A Visit To Bodega Finca Collado.

A Visit To Bodega Finca Collado.
Finca Collado sits in a valley, overlooked by the Sierra de Salinas and overlooking the small town of Salinas, 60km from the sea and Alicante. The Finca currently consists of about 120 hectares, mostly olive and almond trees but there are 13 hectares of vines. The wines produced are DO Alicante and the white is a 50% blend of Chardonnay and Moscatel.The red is from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However there are some macabeo vines dotted in amongst the whites and some Monastrell amongst the reds harking back to the past when the bodega was a small family concern producing wine for family consumption.
Today Finca Collado is producing excellent wines but only a small production and is run by Maria del Carmen Vega Lopez and her husband Guillermo The valley in which the Finca sits is a geographical fault and this gives rise to three different soils which make up the various parcels of vines. In some cases as you look down the rows you can actually see the colour of the soil change once if not twice. As you walk around the parcels with Guillermo he explains the importance of the terroir,  the different styles of wine each produces, and the need for irrigation in the chalky white soils where the Chardonnay and Moscatel are planted. He also explained the style of training the wines so that the excessive summer growth overhangs the bunches beneath, giving them essential shade, ( growth which in Bordeaux for example would be cut away to allow the sun onto the grapes. )
The Finca from the  vineyards.
My visit was in company of a group of members of the Vilamarxant wine club on their third outing of the year. We were given a very friendly welcome by Maria  who uncorked a bottle of the blanco 2009 as a starter to the tour of the property and it´s vineyards. This white is a fresh easy drinking blend of Chardonnay and Moscatel and is intended for drinking the same year. The grapes are chilled on entry to the bodega and pressed and passed to separate deposits where the wine undergoes  first fermentation. It is then moved to  further deposits to undergo second fermentation before the chardonnay spends time in oak to round out the flavours. It is then blended with the moscatel and bottled, a production of just 6000 bottles. For the 2009 vintage the enologist recommended a little less time in oak than the previous vintage and this has produced a pale golden wine with green flashes. On the nose tropical fruits give way to the structure of the chardonnay in the mouth but it is a delightfully fresh wine, good as an aperitif or for seafood.
The restored Finca.
Maria is keen to exploit the beauty of the property and welcome more visitors to the finca. To this end she is pursuing inclusion in the Ruta del Vino for the finca, a wine tourism initiative set up by the CRDO Alicante and funded by the Valencian government.
We moved into the bodega itself to see the installation and learn more of the winemaking process. Maria and Guillermo showed us the different presses for the red and white grapes and the stainless steel tanks. At this point we tasted the 2009 merlot direct from the vat, a full fruity red with a lot of potential.
The presses inside the bodega.
The red grapes  are brought into the bodega, and the merlot is pumped into a tank. The Cabernet on the other hand is put into older casks and subjected to batonage ( energetic stirring ) several times a day to extract the maximum potential from the grapes. The Merlot undergoes batonage in tanks. The temperature of the fermentation is controlled and the wine undergoes first and second fermentation before moving to barrels. I should say wines because each grape variety and parcel is vinified separately and subjected to crianza separately as well. This is very important as we were to discover later.
Healthy Cabernet Sauvignon grapes developing on the sandy well drained soi l.
Guillermo explained how the different soils impacted on the finished wines and how the Cabernet preferred the sandy well drained soil, the Merlot the red clay soil which holds the moisture well and the white grapes the chalky soil, currently baked and concrete hard and which needs irrigation. Althought the finca employs largely organic methods of production they have not sought biological wine status as yet.
We moved from the bodega with its hand bottling, corking  and labelling machine, which requires three people when in use, to the storage area where wine ready for despatch to the market is kept. Here Maria explained that there were also bottles of the chardonnay and moscatel, vinified separately in 2004, of which more later.
Some of the bottles of red wine awaiting boxing and distribution.
Part of the barrel park in the bodega.
At this point we moved into the barrel park for a tasting of the reds. We started with the 2003 which was popular with the group when they tasted at the Valencia wine and food fair in the spring. There are probably only a few hundred bottles of ths left. The reds are a blend of Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot and Guillermo explained they also hoped to plant a new plot of Monastrell , the regional grape, in the future. Guillermo was also keen to demonstrate the different effect of the soils in each of the parcels and we embarked on a tasting of cask samples from which the 2008 reds will be blended later this year, before bottling and reposing another year before sale.
Maria and the welcome prepared for the tasting!
The first sample was a pure Cabernet Sauvignon. This was garnet in colour, with lovely brambly fruit on the nose which gave way to smooth round fruit, smooth tannins, a perfectly ready wine which could be bottled and released as a monovarietal. This was from the plot nearest the finca. By contrast the next Cabernet sample could not have been more different and ably illustrated Guillermo´s point about terroir. This wine was still a deep red , younger colour despite being from the same vintage. It had longer legs and was much more closed on the nose. On the palate the fruit was more intense with good pepper, great depth, complexity and spices. This was definitely not ready for bottling and was in my opinion a candidate for a separate cuvee and its own label. This wine had potential for long ageing.
The third sample was a pure Merlot, also a deep red colour and both on the nose and in the mouth was a pure plum jam. The final wine  was a merlot with a bit of monastrell. This was deep dark cherry and again had a slightly closed nose. However on the palate a very well structured wine emerged, with coffee, vanilla, toffee and full of black fruit flavours with great body and potential.
Clearly, whatever emerges as the final blend for the red wine ( or wines ) from 2008 the cuvees are full of potential and they should be an instant hit in 2011/2 when they are released to the market. In my humble opinion there were at least 2 cuvees that could be bottled separately and marketed as limited release wines.
Some of the wine club members with Maria and Guillermo 2nd and 3rd left.
And so our visit came to an end, a fabulous trip and welcome at a fascinating bodega with great future potential in the hands of a very friendly couple whose enthusiasm for the project is obvious……..
But then when I arrived home I popped a bottle of each of the 2004 Chardonnay and Moscatel into the fridge to chill, opening them later in the evening when the curiosity got the better of me. From these it was obvious to see how each component plays its part now in the current blend. The moscatel was beginning to show its age, and had a an apple nose and orange marmalade fruit in the mouth belying the onset of oxidisation. Still an interesting wine though, not unpleasant . By comparison the chardonnay was gold in colour, textbook toasty flavours on the nose and in the palate its time in wood and the effect on the structure was evident. A nice typical old chardonnay which contrasted well with what had clearly been a fresh floral and honeyed moscatel in its youth.
I would recommend a visit to the bodega and contact can be made vi e-mail maricarmen@fincacollado.com,  the website is www.fincacollado.com  and there is a facebook page for Bodega Finca Collado as well.
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