Private Wine Tasting with a group of visitors from Holland

I haven’t checked, I admit, but I’m pretty sure that my Private Wine Tastings, held in the comfort of clients’ own homes, aren’t listed in the lexicon of Dangerous Sports! So it was good to see the relief on Renata’s face when she realised that her birthday surprise wasn’t going to be a bungee jump, or paragliding, or indeed any of the other scary events that she’d been teased mercilessly about by her Dutch family, all on holiday over here in Moraira.

I’d been contacted by son-in-lay, Ben, about presenting a surprise tasting, we chatted about their budget requirements, styles of wine, and how many bottles! All was set – and we had a great time.

I recently wrote about another such wine tasting where, to start the corks popping, I presented first a sparkling wine. I often do this, it’s a great ice-breaker, it’s celebratory, and if you choose the right one it’s so tasty! Therefore I did it again, and if you looked quickly at the labels you’d see that last week’s and Renata’s fizz was made by the same winery, CastellRoig in Cataluña.

However, on closer inspection you’d see that last week we were using a Corpinnat Sparkling Wine (an article on Corpinnat here soon), this week, a Cava, Gran Reserva in fact. It’s a long, long story, but essentially CastellRoig has recently left the DO Cava, preferring to make their fizz under the Corpinnat banner. The Gran Reserva Cava was from the 2012 vintage, before the existence of the new company, Corpinnat.

Cava Josep Coca Gran Reserva, CastellRoig, is made with indigenous old vine Xarel.lo and Macabeo grapes, it has clearly enjoyed its four years ‘en rima’ where it has developed into an exquisite mouthful. The Brut Nature style might suggest to some that it could be a little too dry – not a bit of it! It’s so fresh on the palate despite its age. It’s rounded, complex, with some toasted almond notes and a pleasing herby floral fragrance. It fills the mouth and lasts for ever!

1583 Albariño de Fefiñanes (recently selected as the Wine of the Week by Tim Atkin MW) has peachy aromas and flavours, yellow peach for me. Bottled in May this year, this 2018 is 100% Albariño, fermented in French and aged for 3 months in barrel, where it is regularly stirred with its lees, and then a further 3 months in stainless steel temperature controlled vessels, waiting for bottling and release. Citrus notes, peach, very subtle oak. Drinking well now it’s a wine that, although white and Spanish, will age for another three years, to give even more.

Ben wanted a second white – what a choice I had to make. These days there are so many top class white wines made in Spain! I opted for a Verdejo from DO Rueda, and I’m pleased I did, as I was surprised to learn from all of my Dutch friends that nowadays this Spanish grape variety is well known and loved in Holland.

El Transistor 2018 is made by superstar winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez and attempts to give the perfect expression of the variety. Well, he doesn’t do a bad job! Grapes from 60 yrs old vines are fermented in different barrel sizes and aged in same for about 6 months, as well as cement deposits, to maintain freshness. Lime green shades in the glass, stone/slate mineral elements, gooseberry fruit and the inside of kiwi skin where it meets the flesh, with acidity, rounded, full on mouth, a real mouthful, fresh.

Our first red wine was a cracker – one of the most famous Ribera del Duero producers, Arzuaga wines have really made a name for themselves. Their PR/Publicity dept has done an exemplary job (I’m sure hugely expensive too), however, this is only going to work if the wine is of a top standard too! It is!

I chose, working on advice from Jose. Owner of Teulada’s excellent wine merchants, A Catarlo Todo, the 2016 Crianza, made with 95% Tempranillo (aka Tinto del País in Ribera del Duero) and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon for some extra longevity, depth of flavour and complexity.

Most of the Tempranillo comes from the oldest on-site vineyards that Arzuaga controls, located at 920 metres above sea level, with a telling addition of some Tempranillo bought in from near Burgos where the vines are 100+ years old! It’s a super red wine, redolent of all we’d expect from an oak aged (16 months in American and French barricas) Spanish red. Gasps of admiration followed first sips!

Finally, as requested, we tasted another red wine, but oh so different – Dolç Mendoza is a dessert wine par excellence! Only made in exceptional years when the fruit on the vines is in perfect condition so that it can stay put until, perhaps 6 weeks after the rest of the Enrique Mendoza vineyards up near Villena, have been harvested.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot make up the blend – after fermentation, this 15·5 abv sweet red wine is aged for ten months in oak. The result is a luscious wine, wonderful with chocolate desserts and summer pudding, but also with mature cheeses, including strong blue cheese! Splendid!

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For more info about Private Wine Tastings: https://youtu.be/8qYhmj4hNQU

Strawberry Fields For Ever!


‘Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to, Strawberry Fields,’ yes, you got it straight away, the Beatles, and, as a ‘Plastic Scouser’ (not actually from Liverpool, but close!), I’m always up for quoting their songs! In fact, did I tell you that Paul McCartney (he wasn’t Sir, then) dined at my restaurant once  blah blah . . . . . . .?!

So, when I visited Bodega Les Freses recently, I already had the title to this week’s Cork Talk. Les Freses means The Strawberries, in Valenciano (as I’m sure you know) and the bodega at the Hotel Denia La Sella Golf Resort end of the road that cuts through Jesús Pobre takes it’s name from the prior use of the land, which were, of course, strawberry fields, and known to the local as such. A perfect fit!

Now those fields are planted with a glorious vineyard, still young, but looking pristine, and delivering the fruit for some great wines! The fruit is Moscatel grapes, and whilst there is one sweet dessert wine (though owner/winemaker, Mara, would say, cheese wine), this bodega majors in dry Moscatel (including, though you might not believe it, a Rosado!).

The winery is pristine too. Mara, who happily conducts tasting tours on certain days of the week (www.lesfreses.com), took a group of us around the spotless building with its stainless steel fermentation tanks, and the prized tinajas, 350 litre clay pots, responsible for perhaps her flagship wine. I say perhaps, because it’s clear that this charming, passionate winemakers is in love with all of her wines!

There’s a shaded tasting area just in front of the building, but before we sat to taste the wines, we had a short tour of the immediate surrounds. First stop was the old cauldron, common to many once rustic farmhouses, where grapes that had been dried to raisons, ready for export to the UK and Europe a hundred years ago, had been dipped briefly in a solution that enabled them to withstand the journey and arrive in their best condition.

Philoxera, the deadly vine bug which decimated the vineyards of Europe, put paid to that industry, causing untold misery to those whose only income was from their grapes. Fortunately, it was discovered that American rootstocks, resistant to the insect, could be used for grafting, and households were, eventually back in business. Raisons still, but also Moscatel wine.

There are many clones of Moscatel – Mara has 14 different ones planted, cleverly, because each clone ripens at different times so this small winery with limited personnel isn’t suddenly inundated at harvest time! There is a unique microclimate at Les Freses, which also helps.

When Mara first planted her vines a matter of only a few years ago, the dreadful heat of that particular summer filled off a large percentage of her vineyard. She had a watering system fitted, but hasn’t since had to use it. The humidity of the area ensures that each morning the plants are wet during the growing season with enough water to sustain the plant but not so much that the vines over-crop, which would result ultimately in wines of lesser quality. (Green harvesting is also employed, reducing the number of bunches.)

Humidity can also cause problems though. It’s perfect for some vine disease and for vines pests. High intensity chemical praying, I’m pleased to say, is a definite no-no, for Mara. Instead, for example, she buys ladybirds, which live in the grasses and wild flowers and attack some of the pests! Also, the vines, uncommonly in this area, are trellised to avoid fungus forming. There’s more too. Les Freses wines are made from organically grown vines with as little human intervention as possible and fermentation is achieved using the indigenous yeasts of the vineyard.

We first tasted Les Freses Blanc 2018, made from grapes grown in the two different soil types that the bodega enjoys. Very pale lime green in colour, elegant, with floral notes of white rose petals and honeysuckle with some lemon and understated raison aromas. On the palate there are citrus lemon notes which remain after swallowing. A beautiful aperitif wine, with sufficient presence also to partner delicate fish dishes such as sole, dorada and lubina.

Next up was another Moscatel wine (claro!) but this time made from grapes grown on just one of the soils, the white coloured limestone based soil. Quite a revelation in terms of contrasting flavours and aromas, This wine was a touch more acidic, fresh as you like, with slightly more exotic fruit, some white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing!

Floral again, perhaps more jasmine this time, and a little more weight on the palate. Certainly good with the above fish, but also more meaty fish, plus where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish. I bought a bottle to bring home and taste again – Mara apologised that it hadn’t yet been labelled, but for me it’s the wine that will do the talking when I open it, plus, there’s always a certain excitement about opening an anonymous wine!

Finally, the aforementioned cheese wine! Designated by many as a dessert wine, I can see that this would be lovely with certain desserts, lemon and maybe orange based, figs too, with some honey, perhaps. Plus, I go along with Mara – it’s great with cheese, medium matured and mature cheese, as well as blue cheese! Honey on the nose with a little orange skin spray and traditional Moscatel whiffs of raisons.

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In Support of Local Wines!

Due to the fact that I am blessed to have groups here from Sweden with Milagro that want to try the Spanish wines, and are lucky to know the best teacher in Spanish wines, Colin Harkness. I have tasted a lot of them and I am amazed that there is so few restaurants that keep the local wines on the list. Think the restaurants here in Javea should promote more of the fantastic wines in the region, and there is a lot of them. Take for example Enrique Mendoza WineryPepe Mendoza Casa Agrícola or Juan PiquerasBodega Mustiguillo – DOP El Terrerazo as some of the bunch. There are so many just a step outside our walls…. Have you for example tasted the “orange wine”” WOW!!! It will be BIG!! Elisabeth Holmstöm

Swedish Group Visits Bodegas Enrique Mendoza

Thank you Colin for your wine expertise during this week!! It was superb!! Now, we really want to try the orange wine…. 🍾😍😃

 It was great to have you with us as an expert to clarify some things that were said!! Thank you Colin for your time with us, it was great!! Elisabeth Holmström, Milagro Javea, milagro.nu/