Bodegas Vins del Comtat


Well, these days, no, not at all! In this once unfashionable area of production it’s the perceived ‘weight’ that’s changed. Alicante is making wines of high quality, wines that can happily rub shoulders with those from the more famous and, still, more fashionable areas. However, this latter part is also changing – DO Alicante wines are being sought after nowadays, and rightly so!


One of the reasons for this upsurge in interest is the wine portfolio of Bodegas Vins del Comtat, out of the mountainous area surrounding Concentaina. I have tasted wines with owner and winemaker, David, a number of times over the years and have always been impressed – and after our recent joint presentation I can see (and taste, of course) that the winemaking is still well and truly on track. (


The venue was La Parrila del Celler in Jabea Pueblo, founded and run, for 22 years now, by Jose Belles Monferrer, the amiable chef/patron known affectionately as Pepe. We get together occasionally to present a wine tasting lunch – five wines matched with five courses. They are lots of fun and usually fully subscribed – so David was delighted to see a full house recently, and to hear the very positive comments of the assembled tasters.


We started with Vins del Comtat Viognier. In 2006 David planted a number of experimental varieties – the one that adapted best to the conditions (extreme daytime growing season temperatures, cooling nights at 600-700 metres above sea level, Mediterranean sea breezes, and so on) was the Rhône Valley’s Viognier.

Responsible for some exquisite white wines in France it also has a fine, though shorter pedigree in Australia and I believe California – probably other areas too. Classic tasting notes nearly always refer to its marked apricot nose and flavour – it really is quite remarkable, dry as you like, but so fragrant!


Well, David’s version is more white nectarines and yellow peaches, with some mountain heather notes too. Really lovely dry white wine.


Our next wine was also Viognier, monovarietal, but this time fermented in lightly toasted oak and aged in barrel for just two months. Whilst the fruit element above is still there, it has changed dramatically, with some vanilla and a brief whiff of coconut too. Again, super wine – and what a start!


Vins del Comtat make a number of red wines – El Salze is not only a single estate vineyard, all its grapes come from a single parcela, within that estate. These are old vines producing fruit rich red wine from the Monastrell variety, with an individual personality. You’ll see the word ‘paraje’ on the label – regular readers will have seen this word before, related in Cork Talk to the new top level of Cava. It means the above, re the individual part of a single estate, and of course any association with such high end Cava can’t be a bad thing!

Plums on the nose and palate, dark colour and some mountain herbs – bay leaf and thyme, with a little dry undergrowth as well.


We were also fortunate to be able to taste the bodega’s flagship wine, MOntcabrer, 2015. Made with Cabernet Sauvignon this wine is very dark as it swirls around the glass from pouring. There is an immediate aroma of blackberry and blackcurrant again with the bodega’s signature earthiness.

There’s also some tar on the nose along with graphite notes and wood shavings from its 14 months in American and French oak. It’s big in the mouth and has a long and graceful finish. Christmas Lunch/Dinner wine – definitely a contender!


Finally a dessert wine – another white wine too, which is an indication of how good Spanish whites are these days; a tasting of five Spanish wines, three of them white!

A lovely wine, perhaps made even lovelier by the fact that the grapes are harvested from plots of land, not in Concentaina, but a matter of but a few kilometres from Javea! Moscatel, of course is the variety, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, there are typical Moscatel aromas of raisons and grapes, but these are overtaken, certainly on first whiff, by pink grapefruit notes, with some orange peel as well! Dessert wine, with refreshing acidity.


PS at the time of writing I have some places left for the ‘Wine By The Glass’ Concept Tasting with tapas at Flavors, near the Correos of Javea Old Town – Five International wines and 5€ to be used to try any other wine of your choice – all for just 20€! Please contact me to reserve.   Facebook Colin Harkness

FLAVORS – a new Wine Bar Concept hits Javea!


There are various machines that allow wine to be kept in perfect condition for well over a week, so there is no worry about wastage. So, restaurants can, and should be able to offer several wines by the glass.


However, at Flavors Wine Bar, in Javea Pueblo (near to the Correos) the concept of wine by the glass has been taken to the next level, and some! When I went to meet Flavors’ Argentinean sommelier, Mariano Toscano there were 24 different wines to be tasted by the glass – and for three weeks too. Yes, that’s two dozen wines which visitors can taste, without having to buy the whole bottle! Fantastic.

And what about those wines?


Well, haling from Argentina, you’d expect there to be some of Mariano’s homeland wines – Malbec, of course, but others too. Also Chile is well represented, with South Africa, France and Spain, of course. The list is far from finished, with new wines being introduced over time too.


Also, if you look behind the bar, you’ll see the kitchen, from where all the hot and cold wine pairing tapas come, and a perfectly chilled and humidity controlled ‘cellar’, where all the bottles that are to replace those in use in the machines, are happily kept, along with some extras too.


Mariano had opened just for me, so we had Flavors to ourselves to taste some wines, with me learning from him as there weren’t many that I knew – though lots that I fancied! Each machine has a number of bottles displayed, ready for clients to taste – it’s a great idea, you can spend the same amount of money that you would normally spend on one bottle, trying several different wines!


Clients collect a card to use in the machines having placed on it however much they want to spend. They then simply insert the card in the machine of their choice and order either a small glass, a medium glass or a large one of the wine of their choice, this time. Repeat! Prices are clearly posted so you can spend as much or as little as you like.

On the day I visited, small glasses ranged from 1·10€ up to 9·30€; medium from 1·80€ to 15€; with large glasses actually representing the best saving. Mariano spoiled me with a small glass firstly, priced at 4·80€, an Alsace white made with Riesling, and a cracker!


Kastelberg Grand Cru 2012 is an elderly dry Riesling, though it remains a vibrant and fresh white wine. We discussed foods with which it might pair – I immediately thought of lobster, the dryness of the wine cutting through the slight sweetness of the lobster meat. Mariano went for seafood too, but prawns with a green salad and a little mango, to go along with the exotic fruit, pineapple, and floral aspects on the wine’s nose.


We went Spanish next, tasting the excellent value for money DO Montsant Celler Masroig Les Sorts Blanc 2017 made from barrel fermented white Garnacha. This wine has white stones fruits on the nose, with a little refreshing lemon zest in their too. As the wine warmed a little, I picked up the faint whiff of coconut milk – I wonder how this wine would be with Thai cooking?


Well, I kinda knew we’d be tasting some Malbec – but it was a blend from Argentina, rather than a monovarietal! That said, the Puma’s share was given to Malbec, the originally French variety, well known for its Cahors wines, but re-born in Argentina, where it’s clearly perfectly at home. Made by that country’s first female winemaker there are notes of slightly burning plum jam on the nose initially, developing into ripe fresh plum fruit with a touch of pencil lead minerality. Benmarco Expresio comes from the Valle de Uco, Argentina’s highest vine growing area.


Origin, Grand Vin Du Mas Miel is a Garnacha, Carignan and Syrah blend from France’s Languedoc area, where there are some super wines and not too expensive either. This was a very fruit driven red wine with a little spice, rounded tannins and a lovely bouquet. We agreed that here we have a wine to drink on its own, pairing perfectly with cheese.


Finally, I was quite astonished by the 100% Carménère wine, Antu, from Chile. On the first sniff there were minty notes, making me think of a roast lamb pairing, a eucalyptus element joined the party – fine. But then, as the wine breathed and warmed a little I picked out, above this, the unusual, for a red wine, aromas of exotic fruits – some peach, a little pineapple, though under-ripe and maybe some mango, fragrances usually associated with white wines! On the palate though, it morphed back into rounded red!

NB Wine Tasting with tapa @ Flavors Fri. 12th Oct. 20€, starts 8pm. Places limited – please e-mail or call me on 629 388 159 to reserve! Get to know the true WBTG (Wines By The Glass) Concept!



In a recent Cork Talk I mentioned that, when presenting wine tastings, I always like to include wines from some of the less famous areas of production, including, from lone-wolf, rebel producers who don’t subscribe to officialdom at all.


If, like me, you enjoy this laissez-faire approach and agree that it’s right and proper to let the limelight fall on those who usually find themselves in the shadow of the big boys, then, again like myself, you’ll be interested in

a relatively new wine distribution business, Vinistas. (


Their hashtag slogan, Easywine, is pertinent in two ways: they make the job of sourcing such wines easy, and, if the wines I’ve tasted are anything to go by, they are all easy drinking, too! However, I should point out that these wines are not just vibrant, pleasant fun – there’s genuine quality and depth here. The sort of quality that should really make the big boys look to their laurels, lest they start to lose some market share!


Vinistas is the creation of Ruth de Andres, wine maker, who, along with her sister Ana, also run the De Andres Sisters wine making project, with Ana as the Project manager. Four of the six wines I received from Vinistas came from the De Andres Sisters winery ( where you can buy online), so it’s clear that Vinistas is a useful marketing tool for the sisters. However, tghere’s a lot more to it!


Ruth and Ana are passionate about the wines they include in their list. As a well known winemaker, Ruth has many colleagues, contacts and friends in the wine industry into whose hard-drives of stored knowledge she is invited to delve. She’ll hear about a bodega or even a single wine being made in a certain, less than fashionable area – and she’s on it! She, and the team are constantly on the look-out for the unusual, for wines that reflect not only the grape varieties used but also the soils in which the vines grow, the micro-climates, in short, the terroir.


Alegro Verdejo was the first of their wines that I tasted, in fact one from the Sisters’ own portfolio. Verdejo, now such a household name in Spain, and abroad, is a variety to which we can always confidently turn. Certain Sauvignon Blanc characteristics make the variety instantly accessible, then, when looking a little more closely the taster can discover some greater depth than is often found the perhaps one-dimensional Sauvignon. Good wine attractive label.


For my own tastes I preferred the other white I was sent. Made with the not so common (in Spain), nor that well known, Treixadura, Lagar do Brais, from Adegas (the Galician name for bodega) Francisco Fernandez, the wine has the instant attraction of such a fruit-laced perfume.  But it’s  not just about the aroma!


Easy drinking, yes, but some depth to the wine as well – Vinistas isn’t particularly looking for complexity, but in this wine there’s more than meets the nose and the palate. Citrus notes with a little mango on the palate and nose, plus a tantalizing touch of papaya.


Alegra Tinto, another from the De Andres stable, is made with Spain’s most famous variety, Tempranillo – and called by that name too, instead of Tinto del Pais, traditional in DO Ribera del Duero, from whence this wine hales, and one of the many aliases of Tempranillo. It’s a young wine, and proud of it, rounded on the palate with some tinned strawberry aromas as well as a touch of earthiness. Can be enjoyed simply as a red wine to drink with friends, but will also pair with BBQ good, meat pastas and grilled meats.


It doesn’t surprise me that the sisters also showcase a Garnacha – it’s currently a bit of a buzz-variety here in Spain, having been rescued from the also-ran bin by some dedicated winemakers in the Sierra de Gredos area. Plus, when treated well and not allowed to over crop and over ripen it makes lovely wines! Bululu is a VdlT Castilla y Leon wine (once again proving that DO status is by no means the be all and end all. Fermentation takes place in old cement deposits and uses only natural yeasts of the vineyards.


Talking of buzz-varieties, I loved the Mencia based DO Bierzo red wine whose lovely purple colour indicates its youth. The thinking behind this wine, Madai Origen Mencia, is that it is made (interestingly by two brothers!) in order to reflect this uniquely flavoured grape variety. There’s no wood involved – on the nose you’ll pick out some cherries and other lightly coloured red fruits a little granite-like minerality. There’s a lovely floral presence too. Probably my favourite wine of the tasting.


Oh Sister Superior, a Tempranillo wine with a little Garnacha added is made in the Rioja area, but it isn’t a DO Rioja wine. The sisters want the wine to speak for itself, without the help (perhaps hinderance?) of DOCa written on the label. It speaks well, too. Quite full on the palate initially, it softens a little bringing in an element of elegance. Six months in oak give it a little more weight than the reds above, a good length too.   Twitter @colinonwine

First in the series of wine tastings for small Groups from Sweden!


In September and October I’ll be presenting a series of wine tastings for small groups of Swedish people who are visiting Spain, combing various activities with the opportunity to experience a little Spanish culture, and some sunshine!


The Iberian peninsular, even if we take Portugal out of the equation, though still include the islands, is a rather large area, no? And, as Cork Talk readers know full well, there are many, many wine producing zones here in Spain.


It’s clear therefore that there is rather a large number of wines from which to choose. My job, although hugely enjoyable, is also tough! I like to include at least one wine from a world famous wine producing area. However, I also like to champion the cause of the smaller, less famous areas. Plus, I’m a great believer in promoting local wines too!


So, for the first groups at least (I’ll probably ring, or pop, as in cork, the changes as time goes on) I’ve chosen, for the ‘famous areas’ – Cava. I’m a great believer in Cava, as regular readers will know. For ‘smaller, less famous’ I’ve chosen DO Yecla, another favourite area of production for me, as well as DO Terra Alta, where there is some great winemaking going on the moment. And for ‘local’ I’ve actually chosen a white wine from DO Valencia and another red from DO Utiel-Requena.


I think it’s a good balance, and I’m hoping that the always very appreciative Swedish attendees will agree!

Our cava, is not just any cava! I’ve mentioned Premium Cavas in Cork Talk before – these are the Reserva and Gran Reserva cavas that, for me, distinguish Cava as one of the foremost sparkling wines of the world, always equalling Champagne in quality, and often beating it!


Cava producers, Canals i Munné have been mentioned here before too! Their Cava ‘Adn’ Brut Nature Gran Reserva, priced at well under 20€ is made with two of the classic cava varieties, Macabeo and Parellada, plus it has 30% Chardonnay in the blend. It really is a winning combination, and when you include aging on its lees ‘en rima’, for a lengthy 48 months (easily exceeding the minimum 30 months for Gran Rerervas!) – well you have something a little bit special!


For white wine, I’ve gone for a favourite of mine since its inception several years ago. Cullerot (meaning tadpole, in Valenciano you’ll know why when you see the label!). A super wine which is made with each variety (Chardonnay, Pedro Ximénez [yes, PX, of sherry fame, but as dry as you like here!], local variety Verdil and, linking nicely with the above, Macabeo) being fermented separately. Then, blending takes place and the almost finished wine is placed in huge, underground ‘tinajas’, clay amphorae, with its lees, for a further 6 months of ageing. You have to try it!


I’m a fan of rosado wines and Llumí Rosat from Celler Alimara, DO Terra Alta is a firm favourite. It’s made with 100% Garnacha grapes and is certain to make those who think rosé wine is just for girls, think again! Perfumed, yes, with raspberries, under-ripe strawberries, a touch of pomegranate and wisp of ripened cranberry; but also full and lasting on the palate. Excellent paella wine, by the way!


My great friends at Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla, make a large range of wines, every one of them excellent value for money, from those retailing at under 3€ all the way through to their flagship wines that cost 30+€. I decided to go for the one which has consistently been given 90 points and above in the Robert Parker guides, since its first release, quite a few years ago now, when it earned 93 points out of 100. And this for a wine that still retails for under 7€!


Made with elderly Monastrell grapes the wine is placed in oak barricas, 80% French and the other 20% American (incidentally, it sells out every year in the USA!) for no more than six months. The lovely plum and damson fruit is to the fore, with some oak back-up for depth and added flavour and aromas.


The final wine will be from Bodegas Pigar, made by my pal, the slightly rebellious, Juan Piqueras up in the rolling, mountainous hills of Utiel-Requena. Here, the indigenous Bobal, queen of all she surveys, gives of its best, and Juan’s version is proud to be among the best that the area can offer. Cherries, light, dark and Picota are the fruits involved here, with some mountain herb notes, a little minerality and a depth of flavour that would surely make you think it cost twice as much!


First Swedish tasting tonight (as I write) – I can’t wait! Facebook Colin Harkness

Twitter @colinonwine