BODEGAS ENRIQUE MENDOZA
Alfaz del Pi is, what, just two kilometres inland from the Mediterranean and about the same distance north of Benidorm? Suffice to say that it’s location is very convenient for everybody living from Alicante to Denia and beyond. I say this because this is where you’ll find the founding father of DO Alicante wine and, honestly, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza is well worth a visit! (www.bodegasmendoza.com)
I discovered to my horror recently that it’s several years since I wrote about this leading DO Alicante bodega. It’s a disgrace – and that’s what I said on a recent Youtube video I’ve recorded as part of my series on Spanish wines etc (www.youtube.com search Colin Harkness On Wine). Here’s me living but 25 minutes away, writing about wines from all over Spain, but maybe neglecting those that are made on my doorstep!
Well I called Pepe Mendoza, son of the founding Enrique to apologies and ask if he’d be interested in an article about the winery and the wines. A few days later a selection of wines from the formidable portfolio arrived on that very same doorstep. And what a delight!
Pepe’s father was largely responsible for putting DO Alicante on the wine making map of Spain and his family have taken on the role now, expanding the name of Bodegas Enrique Mendoza not only throughout Spain, but in the export market as well. Mendoza wines were the first and other bodegas following in their footsteps have been able to benefit from the success of the winery that first introduced DO Alicante and it’s quality to an appreciative global market.
Over the years I’ve probably tasted all of the wines on their portfolio, though not all the vintages of course. So, to receive a case of wines to taste, most of which I know, but whose vintages I hadn’t yet tasted, was a delight. You’ll be delighted as well!
Using a combination of indigenous varieties as well as international grapes there is a fine choice of mono-varietal wines as well as blends. When oak is used, it’s used judiciously and according to the style of the wines post fermentation. Some may require a longer time in oak to get the best out of the grapes, some less time.
Enrique Mendoza Petit Verdot 2012 has enjoyed 15 months in oak – 10 in American and then 5 in French oak. The grapes for this wine, as with all the other reds, and indeed most of the Mendoza wines, do not come from vineyards so close to the sea. Imagine the temperature in the vineyards during July and August – it’s boiling here. So too at night, when although the temperature does drop, it’s still hot throughout the dark hours.
Regular readers will know of course that this is a recipe for dull, flabby wines with too much alcohol. This is why the Mendoza vines are mostly grown way inland where there is considerable altitude which cools the night temperatures sufficiently for the grapes to develop their essential acidity.
The wine has not been highly filtered or clarified so as not to lose any of its soul. This can result in a slight deposit forming in the bottle over time – but don’t worry about that. Pour carefully, just in case, and you’ll be rewarded. You’ll find a deeply coloured red wine with a slight vegetal nose beneath some glorious damson fruit. It’s fruit led and driven with a lovely fruit filled finish. The oak has given the wine extra weight and complexity and there is a mid-length finish.
Monastrell is a favoured variety in this part of Spain. Here it teams up with Merlot, and the 2011 vintage has been placed in French and American oak again, but this time for just 12 months. On the nose there are rich black plums with a slight floral note too and just a touch of minerality. This wine is drinking perfectly now and has perhaps another year left at its best.
One wouldn’t normally think of Cabernet Sauvignon as a hot climate variety. Although it’s an international traveller, Cabernet’s natural home might be considered to be Bordeaux where the weather is of course markedly different to that in Alicante. And yet if looked after in the vineyards and harvested relatively early this dark black grape can really show off it’s ripeness under the Mediterranean sun!
Enrique Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon/Monastrell, like the above, is a sort of French/Spanish blend – but grown at altitude under many hours of Spanish sunshine. It’s perfectly ripe – making it juicy with lots of blackcurrant, bramble and plum fruit. It’s also had 12 months in French and American oak making the wine a little fuller on the palate with a depth of flavour and the odd whiff of vanilla and coconut.
And talking of Cabernet – Santa Rosa 2011 is a really super wine. The flagship of the winery, this elegant Cabernet (70%) Merlot and Shiraz mix is a wine that, although the grapes are French in origin, would make lots of French wineries quite envious!
The Cabernet has obviously been picked at the optimum time – the grapes were fully ripened but retained their crucial acidity. Lots of blackcurrant aroma and flavour. There’s a fleeting minty aroma about the with some stony minerality and a touch of forest-floor undergrowth too. Then add some rich dark cherry from the Shiraz with a touch of spice and you really have a cracking wine!
Now – I did, did I not, say that this wine is the flagship wine of the bodega? Well, Bodegas Enrique has a challenger for this title now.
I first tasted Las Quebrades Monastrell 2010 some time ago at our great friend John’s house. He’d spoken with Pepe a few days before at the bodega building in Alfaz and had received a bottle with a hand written label, drawn straight out of the barrel! I was impressed then with the wine as it was, but more so with its undeniable potential.
The finished product is now available in a heavy Burgundy style bottle and it’s lovely! It’s a single estate wine made 100% from 70 years old Monastrell vines. It’s had 15 months exclusively in French oak, which adds to the wines overall elegance. On first hit on the palate, you’d be forgiven for initially thinking it perhaps a little insubstantial – wait a few seconds and this super, soft wine will take over your senses.
I’ve just tasted it – perhaps five minutes ago and I can still ‘feel’ it, still enjoy its fruit and slight dark chocolate, plum finish. I still have the aroma – plums and black cherries with a slightly more pronounced mineral note and some sweet liquorice as it finally fades! Super wine!
And these, of course, are only some of the wines made by the Family Mendoza!
Also for wine videos www.youtube.com search Colin Harkness On Wine.