Getting ready for the new vintage!



My first experience of the phenomenon this season was in fact during the dying embers (pun intended!) of December. A thin blanket of frost had been left on the vineyards quite early one morning. On my car windscreen too, evoking less than happy memories of trying to get to work during winters in the UK. Hands and head frozen, because I didn’t have that little plastic tool, and I’d had been forced to put my head out of the window to affect some sort of visibility! Come on, be fair, we all did it!


Presumably following to the letter the traditional advice (had the folklore ever been written down) that last year’s vine growth should be pruned after the first frost, to ready the vines for the new season of growth, a lone  vineyard worker (owner?) must have been up at dawn. An almost mystical plume of smoke had ascended above his vineyard and started to gradually disperse, Harry Potter spell-like, slightly above the land in the windless sky. Quite poetic, don’t you think?


I went to investigate the source of the smoke, and of course, found a small, controlled fire on which he was placing more and more of his Moscatel prunings. I wondered if he knew, or cared, given the difference between Jalón wines and those of Bordeaux, that some of the grand chateaux collect their prunings, bundle them together and sell them to (naïve and wealthy!) would-be BBQers hoping to add a touch of fine Bordeaux wine to their grilling meats!


I left him to it and went on my way.


Now, in January, others are following suit. If not left on the rows between the vines waiting for their cremation, the prunings of Moscatel, Giró, Garnacha et al are all making their contribution to this bucolic countryside vista. It’s a beguiling sight to behold, the more so in these worrying, political, times, when some lunatic could press that button and we’d all go up in a funereal pyre!


But let’s not go down that road – I’m being positive here! Similar to the Native Americans’ way of communicating, these misty, smokey columns are telling us that Mother Nature (with a little help from her friends) is preparing for another season of growth. The sap that was left to descend into the roots of the vines, from when they’d been denuded until now, will soon be on the rise, bringing with it, new growth.

And so it will be all over the wine producing areas of the Northern Hemisphere as vineyard workers in those countries north of Spain slowly start to copy their southern colleagues. For wine consumers like ourselves it’s an exciting time of renewal and of anticipation. Will the 2018 vintage be the same, better, worse as/than last year? Are we starting a process here that will result in some exquisite wines in the future after they’ve perhaps matured in oak and then bottle? (Told you I was being positive!).


I wonder for example if the multi-medalling first wine of the new winery, Casa Boquera, in Yecla will be able to ‘follow that’, as the saying goes? Their first red wine, made with organic old vine Monastrell and Syrah did very well, as you may remember from a previous Cork Talk. However, it wasn’t all bottled to be sold as joven, young, wine. They, rather cleverly, kept some back, in oak barrels, and in October I tasted their Casa Boquera Tinto Roble, 2016. (

Firstly, the blend, Monastrell teaming up with Syrah, is a good one, and becoming increasingly prevalent in South East Spain. Fully ripened Syrah, as it invariably is in such a climate, adds a slightly spicy, peppery element to back up the dominant fruit of the variety. When coupled with the plum/damson aroma and flavour of Monastrell it’s certainly a winning combination.


So, the Casa Boquera Roble starts on the front foot. Then, of course, there is the addition of the French oak influence, six months adding depth, complexity and a greater longevity. There’s also an added, endearing aroma of coffee beans being smoked in the distance, along with a very faint dark chocolate flavour on the finish.


When I tasted the wine, which I certainly enjoyed, my notes indicated a wine that wasn’t quite the finished article – the necessary parts were all there, the fruit in abundance, but I felt it needed a little more time to become fully balanced. I estimated six months to, maybe, a year.


Seems I was wrong, it needed far less time! I’ve just heard that in December, so just a couple of months after my tasting, the wine was awarded a valued Silver Medal at the Mundus Vini Biofach competition in Germany! Plus, this wine will last too!  Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness  Youtube  Colin Harkness On Wine