First Published in Costa News Group, August 2010



Move over Oz Clarke!

Regular Cork Talk readers will perhaps remember last August and September when the column was full of the filming I was doing for Viva TV’s production, ‘Viva Vino’ (incidentally still being shown, with DVDs still available from me). Well I’m now also writing for ‘Living Spain’ a UK based magazine, which I’m sure several of you will have read when first thinking of re-locating to Spain.

 The magazine is designed to assist with property buying of course, but it also has many interesting articles about Spain, Spanish Culture, Travel etc, which in fact will be of interest to those of us who have already made the move as well as those thinking of doing the same. My remit is to write Travel/Wine articles. Hence a further visit to the stunningly beautiful Finca Casa Alarcón whose 900 hectare plot of land includes the small mountain range, Sierra del Cuchillo, and is home to their: stud farm; olive groves and olive press; sheep farm; and of course their vineyards and bodega with its first class restaurant above. It really is quite amazing!

 My contact Julia, star of the TV programme, has moved on but Javier now runs the Wine Tourism section of the business as well as being heavily involved in sales. He, along with Lucia the young Agricultural Engineer who oversees all things outdoors, met me at the stud farm where I became re-acquainted with some of the strikingly handsome and aristocratic Pure Bred Spanish stallions that are, of course, an integral part of the Stud Farm!

 My journey around the estate is documented in ‘Living Spain’, Spring 2011 edition but Cork Talk readers can now have an update about the super wines, including some new editions, that continue to be made under the guidance of Pascual, head winemaker. An already impressive portfolio of wines, just got better!

 Several years ago I tasted my first Spanish 100% Petit Verdot. Considered a French variety, it was used frequently in Bordeaux wines adding body, colour and a certain vegetal character along with dark forest fruits. However it was an inconvenient variety as its tendency to ripen late meant that growers were having to pick too early or risk ‘le deluge’ of late September and therefore diluted wines. It was grubbed up and largely ignored.

 I’m surprised that it didn’t find the perfect home in Spain earlier than happened, as late ripening is not a problem here because the sunshine hours are so much better than in France. I predicted therefore that it would become more and more prevalent on the Iberian peninsular. The intervening years have borne this out (I wish I’d asked for a betting quote at the time – it was, for me, an odds-on certainty!).

 Well I’m sticking my neck out again here by suggesting that Finca Casa Alarcón’s Nea 2008, is perhaps the best mono-varietal Petit-Verdot currently in Spain! It is an elegant and yet full-bodied, deeply flavoured wine which has clearly benefited from the unique location of the vineyards – the searing heat, dry winds and limited rainfall of the plains of La Mancha combine so well with the more humid Mediterranean climate and sea breezes that blow even this far inland.

 Eight months in French oak adds complexity, body and flavour to this black gold and the overall impression is one of pure pleasure. The wine will live on for five years, but it is drinking superbly now!

 Clearly Pascual is a devotee of Petit Verdot as he has now added it to the Casa Alarcón 2009 Rosado. I have to admit that I regret the passing of the charming 50cl bottle that contained their previous rosado and indeed its rose petal colour in favour of, respectively, a pleasingly same shaped, but now 75cl bottle, and a much darker rosado colour – more akin to previous wines in Spain termed Clarete, lighter than red but much darker than pink!

 The reason for the change in bottle is, I guess commercial, the reason for the change in colour is I’m sure because their previous 100% Syrah has now been joined by Petit Verdot. So, in truth, I wasn’t expecting to be over impressed with the new rosado. I was wrong.

 It has a wonderful full-frontal, rich and fruity nose which implores you to taste – and you won’t be let down by false promises. This is a rosado for your paella and for meat dishes too – girly, it’s not!

 I’m a big fan of Viognier, that French white wine variety whose striking apricot nose, when made in the northern reaches of the Rhone valley, really delights the palate. There are Australian Viognier wines that also manage this super flavour and aroma – indeed so fragrant is it that our Aussie friends often add it to their red Syrah wines for a further aroma dimension.

 Finca Casa Alarcón’s Viognier 2009 is a new wine to their portfolio – it has, as yet, as the vines are still young, a less pronounced fruit nose, but the magnolia flower and slight citrus notes can make up for this. It is a young wine to be enjoyed now.

 Finally the 2009 Chardonnay follows their 2008 vintage, which made quite a splash, in this column and elsewhere. Whilst the 2008 was Burgundy in style the new wine is a little more restrained. Hand harvesting and fermentation in new French oak with regular stirring of the lees (tiny yeast and fruit particles) have added a subtle creaminess to the finished product. A refreshing wine for aperitifs I think.

 P.S. Further articles by Colin Harkness can be read in Spain’s prestigious wine magazine, Vinos De España. Available in newsagents, it is now also sold in wine shops – ask your local bodega if they stock it! Plus don’t forget ‘Living Spain’ it’s a good read!

A good read, even if you've already moved to Spain!