La Gran Cata en la Montaña Part One

Judging by the comments made during a most pleasant afternoon in early September, it seemed that I had been correct to be unconcerned about the standard of the five wines we tasted.



Even in the rain Finca Rustica, the outstanding Casa Rural hidden just off the mountain roads way above Benissa, Alicante, looks stunning! Guests for the annual exclusive wine tasting event, La Gran Cata en la Montaña, were once again charmed by the ambience of the finca, its vineyard and its gardens and even the clouds couldn’t hide all of the spectacular views. A grand setting for a wine tasting of outstanding quality!

Spanish Wine Aficionados appreciating the fine wines presented at La Gran Cata de la Montaña
Spanish Wine Aficionados appreciating the fine wines presented at La Gran Cata de la Montaña

Last year’s excellent wines had to be at least matched if I was going to call it a Top Tasting as half the patrons this year had attended last year’s inaugural event. I wasn’t worried though as I know the bodegas and the wines that I chose for this year’s event. Judging by the comments made during a most pleasant afternoon in early September, it seemed that I had been correct to be unconcerned about the standard of the five wines we tasted.


Our first wine was in fact a sparkler, a Cava from Cataluña. Not just any Cava though, Albet i Noya Gran Reserva 2009 Brut Nature is an exemplary Cava. Indeed this elegant sparkling wine is living proof that there is excellent Cava being made still  within a DO that has been subjected to some criticism in recent months – and in this column too.


I’ve dwelled too often on the shortcomings of some of the Cava which is made in Cataluña. The break-away of some Cava produceers with similar concerns has been been covered in Cork Talk and I’d like now to concentrate on what’s good in the land of Spain’s answer to Champagne.


The Albet i Noya Gran Reserva is outstanding – and I use the word ‘living’ for good reason. A glance at the back label will reveal that this organic producer, one of the pioneers of organic growing in the area, believes, as I do, that the crucial date of disgorgement should be clearly displayed on sparkling wine labels.


Cork Talk has been in the vanguard of the driving force that is gathering pace in sparkling wine production the world over, including that in the hallowed vineyards of Champagne – that of transparency. Again I don’t want to go over that which has already been covered, but suffice to say simply that when a sparkling wine is parted from its lees (disgorged) it is in perfect condition to drink and will be so for a good length of time.


However as time proceeds this separation causes the wine to very slowly deteriorate after a length of time. Cava can last perfectly well for perhaps a year and a half – but, depending on the cava it will eventually start to die. If there is no date of disgorgement on the label the consumer cannot tell if the sparkling wine he is buying will be at its best – or past it!


The aroma of his Gran Reserva is as rich as can be and promises some wonderful flavours in the mouth. The traditional three grape varieties are supported by a sizeable proportion of Chardonnay and the patisserie notes normally associated with Champagne are here in abundance too. There’s a touch of green apple, largely from the Macabeo, and a certain which and taste of some classic Asturias dry cider. Its admirable length and graceful elegance allied to its richness make this wine and wonderful aperitif as well as being the perfect accompaniment to lots of starter dishes!


I was very keen to open the white wine we were having with our fish flavoured soup course. Many will automatically pair any fish dish with an Albariño from DO Rías Baixas – and it’s certainly a good match. But in nearby DO Valdeorras they have a jewel of a grape variety – Godello which is easily the match of the great Albariño’s and will, I’m certain, become just as famous and sough-after!


Bodegas Valdesil has been mentioned in this column before – I make no apology, as this bodega consistently turns out some of the best Godello wines in DO Valdeorras, and therefore some of the best dry white wine in Spain! Pezas da Portela is just such a wine – I love it!


Made from grapes grown in eleven different vineyards surrounding the village of Portela this wine is fruit driven but with an elegance that speaks of really fine wine. There is a most desirable mineral nose coming from the slate-strewn soils in which the vines grow – each plot has a unique soil make-up and aspect to the sun and wines coming from each have a slightly different aroma, flavour and feel. The skill of the winemaker is to blend these individual wines into a harmonious wine whose parts develop into a wonderful whole!


The juice from each plot is fermented and aged in different barrels and then blended – you’ll find apple flavours, some peachy notes, paraguyo and a refreshing understated citrus element too. Excellent!


The liver orientated next dish needed a big wine, but one with elegance as well as staying power. Parker’s estimate that Doix Costers de Vinyes Vellas 2009 from Bodegas Mas Doix, DOCa. Priorat, will be drinking perfectly well until 2029, seemed a jolly good match!


Concentrated dark berry flavours are to the fore on first sniff and hit, and in the mouth the wine expands in terms of it rich flavours. There are spicy notes with some bay leaf too, a hint of smoke, some graphite, some distant old leather, a slight cinnamon note and all bound together with ripe fruit, bold, but unobtrusive tannin – to ensure longevity.


I’ve written about Bodegas Mas Doix before, praising their full compliment of wines saying that they are wholly representative of the wines from DO Priorat. This wine, Doix Costers de Vinyes Vellas, is the flagship wine of the bodega, but could also be considered a flagship of the DO!


The grapes, a measly half kilo per vine(!), come from vineyards whose Cariñena and Garnacha vines are between 80 and 105 years of age. They grow on exposed sites where dramatic differences between day and night-time temperatures are a feature. Once collected, by hand of course, and then subjected to a rigorous selection table process the grapes enjoy a long maceration period to bring about excellent extraction of colour, tannin and flavour.


Parker places the wine in the 95 – 98 points bracket which means that it sells out the moment it hits the wine merchant shelves in the USA. And, despite its relatively heavy price tag, I’m not surprised. Stunning!


Please note Part 2 of the story of La Gran Cata en La Montaña will soon appear in Cork Talk – I can’t be miserly with my descriptions of such superb wines, and I’m running out of space!


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