First published Costa News Group, Sept. 2012

BODEGAS ANTONIO ARRÁEZ DO VALENCIA

GRUPO TERRES DELS ALFORÍNS

I’m returning this week to some of the wines produced by the individual and autonomous bodegas within the Terres dels Alforíns Association, referred to in Cork Talk several times in late June and July.

To qualify for membership of this elite group of bodegas one has to demonstrate a passion for fine wine making, where a concern for the environment – the soils and ecosystems of this beautiful part of DO Valencia, is as important as the wine itself.

(A buzz-word (bandwagon?) in the wine world at the moment is ‘sustainability’. Producers the world over are signing up for the eco-friendly concept of ensuring that the soils and general environment of vineyards must be protected from abuse so that the industry can continue for future generations without fear of harming the vines’ (and our) natural habitat – the earth/Earth!

A noble ideal and, where this belief is genuine, I wholly applaud it, of course. However that nasty cynic in me cannot help but question some of those fully-paid up members of the ‘sustainability society’ as to their real motives. Are some paying only lip-service to the notion, with the ulterior motive being simply commercial? Are some signatures solely sales-driven?)

Well I have no such worries about the members of the Terres dels Alforíns Association! I’ve been there and met several of the founding members, invariably a younger, more savvy generation, taking over the reins from their fathers, combining family and local/regional knowledge with: University degrees in oenology; modern technology; often wine-making experience in different countries; and an encouragingly open and enquiring mind.

It seems, from my experience with the wines of Bodegas Antonio Arráez, that it also helps to be a little bit crazy! ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps!’

You know - it's not a Bad Life!

Witness if you will (and you should, the wines are super and the label’s fun!) Bodegas Antonio Arráez’s Mala Vida (Bad Life, in English!). The foil and particularly the label invite extra inspection with apparently random black silhouette images of: a cat, musical notes, a stiletto, the @ sign, balloons and in contrast an elegant tall red wine glass, plus a black bottle with a white heart label and a red drop of wine escaping!

Turn to the back label and in Spanish it says simply “Everyone should believe in something, I believe I’m going to carry on drinking, sorry!” with no more information at all! I love it – though I wonder if it might put off some, perhaps more conservatively minded consumers, who would consider it just a gimmick which couldn’t possibly be related to quality wine. More’s the pity my small c friends, wine can be funky and good!

This is! It’s made with an eclectic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera and Syrah with a touch of oak to deepen the flavour and extend the length of the wine. There’s spicy ripe fruit on the palate with back-up of integrated light to medium done toasty aromas blending perfectly with the dark fruit.

I’m impressed too with their Lagares 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon which has had a full thirteen months in American and French oak plus time in the bodega’s cellars before it’s release. It’s one of those modern wines that defies the red tape of titles such as Crianza and Reserva – it’s neither one nor the other having been made according to the winemakers requirements and not those of the statute book!

Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape variety whose wines are notoriously harsh in youth when grown in northerly climes, though those with the patience (and the correct storage facilities!) are rewarded, years later with some stunning wines of depth and complexity. However when grown in the full-on sunshine of the Valencia region one needn’t worry about the grapes fully ripening, rather, the challenge is to ensure that the wines don’t become too flabby and alcohol-loaded.

Here the reward of fine wine can be realised far earlier than, for example in Bordeaux. These days of climate change mean that the winemaker in southerly climes must spend more time in the vineyard (quality wines are made in the vineyard not in the winery) ensuring that the vines don’t over-crop and that canopy management protects the grapes from too much exposure et cetera.

It’s clear that those at Bodega Antonio Arráez are more than capable of doing just that! I disagree with the points given this wine in the Guía Peñin, 83 points isn’t bad, but the wine is far better in my opinion. Perfectly approachable now but with life in it too this wine is deeply flavoured with sweet tannin, bags of blackcurrant fruit, some vineyard stone-derived minerality and a good length too. It’s an oxymoron of a wine  – serious and fun!

I’m going to leave the final wine from this forward thinking, modern bodega whose roots in fact go back over a hundred years until next week – it’s made from Monastrell, but you aint seen (better still, tasted) anything like it!

NB Thursday 4th October – I’m presenting a Wine Tasting with Aperitivos in Javea Port’s super new wine merchants, Bodega Puerto. Starting at 7:30 pm we will be tasting a cava, a white wine and three styles of red wines – all quality and very tasty. Aperitifs will also be be served. Plus there will be super offers on wines etc and it’s only 9€ per person. Please call me asap (629 388 159) to reserve, as spaces are limited – or reserve by visiting Bodega Puerto, Javea.

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Please visit www.colinharknessonwine.com to see how I can help you enjoy wine even more!

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