First Published in Costa News Group’s four newspapers, March 2013

BODEGAS ENGUERA VISITED

DO VALENCIA

After the Spanish Civil War the founder of Bodegas Enguera, the current incumbent’s Grandfather, had nothing and had to turn his hand to something in order to survive. Supplying Butane gas was the answer and within a relatively short time his finances improved dramatically – at it’s height he had 250 trucks delivering to almost countless clients.

 

With money in the bank in the 1950s, and a strong desire to go back to his roots in the land he began to buy plots of land that had been, in his Grandson’s word, ‘stolen’ during the war. These plots already had olive trees and vines planted, some of which were of a venerable age, and it was clear that wine and olive oil production was to be the next move.

 

And like so many other Valencian wine producers there followed a move from bulk wine production, en granel, to bottling. Bodegas Enguera’s first bottled wine was made in 1999. They aren’t looking back!

 

It was a cold but sunny day as we drew up to the bucolic bodgega. Señor Pedro Iglesias, the young third generation of the owning family, was there to meet us having just stepped out of the vineyards, where he spends most of his time. This is unsurprising, given that Pedro was actually born in a vineyard!

 

Although a fully qualified wine-maker in his own right, and of course a member of the family, he works under the direction of the Head Wine Maker, Diego Fernandez who also teaches at theUniversityofValencia. This is how he wants it to be.

 

Like any winemaker he has his own ideas and theories, but at his young age he’s also grateful to gain experience and learn from those more senior. His portfolio of hands-on experience includes reference to his visits to New Zealand and Australia where he worked vintages from harvest to bottle. It’s clear that he is passionate about his wines and a strong believer in the mantra that good wine is made, not in the bodega, but in the vineyard.

 

He’s also zealous in his approach to the cleanliness of the bodega believing that good wine cannot be made consistently without transparently clean buildings and equipment. Half a generation after the New World Flying Winemakers first made their mark here in Spain, their insistence on cleaning up the bodega buildings lives on, which is all for the better for we consumers!

 

Pedro informed us that Enguera wines are all organic and that a huge 90% of the 800,000 bottles produced annually are exported, to countries as far away and diverse as:USA,Japan,UK,South AfricaandChinaand more. Their best market is in Switzerland, but there are also good sales in other European countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

 

It’s all good for business, of course, but it makes me lament a little that this means only 10% of Enguera production is available in Spain. The wines are excellent and so well priced too!

 

Their organic approach to farming is taken seriously. Their 390 hectares of land, 160 of which are vineyards and the rest olive groves, are treated with respect and with sustainability being a major part of the bodega’s philosophy. Any trees that need to be felled are replaced with others tress that are historically natural to the area – hence no pines, as these were brought here thousands of years ago by the Romans and though it’s hard to believe, given that Spain seems to be awash with pines, are thus not indigenous.

 

Only natural fertilizers are used in the vineyards. Once the bunches of grapes are de-stemmed the stems are left to rot for about 2 years when they are then scattered onto the vineyards. Between the rows of vines a rice/lentil like crop is grown. The long roots break up the soils and assist drainage and the plants’ crop falls un-harvested and again forms compost on the land. This adds nutrients and also assists with humidity.

 

Whilst the land is all there is also work done in the laboratory – it is here for example that they were able to isolate the best of the natural yeasts found in the vineyard and reproduce it so that it is used in their fermentation process.

 

And the wines:

 

Blanc d’Enguera (under 6€ in the bodega – an absolute steal!), unusually for a white wine, undergoes malolactic fermentation after the initial fermentation, the grapes having sufficient acidity to maintain the crucial freshness throughout this process. The varieties used for this stunning, aromatic wine are:  Verdil (from 80 years old vines), Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, from vines with a low yield, some as low as just 900 grams of grapes per vine!

 

Paradigma, (which means paradox) 11·50€, a wine in a style that is not a Parker style block-buster is a delightful 100% Monastrell, liquorice and leather fragranced red whose initial mouthfeel is one of lightness which develops in the mouth. The mid-palate suggests a more weighty wine, quite complex with emerging dark fruit flavours and finishing juicy rich and ripe.

 

Megala 2009 (8€) is made mostly from Monastrell and Tempranillo. It’s a very fruity wine but with sufficient tannin and acidity for it to age still. There seems to be a combination of bramble fruit as well as plums and damsons, plus a passing reference to soft red fruit, maybe strawberry but more likely loganberry, with integrated oak, making a full and rounded wine in the mouth. Its length makes you think you are tasting a wine rather more expensive than it actually is.

 

The flagship wine is Sueño Megala (20€). We tasted the 2007 vintage which at 14·5% is a powerful, and yet elegant wine. Made mostly from a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Syrah it has clearly enjoyed its 22 months in French oak. There are earthy aromas and bay and rosemary herbal notes on the nose with Enguera’s usual high level of delicious fruit on the palate too. It’s a multilayered wine with complexity, a lengthy finish and a certain sensuality too.

 

Their white Ice-Wine has honey and cinnamon notes with a floral, jasmine perfume and some refreshing acidity through the green apple flavours. Made with 100% Verdil it costs 10€ for a 37·5cl bottle and will be a talking point after your next dinner party!

 

Check out also their classic Reserva wine made from Tempranillo, Monastrell and Merlot which I really enjoyed as well as their Angelical. The 2008 vintage that I tried is made with Syrah, Tempranillo and Monastrell and combines floral, violet, notes, super dark cherry fruit and a slight dark chocolate on the finish with a touch of vanilla and tobacco from the European oak in which it rested before bottling.

 

Ask your local wine shop about these wines – the more enquiries they receive the more chance there is of increasing the measly 10% of production that is available here in Spain!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com ; www.colinharknessonwine.com ; also you can now follow me on Twitter  @colinonwine