Malolactic fermentation takes place again in clay pots, though this time new, and of just 500 litres capacity, where the wine stays for five months, intensifying the mineral earthiness, but never hiding the fruit.

I’ve been loving the flavour and aroma of the wax-finished bottle Tinácula X, with its Roman coins depicted on the front label, and some history of the bodega on the back, since I started this article – and I ain’t finished sipping yet! It’s a super example of what Ribera del Júcar has to offer.

The X, is another link to the Roman past, here signifying the 10 months that the wine has been aged in 150 years old tinajas of just 200 litres. Like the previous red, fermentation is natural, provoked by yeasts indigenous to the 50+ years old vineyard from whence the Bobal and Cencibel (Tempranillo) grapes come.

The earthiness intensifies further here, but again, never consuming the aroma and flavour of the rich grapes, coming from such an old vineyard. There are dark green herbs in the mix too, plus some stone derived minerality, also coming from the soil.

Those readers who have tasted Bobal already (come on the rest of you, now’s the time!) will know of its lovely black cherry flavour, exemplified here, and with the added bonus of some, rather ripe loganberry and tinned strawberry notes from the Cencibel, lurking under the surface of the upfront Picota cherries.

This really is an excellent wine, with time on its side too, and priced at just 14€, well, it’s a steal!

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Strawberry Fields For Ever!

STRAWBERRY FIELDS

‘Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to, Strawberry Fields,’ yes, you got it straight away, the Beatles, and, as a ‘Plastic Scouser’ (not actually from Liverpool, but close!), I’m always up for quoting their songs! In fact, did I tell you that Paul McCartney (he wasn’t Sir, then) dined at my restaurant once  blah blah . . . . . . .?!

So, when I visited Bodega Les Freses recently, I already had the title to this week’s Cork Talk. Les Freses means The Strawberries, in Valenciano (as I’m sure you know) and the bodega at the Hotel Denia La Sella Golf Resort end of the road that cuts through Jesús Pobre takes it’s name from the prior use of the land, which were, of course, strawberry fields, and known to the local as such. A perfect fit!

Now those fields are planted with a glorious vineyard, still young, but looking pristine, and delivering the fruit for some great wines! The fruit is Moscatel grapes, and whilst there is one sweet dessert wine (though owner/winemaker, Mara, would say, cheese wine), this bodega majors in dry Moscatel (including, though you might not believe it, a Rosado!).

The winery is pristine too. Mara, who happily conducts tasting tours on certain days of the week (www.lesfreses.com), took a group of us around the spotless building with its stainless steel fermentation tanks, and the prized tinajas, 350 litre clay pots, responsible for perhaps her flagship wine. I say perhaps, because it’s clear that this charming, passionate winemakers is in love with all of her wines!

There’s a shaded tasting area just in front of the building, but before we sat to taste the wines, we had a short tour of the immediate surrounds. First stop was the old cauldron, common to many once rustic farmhouses, where grapes that had been dried to raisons, ready for export to the UK and Europe a hundred years ago, had been dipped briefly in a solution that enabled them to withstand the journey and arrive in their best condition.

Philoxera, the deadly vine bug which decimated the vineyards of Europe, put paid to that industry, causing untold misery to those whose only income was from their grapes. Fortunately, it was discovered that American rootstocks, resistant to the insect, could be used for grafting, and households were, eventually back in business. Raisons still, but also Moscatel wine.

There are many clones of Moscatel – Mara has 14 different ones planted, cleverly, because each clone ripens at different times so this small winery with limited personnel isn’t suddenly inundated at harvest time! There is a unique microclimate at Les Freses, which also helps.

When Mara first planted her vines a matter of only a few years ago, the dreadful heat of that particular summer filled off a large percentage of her vineyard. She had a watering system fitted, but hasn’t since had to use it. The humidity of the area ensures that each morning the plants are wet during the growing season with enough water to sustain the plant but not so much that the vines over-crop, which would result ultimately in wines of lesser quality. (Green harvesting is also employed, reducing the number of bunches.)

Humidity can also cause problems though. It’s perfect for some vine disease and for vines pests. High intensity chemical praying, I’m pleased to say, is a definite no-no, for Mara. Instead, for example, she buys ladybirds, which live in the grasses and wild flowers and attack some of the pests! Also, the vines, uncommonly in this area, are trellised to avoid fungus forming. There’s more too. Les Freses wines are made from organically grown vines with as little human intervention as possible and fermentation is achieved using the indigenous yeasts of the vineyard.

We first tasted Les Freses Blanc 2018, made from grapes grown in the two different soil types that the bodega enjoys. Very pale lime green in colour, elegant, with floral notes of white rose petals and honeysuckle with some lemon and understated raison aromas. On the palate there are citrus lemon notes which remain after swallowing. A beautiful aperitif wine, with sufficient presence also to partner delicate fish dishes such as sole, dorada and lubina.

Next up was another Moscatel wine (claro!) but this time made from grapes grown on just one of the soils, the white coloured limestone based soil. Quite a revelation in terms of contrasting flavours and aromas, This wine was a touch more acidic, fresh as you like, with slightly more exotic fruit, some white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing!

Floral again, perhaps more jasmine this time, and a little more weight on the palate. Certainly good with the above fish, but also more meaty fish, plus where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish. I bought a bottle to bring home and taste again – Mara apologised that it hadn’t yet been labelled, but for me it’s the wine that will do the talking when I open it, plus, there’s always a certain excitement about opening an anonymous wine!

Finally, the aforementioned cheese wine! Designated by many as a dessert wine, I can see that this would be lovely with certain desserts, lemon and maybe orange based, figs too, with some honey, perhaps. Plus, I go along with Mara – it’s great with cheese, medium matured and mature cheese, as well as blue cheese! Honey on the nose with a little orange skin spray and traditional Moscatel whiffs of raisons.

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Rós by Lynne Coyle MW & Bodega Tandem

RÓS

When it comes to rosé wine, I subscribe to the Elizabeth Gabay MW school of thought – it really shouldn’t be considered as a seasonal product, brought out in Spring (though only if the weather is sunny and warm enough!), enjoyed through the Summer, forgotten in Autumn and nought but a distant memory in Winter! No, I like to drink premium rosé all year round, enjoying it with various different, perhaps seasonal, dishes.

That said, I can see Bodegas Tandem’s rosé wine, called Rós, and made in collaboration with Ireland’s Lynne Coyle MW, selling out this Summer in the Emerald Isle! It’s a lovely rosado wine, deserving of its ‘Premium Rosé tag! So, if you are able to, I’d get some in as soon as possible! (www.bodegatandem.es)

I believe this is Lynne’s first wine and she therefore joins a small but growing number of English speaking foreigners who have decided to make wine here in Spain. Indeed, she joins an even smaller number who are also Masters of Wine! It seems to me that it’s already a perfect blend – Spanish climate and grape varieties, with Master of Wine knowledge. Then, when you add a further constituent into the mix, a native Spanish wine maker, working in a young, but established and exciting bodega – well, surely it’s got to be a success.

Bodega Tandem makes its wines under the auspices of DO Navara and their owner/winemaker, Alicia Eyaralar, a friend of Lynne’s was delighted to collaborate with her on a completely new project – creating Rós. They both share the same philosophy and wanted to make a wine with as little intervention as possible, using the buzz-grape these days, Garnacha.

Bodegas Tandem’s Garnacha grows in the Yerri Valley of Navarra, in the foothills of the Pyrenees and not far from the Atlantic – a combination which produces cooling winds, affording the vines some respite from the heat of the Spanish growing season. The vines are low yielding, meaning they are becoming elderly, and they are farmed sustainably, in other words with a view to maintaining healthy soils for future generations.

The winemaking is as naturally as possible. Native yeasts indigenous to the vineyards are used for the fermentation and throughout the process gravity and natural settlement are employed ensuring a gentle crafting of the wines, if also a little nervous nail biting of the winemakers! Wine making technology could have meant less anxiety about this, their first joint project, but it would have meant more intervention than they’d both agreed before the project started.

In case you were wondering where the name Rós comes from (I was – although it obviously is a nice fit, being the first three letters of the wine style, Rosé and of course it’s Spanish equivalent Rosado, it was the accent on the ‘o’ that I found intriguing), it comes from the Gaelic word for rose, as realised by Lynne’s son, Edward. This again is a nice fit – as a nod to their Scottish roots, as well as to Lynne’s role as Wine Director for O’Brien’s Wines, the established Irish wine merchants with over thirty shops in the Irish Republic, plus a couple in the UK too.

And what of the wine, I can almost hear you asking? Well, firstly, it was clear to me that we had to taste this pale, almost Provençal shaded rosé wine with another lovely Ros, this time without the accent, unless you’re counting the rather posh one that our great friend sports (not forgetting that I am but a humble northerner)! So, under cover from the fresh, but warm wind in their pergola, we sat down to taste Rós, with Ros, and Mick. It was a great success!

I was surprised, though delighted, to detect an immediate, though slight aroma of ripe red, slightly fluffy apples, as I brought the glass to my nose. An interesting start! This fleeting first note was joined by a floral presence – you can guess which flower, the rose of course, though a red rose rather than pink, for me at least. Some fruit notes joined the party – a little rhubarb, whose un-sugared acidity followed through to refresh the palate, though soon to be replaced by the overriding blend of pink grapefruit with some slightly under ripe raspberries. Wow, I love it!

My thanks to Lynne Coyle MW and to Bodegas Tandem for supplying the sample – good luck with sales, and your next joint project?!

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Exceptional Village Wine Tasting Event!

III Mostra Internacional de vins singulars i de poble

 

Part One

 

Yep, it’s a mouth full, I know – and in Valenciano too, but I think it wholly appropriate that we keep it like it is! This wine tasting in Jesús Probre, open to the public over a recent weekend and to the pros on the Monday morning, was a celebration of all that’s good in the local wine making firmament (plus a little further afield too).

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ve no doubt I’ll say it again, but perhaps it’s best to let our Swedish friend and colleague, Elisabeth Holmström of Milagro Javea, say it this time – “I am continually amazed at the high quality of the wines that are made on our doorstep, and in the rest of Spain too!”

 

There surely can be no doubt that Spain has to be one of the most dynamic winemaking countries in the world and foreigners like ourselves, living here, or regularly visiting, are so lucky to be able to enjoy the fruit of their endeavour – well, the fermented fruit! I’ve been writing about Spanish wines since I arrived here, bulky Amstrad computer and printer in tow (no lap tops in those days!), twenty-two years ago.

 

I clearly remember tasting wines, contacting producers in my stumbling Spanish (oh, ok, hopeless Spanish!), writing about them and then faxing the articles off to Costa News HQ. How technology has changed! But, more importantly in this case, how the wines of Spain have changed in the interim period!

 

Walking around the 22 bodegas’ stalls in the ‘Riurau’ (itself entirely apt, as this is where Moscatel grapes were sun dried a century and more ago and sold as ‘pasas’, shipped out of Denia) I was taken aback at the diversity of wine styles, methods of production, bottles and labels, each with their own stories! It was a wine, culture, history and art show all rolled tastily into one event! My congratulations to the organisers, and I will be back next time, for sure!

 

Now, with these wine fairs, there is, for me, the perennial problem – so many wines and so little time! Add this to constraints because of my recent illness and, of course, to driving restrictions, and well you can see my dilemma! I’m thus restricted to mentioning only a few of the wines on offer – for example, I tasted only one red wine, and this a country, a region and area known firstly for its red wines! (Though this also lends weight to my thesis above – there is such a lot going on in winemaking in Spain – there are nowadays so many excellent Spanish whites too!)

 

The first wine to make a great impression on me was Uvas Cabrera 100% Moscatel, a small concern making just one wine – but what a wine! We all know dry Moscatel – well if you don’t, you have to get out more! But this Moscatel had a different, musky, mineral edge to it, with little of the characteristic raison/grape aroma. Floral, with some slight citrus notes in the palate and perfectly dry.

 

The packaging is great too – the label sports a vine with five arms. These represent the five generations of the same family, whose business started in 1895, selling pasas; then developing into table grapes sales as well (and it’s this that gives rise to the unusual boxing of the wine, lightweight wooden boxes that would have held 1kg of grapes, now the larger boxes, 5kg of grapes but now three bottles!); then into sweet wine production; and ultimately to the present incumbent making the family’s first ever dry Moscatel! Great story, super wine!  

 

More next week!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com