Excellent Costa Blanca White Wines!

SHOUT OUT FOR LOCAL PRODUCERS

I’ve recently been tweeting and posting (as well as a Cork Talk a couple of weeks ago) about how it would be good if we could help the smaller wine producers here in Spain. They’ve had, and are having, a very difficult time, so much so that I’m quite nervous about looking at my various wine related news feeds, hoping not to hear of any small, family bodegas that have gone under! So far I haven’t and I’m hopeful that my bringing their plight to readers’ attention may have helped at least a few?

Now, though, I want to bring it a little more local, not by saying the same thing of course – the above, the tweets, posts and my recent article included local producers as well as those throughout the whole country. Today though, I’m going to spotlight just a few local producers by telling readers about some of their white wines that I’ve been so enjoying during the lockdown, from which we are emerging poco a poco.

This idea was sparked by a visit to a local, family owned, independent quite small supermarket in Moraira – Supermercado Algi. I visited a day or two ago, in search of a wine for me to recommend as the Valley FM Supermarket Wine of the Week. I was delighted to see an unusually good selection of wines from which to choose, and even more so when I saw a bottle from the bodega Uvas Cabrera, in Benissa – a ten minute drive from where I live!

Uvas Cabrera is made with 100% Moscatel. The bodega is a small concern making just one wine – but what a wine! We all know dry Moscatel – well if you don’t, you have to get out more! But this Moscatel has a different, musky, mineral edge to it, with little of the characteristic raisin/grape aroma. Floral, with some slight citrus notes in the palate and perfectly dry. (www.uvascabrera.com)

 

When bought from the winery the packaging is great too – the bottle’s label sports a vine with five arms. These represent the five generations of the same family, whose business started in 1895, selling pasas, Moscatel grapes dried in the sun; then developing into table grapes sales as well (and it’s this that gives rise to the unusual boxing of the wine, lightweight wooden boxes that would have held 1kg of grapes, now holding a bottle of wine; and larger boxes for 5kg of grapes but now three bottles!); then into sweet wine production; and ultimately to the present incumbent making the family’s first ever dry Moscatel! Great story, super wine!

 

I’m not entirely comfortable with my recent claim that the dry Moscatel from Bodegas Les Freses in Jesús Pobre, about 20 mins drive away, is the best I’ve tasted. It may be, but the above is very, very close!

 

Les Freses Blanc 2018 is 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 raisin aromas. On the palate the citrus lemon notes remain after swallowing. A beautiful aperitif wine, with sufficient presence also to partner delicate fish dishes such as sole, dorada and lubina. (www.lesfreses.com)

Another Moscatel wine in owner Mara’s small portfolio is 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.

Now, there may be some pedants who think I shouldn’t be including wines from Pepe Mendoza in the category of small local producers! I know what you mean, Pepe is (was, I’m not sure?) the Head Winemaker for the family firm, Enrique Mendoza, whose relatively larger production wines sell all over the world. However, regular readers will also know that in the last year Pepe has opened his own winery. Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla is situated in the Llíber/Jalón valley – 15 mins!

Tinajas, amphorae, are the ideal receptacle for making wine under ‘flor’, that’s the thin film that forms over fermenting grape juice when the earthenware tinaja is not filled quite to the top. This is the same method by which Sherry is made, nowadays known as biological ageing (though in Andalucia it’s in barrel, of course), but Pepe’s Velo Flor Ánfora isn’t fortified as is Sherry, it is a dry white wine – and an outstanding one at that!

This wine is made with Moscatel (bet you saw that coming!) and another local variety, though far less well known, Merseguera – honestly, you have to try it! There’s an endearing earthiness to the wine, it’s a textured wine with fresh acidity and a good length combining. Fruit-wise there are citrus notes, lemon and a little grapefruit plus a very slight reference to orange/clementine zest, like you’d expect from an amber/orange/Skin contact wine. I think there is an unmistakable Mediterranean aroma/flavour/feel to the wine, making it a wine of its place paying homage to its terroir. (Search Facebook Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla.)

Talking of homage – that’s what I’m doing here regarding local producers, but remember please that whilst these bodegas are local to me, their wines can be obtained where you are situated in Spain, and some will be available in the UK as well!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness  Instagram colinharkness53

NB My next Wine Show on www.valleyfm. es will be on Saturday 4th July 12 – 13:00 hrs CET

The Top Ten!

COSTA NEWS TOP TEN SPANISH WINES 2019!

So, without further ado, here, in reverse order, are my Top Ten wines of the year!

10. Rós, Rosé wine from Bodegas Tandem (in collaboration with Lynn Coyle MW) – an immediate, though slight aroma of ripe red, slightly fluffy apples, as I brought the glass to my nose. An interesting start! This fleeting first note was joined by a floral presence – you can guess which flower, the rose of course, though a red rose rather than pink. Some fruit notes joined the party – a little rhubarb, whose un-sugared acidity followed through to refresh the palate, though soon to be replaced by the overriding blend of pink grapefruit with some slightly under ripe raspberries!

9. Gamonal 2016, Viñedos y Bodegas Pardevalles, single estate wine made from the variety, Prieto Picudo, harvested by hand. Fermentation and macerations occur over a 14 -18 day period, allowing the skins to give off some of their dark colour to the finished wine, as well as tannin, aroma and flavour, with a certain brightness in the glass too. French and American oak aged and stored in the 300 year old cellars, each imparting a touch of vanilla and a toasty note too. After time blackberry fruit is firstly noticed, with some timid blackcurrant, stony minerality, again understated, with a little mountain herb. There are floral whiffs going on and an undercurrent of liquorice too.

8. *‘Vino Flor’, white wine from Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla, made in a way similar to Sherry, it’s no wonder I found an aroma, and to an extent, the taste, of ‘en rama’ sherry, as well as some lemony citrus notes, with a brief, but reoccurring ripe apple aroma and it’s got plenty of presence on the palate, with an engagingly long finish. *This was an experimental wine which has, I think, morphed into Pepe’s Macabeo/Merseguera!

7. Pigar El Ardachero Orange Wine, Bodegas Pigar – yep, you read that correctly, another Orange Wine! Captivating – this wine, made with Chardonnay, is another fine Spanish example of this style of wine. Unlike their other Orange wine, featured in last year’s Top Ten, this is fermented and aged on its lees in stainless steel. Mineral notes, a little cider on the nose with a touch of patisserie, minus the sugar, this dry wine will stay with you, beacon-like!

6. Velvet & Stone Rosado, La Niña de Cuenca – yes, that’s two rosé wines this year! Charming, elegant, aromatic and fruit filled, this Prestige Rosé has pink and white rose petal fragrance with soft red fruits, loganberry and a little pomegranate on the nose and palate. So pretty in the glass, it’s simultaneously soft and powerful (Velvet and Stone!) and has a long finish. We absolutely loved it as an aperitif as well as serving it with salmon and red, orange and yellow capsicum, red lentil based dishes. I imagine it would also be super with seafood/fish paella!

5. Les Freses Blanc, Bodegas Les Freses – truly exemplary dry Moscatel wine made from vines planted in white coloured limestone based soil. Fresh scidity, with some exotic fruit, white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing! Floral, delicate jasmine, but weight on the palate too. Certainly good with above fish, also where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish!

4. Bobal La Serratilla, Bodegas Pigar – yes, them again! A whopping 16% abv – though you wouldn’t know it to be so high. It’s full, yes, completely taking over the palate with some wonderful black (and lighter) cherry notes, with an air of elegance to accompany its richness. Fermentation of the juice from grapes of the oldest vineyard on the property was provoked by its own wild yeasts. A glorious very dark colour, it invites the drinker in, and won’t let go! Just seven months in oak – super stuff!

3. Torelló Brut Nature, Corpinnat Spanish Sparkling Wine is perfectly dry at only 0–3grms of sugar per litre and a superb partner to canapés! It has crucial freshness, quite an achievement following its four and a half years en rima! Obviously, there’s an extra maturity to the aromas and flavours in this fizz. Citric fruit aromas and flavours mingle with white flowers and more of a baked apple flavour, with a citrus, apple and pear pastry, without the sugar! Earthiness is in there too making it a fizz for more than just first course!

2. Ví de Sal (magnum); Finca Collado – what a discovery from DO Alicante! A minimal intervention wine, rich on the palate but with alluring fresh acidity. The wine is fermented in large 600litre French oak barrels, with regular stirring to extract colour and flavour from the skins. It’s then aged in the same barrels for 12 months, adding depth and complexity, though the wine is so well made you can hardly detect the oak. Rich plum/damson fruit, a reference to figs and liquorice with some dark chocolate on the finish. There’s thyme and eucalyptus on the nose and big though it is, there is also an elegance to this wine.

  1. La Niña de Cuenca’s, Ildania, is my Number One 2019 – 100%  low yielding average 70 yrs old Bobal, fermented and aged 18 months in clay tinajas (amphorae), varying in size, 500 and 1000 litres capacity. Very dark, initially less than forthcoming with its aromas, though eventually opening up (decant this wine). And what aromas – black cherry, typical of the variety, but with some black plum and lighter cherries too, a little black pepper spice as well. Minerality, certainly mouth-feel, presence, as well as some earthy mountain herbs. Wow!

Happy New Year!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com   Facebook Colin Harkness

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Wines Made Under Flor

WINE UNDER FLOR

Thinking about it now, all those years later, I find it quite unbelievable that I didn’t study Science at school! I’m the first to admit that, despite my Mum being a pharmacist and my brother doing well at Science and Maths at the Grammar School, across the fields from us Sec Mod types, I was, at best a slow learner, science wise, at worst, and probably more accurately, pretty useless.

But to just give up on me, as well as the other half dozen or so, and create a nonsense subject called ‘Rural Science’, beggars belief, these days! The more so, when in fact, Rural Science, meant watering the school plants more than anything else! I’m laughing as I write – but, honestly, it’s a disgrace!

So, I know that, had I ever embarked upon the arduous course to become a Master of Wine (MW, of which there are fewer than 400 in the world), it would have been the science aspect that would have held me back – sin duda! That’s not to say, I should point out immediately, that I consider that I have all the other attributes necessary to achieve such status, but it’s for sure that I’d have failed, even if the rather apt ‘Rural Science’ had actually been a course worth following!

So I had to turn recently to two of my friends and colleagues for their advice about making the eponymous, wine under flor. Andrew Halliwell (@ADHalliwell) is an award winning winemaker, consulting for wineries here in Spain; Fintan Kerr (@Wine_Cuentista), also based in Spain, is a nascent Master of Wine, currently well on his way to achieving that hallowed title. Both are mines of information, to whom I unashamedly turn when the need arises! Thank you both!

Flor is a film of yeast that can form on the surface of a wine that’s fermenting. If you’ve ever been on a tour of a Sherry House it’s likely that you’ve seen it in a demo barrel whose ends are glass rather than wood. In fact this is probably the most famous use of flor, when it is involved in the making of Sherry.

However, it has also traditionally been employed in the production of Vin Jaune, French wine made close to the Swiss border and Tokaji, prized dessert wine from Hungary. as well as some other areas of wine production. Occasionally, right now, one hears of wines made using this method – for example, Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricola is experimenting (read on!). https://www.facebook.com/pepemendozacasaagricola/

Whilst eating sugars in the liquid (wine in progress), Flor protects it from oxygen, which would turn it into vinegar. Containers are not filled to the brim, allowing the flor to form. Usually the base wine is high in alcohol  with a low ph (quite high acidity). Tinajas are an ideal receptacle for making wine using this method, so it’s no surprise that Pepe Mendoza used them to make the wine I recently tried, as it is these earthenware pots that he uses to make his excellent Orange wine, Pureza.

Indeed, there are aromas and flavours in his Merseguera variety, Vino Flor, similar to those found in some Orange/Amber wines – which, in an instant endeared the wine to me, for sure! But, Pepe’s unnamed wine (it’s an experimental wine, which I for one hope will become part of his portfolio of wines made at the new bodega in Llíber/Jalón, Alicante – the subject of a recent Cork Talk and archived here www.colinharknessonwine.com click Articles) has a lot more going on!

My wife, the lovely www.clairemarie.es was ecstatic about this wine, picking up immediately the Vin Jaune notes and declaring that we really must taste it again sometime, paired with cubed Compté Fruité, which is traditional in the home of Vin Jaune! Well, why not?

I also found an aroma, and to an extent, the taste, of ‘en rama’ sherry, the subject of another Cork Talk (https://www.colinharknessonwine.com/2046/#more-‘), again, this is a very endearing characteristic!

There are some lemony citrus notes, with a brief, but reoccurring ripe apple aroma and it’s got plenty of presence on the palate, with an engagingly long finish. As you can see the experimental ‘label’ on this experimental wine has rubbed off a little and there’s no sign of an abv figure, but, judging by its mouth-feel I think the wine is quite high in alcohol, perhaps 14ª – though I don’t know, of course.

All in all, this wine is close to being sensational! Loved it!

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