First Published Grupo Costa News SL, November 2011



If it wasn’t for my contacts I might have missed the excellent Gourmet Fair in Alicante’s IFA Exhibition Centre. It’s clear that organisers,, need to be aware of the huge potential of sales to the English speaking extranjeros in the Alicante Province. I was unaware of any advertising in the English language media (and no press releases to me), which I’m sure accounted for the fact that I only heard two English voices during the whole six hours I was at this Mecca of Gastronomes!

The place was really heaving but there was room for more and I’m sure that readers would have loved it! The fair managed to strike the perfect balance between keeping professionals and consumers entertained, informed and happy – there were live TV cooking demonstrations, chef clothing and the latest ovens for sale as well as very well priced tapas and wine combinations. An outstanding success!

Of course I was there for the wine! Food related stands considerably outnumbered wine stands but there was nevertheless plenty of wine to see and taste. And for me one of the stars of the show came from a small, almost anonymous stand under the generic banner of the DO Alicante. Bodegas Sierra de Cabreras is nestled into the hills of the mountain range Sierra Salinas on the DO border between Yecla and Alicante, and making top class red wine!


The Dark Horse Wine

Any wine sold in El Corte Inglés Gourmet section has to be worthy of note and at 19€ per bottle, although relatively expensive, it’s very good value for money. Were this same wine made elsewhere in a more famous area I’m sure it would command a price into the top twenties, at least!


They make just one wine (watch this space though, as their fame grows I’m sure their portfolio will too), Carabibas and it’s super! Almost opaque, this very dark red wine is made from 60 years old Monastrell vines with the addition of some Cabernet and Merlot.

The 2010 is fruit driven, but it’s complex too with racy acidity and maturing tannin and is a classic wine in waiting, though drinking very well now. The owners told me that it had only just been bottled following nine months ageing in French oak. I intend to lay down some bottles of this to see how it matures over four or five years.

The 2009 is a different wine and yet made with the same varieties in roughly the same proportions. It’s more subtle on the nose, though its lovely damson fruit is nevertheless to the fore. The gentle, sensitive oak ageing has added an extra dimension over time, and will do so still as the wine evolves over the next, perhaps eight years. I enjoyed this dark horse wine as much as the next!

Muga’s Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2004 is of course from an excellent year and whilst not just tasting the wine but drinking it too I was struck once again by the superb quality that is available in Spain, and in this case in the most famous of Spanish producing areas, La Rioja. I’ve written about this wine and Bodegas Muga several times before so I won’t say anything more, except to repeat the advice that, here you can buy Rioja with total confidence, which cannot be said about all bodegas from this area! They even manage to make a characterful white wine, using Viura – which for me speaks volumes!

Another highlight of the fair was the wine portfolio of Bodegas Francisco Gomez whose organic (all their wines are organic) Sauvignon Blanc was full of fresh

Organic Wines from Bodegas Francisco Goméz

varietal character. Their red Fruto Noble 2006 Crianza made with Cabernet, Monastrell and Syrah is well endowed with ripe fruit plus the backing of 12 months in oak.


Serrata 2006 Reserva is made with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet and Monastrell and initially reminds me of some of the full flavoured Chilean wine I sampled when last in UK, but with a good length. The fruit hits, slightly disappears on the mid-palate but returns on the finish – I wonder if it might have been a slightly better wine with a few months less oak?

So, if I can persuade the organisers of this fine food and wine fair to give me some advance notice next year I’ll post it here so you can enjoy it for yourself. PS I’ll be discussing some alternative Christmas Day wines on Bay Radio Sunday 18th December, 12:00 – 13:00 hrs – why not tune in or listen on-line (


First Published in Costa News Group, February 2011


 A Spanish company, Estal Packaging, has just produced a new, uniquely shaped bottle, designed by famous Basque Restaurateur Martín Berasategui, which claims to be the answer to the problem of sediment in fine wines. I have a proto-type sitting on my desk right now – alas, empty!

 However there are many such bottles that have recently been shipped for trials to a number of bodegas that pride themselves on the longevity of their fine wines. The factory results are excellent but is the proof of the bottle in the pouring thereof, of fine wine that has thrown a deposit? Do they actually work?

 There are countless wines produced each year that will not require the services of such a bottle. Some grape varieties rarely leave a deposit anyway and many producers are worried about having ‘clean’ wine so as not to alienate the consumer, who doesn’t want tiny deposits in the bottom of his glass and insists on pouring the whole 75cl.

 Yet it can be argued that wines which undergo: fining (a means of clarifying wine by adding a fining agent to coagulate or absorb the microscopic particles left in the liquid which then drops to the bottom of the tank); and racking (where clear wine is removed from the sediment at the bottom of the barrels), lose something along the way.

 Purists would say that the heart of the wine has been extracted from the finished product making it a slightly lesser wine. Indeed there are many producers who deliberately do not ‘fine’ their wines preferring to have some sediment in the bottle to help the continuing maturation process. Often such bottles proudly proclaim that the wine has not been fined/racked/clarified warning consumers that there may be a sediment so please pour with care. I often go for such wines.

 Well it seems that there is now the increased possibility of our buying wines that have not undergone the invasive procedure of fining and racking but that will still be clear when poured into the glass despite the presence of sediment. The slightly odd-looking, and I have to say, not so aesthetically pleasing, new design will hopefully trap the sediment in its base allowing us the benefit of a wine with its heart in place but without unpleasant looking deposits in the bottom of the glass.

 Nevertheless I do have some reservations, which I hope will be proved wrong in the clinical trials that are already taking place.

 When a wine is poured from the tank or barrel into the bottles it brings with it the tiny particles mentioned earlier – some of the fruit and the dead yeast. With time, Isaac Newton, our science teachers and, just to be sure, the winemakers, tell us gravity will take these particles down to the base of the bottle. The bottle manufacturers conclude that this is where the sediment will be trapped when the bottle is eventually poured.

 However, as we know, when storing wine that has been closed with cork it should be left lying horizontally to keep the cork in contact with the wine (to avoid the cork drying). If we do this with the Martín Berasategui System bottle the sediment will not all be trapped in the base.

 Well the design team must have seen this criticism coming as they claim that the new packaging system they have also invented allows the bottles to stay in their case which stores them at an angle, where the cork remains moist and the sediment stays where it’s meant to.

 The jury is out but I’m hoping for a positive verdict!