Feria del Campo de Villena

Feria del Campo de Villena.
This weekend has seen the I5th Feria take place in the small town of Villena, situated right on the edge of the Valencian Community where it meets Castilla La Mancha and Murcia. The town sits on the N330 the major road that runs from Alicante to Requena up the interior of the province. Within 25km of Villena are the quite separate wine growing areas of Jumilla and Tierra de Castilla and DO Alicante which encompasses Villena and its vineyards sits close to the DO Valencia´s Clariano sub-zone which includes the nearby towns of Fontanars del Alforins, Font de Figuera, Ontinyent, Moixent etc. Perhaps not surprisingly I was expecting a mix of DO´s therefore at the fair. Primarily an agricultural and commercial fair for the area, bodegas only took up a very small percentage of the stands.
Entrance to the Villena Fair.
On arrival and having spent all of 5€on a souvenir tasting glass and tickets the first stand we encountered was that of the Ajuntamiento of Salinas, a neighbouring town in DO Alicante where good friend Mari del Carmen Vega López of Finca Collado was offering the excellent blanco and tinto from this small bodega.
In general, 2010 will be declared an excellent vintage in DO Alicante. Many bodegas have reported bumper harvests with good quality and healthy grapes and Finca Collado is no exception. I attended the harvest of the Chardonnay at Finca Collado earlier this month and Mari Carmen was telling us the Merlot had produced double the quantity this year and that the quality was excellent. Indeed so good that this year 2k litres have been set aside for a rosado and she felt the colour and flavour were already superb. This new wine is made in the same way as the blanco, ie by cold fermentation in stainless steel. The Cabernet Sauvignon was being harvested by husband Guillermo as we spoke and should conclude today.
Mari Carmen in the tasting room at Finca Collado on a recent visit.
Mari Carmen introduced me to a new producer from Salinas, a true `garajista´operating from a small warehouse on the industrial estate in Salinas. Salvador quickly unveiled his new wine and placed a display on a nearby shelf. The bodega consists of just 6 hectares of vines in Salinas and produces just 2500 bottles of a tinto vino de mesa. Carabibas Vendemia Selecianado 2009 and 14.5%ABV from Bodegas Sierra de Cabreras is grown on poor soils ( rocky limestone. )The vines produce less than 2kg of grapes each, harvesting is done by hand, fermentation is temperature controlled and filtration is by gravity.   Having spent several months in French Allier oak the wine has just been bottled and is resting pending release onto the market in November. For the bodega quality is the key and the quality of the wine completely flies in the face of of its lowly `vino de mesa´ qualification. This was a wine with astonishing colour, youthful purple with the colour coating the glass and long slow legs. Made from Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Monastrell the nose was full of beautiful soft red cherry, blackberry and blackcurrants and in the mouth was full of fruit, deep concentrated full, velvety and meaty with a powerful long finish.
This is an astonishly good wine and I look forward to getting my hands on some in the future.  Salvador is very proud of his new wine and I look forward to visiting him shortly.
Carabibas Vendimia Selecionada from Bodegas Sierra de Cabras. 
The village of Caudete is just 16 km from Villenas and 6km inside Castillo La Mancha. Noelia and Rafael gave me an excellent introduction both to their wines and to the property itself. Bodegas Santa Margarita is a family business dedicated to vineyards and wine. The company brings together the vineyards, ( about a hundred hectares ) a garden centre, animal centre with exotic varieties such as llamas and ostriches and can accomodate horseriding as well! They have an entry level range of wines called Casa Lillo and a higher quality range called Hoya Hermosa (HH). It was from this latter range we tasted.
The HH Blanco 2009 is a blend of Chardonnay and Moscatel. 12.5%ABV. Despite having seen no oak the wine is pale old gold in colour, clean bright and with long legs. The colour I suspect is due to an early onset of a touch of oxidisation though this did not affect the nose or the palate. After an initial whiff of sulphur, easily dissipated with a good swirl of the glass, the nose was full of fresh fruit, apples,  lychees amongst the light tropical notes and a slightly sweet note at the end. On the palate it is refreshing showing nicely balanced acidity with a fruity flavour and good light tannins.It has a long finish.
Second wine was the HH Rosado, 2009 from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 13.5%ABV this is a lovely strawberry colour with a watery rim and long legs. On the nose this was spicy, with red fruits and after a short while the licqorice notes from the syrah emerged. In the mouth red and whitecurrant fruits, fresh acid with a lovely balance quite rich with a long dry finish. Quite a different rosado but very nice and at around 3€ a bottle very good value. The 2008 vintage won the Bronze medal at the Palma de Mallorca fair and the GP for Spanish rosado wines in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Noelia with a selection of wines from Bodegas Santa Margarita.
Third wine from this bodega was the HH Merlot 2009, 14% ABV and also Vino de Tierra de Castillo.
This was an intense deep purple youthful colour with long legs , floral and expressive on the nose. On the palate black fruits, fruits of the forest, spicy and minerally with rich smooth tannins, good structure and potential.
Next was the signature red, the HH Petit Verdot 2006 and 14.5% ABV. A deep garnet red with long slow legs it was intense on the nose with plum jam, loganberries, balsamic notes and licquorice. This has spent 11 months in French oak, on the palate it is dry, tannic and with concentrated fruit, black fruits, meaty, smooth tannins with a powerful persistent finish. This powerful concentrated wine sells for 18€ a bottle but is up there with the quality wines of that price.
Villena has its own Cooperative, Nuestra Señora de Las Virtudes, an agricultural and wine coop founded in 1961 with 129 members. The bodega was enlarged in 1972 and bought large barrels for the elaboration of Fondillon, the historical `Alacant´one of the first wines exported to London in the 18th century and a rancio or solera wine in style.
In the 90’s the bodega took with the introduction of new techniques and investment in quality. Itvoffers a wide range of wine styles just some of which I sampled.
First was the Vinopaló Esencia del Mediterraneo, a white wine blended from 50% each of Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel. 12%ABV, DO Alicante 2009. Pale gold, clean and bright on the nose there is good fruit, fresh with honey and peaches. On the palate nice fresh acidity good fruit and perfectly balanced, with a dry long finish with fruity, honeyed afternotes. Very much in the Alicante style the Sauvignon adds both fruit and acid to this wine which was very enjoyable.
By contrast there is a drier white 2009, made from 80% Macabeo and 20% Sauvignon blanc. 11% ABV this was pale lemon in colour clean bright and with good legs. On the nose a touch of wet wool, and in the mouth clean, fresh, bone dry with a persistent long finish.
Third wine was the 100% Monastrell 2009 14% ABV the joven style wine has spent between 4-6 months in American oak. This is a bright cherry of medium density, with a nice fruity nose, in the mouth more expressive than the nose hints at. This is a young fruity easy drinking wine. Very quaffable.
Fourth wine tasted was the 2006 Crianza, 80% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%ABV which has spent 12 months in barrica. Garnet of medium density and with long legs, this had cherries, plums and a slight farmyardy smell
 In the mouth full fruit, nice smooth tannins and a long fruity finish. Very nice.
In  contrast to the pure Petit Verdot tasted earlier, the fifth wine from this bodega was also 100 Petit Verdot from 2007 and 14%ABV . This has spent 4 months in French oak. A Medium cherry red, with nice long legs,on the nose toasty, boiled sweets a little syrup even, and olives. In the mouth a fruity lighter style, with a good long finish.
We had hoped to taste the Fondillon but this was not available.
Esencia del Metiterraneo and Monastrell from Villena´s coop. 
 Finally we tasted two wines from the new bodega Vinessens. Situated in Villena, Marta Ribera Hernández the winemaker was showing two wines at the fair.
First was the 100% Chardonnay , fermented in barrel, from the 2009 vintage, Vinessens is 14% ABV. Hand selected and picked, with one day of maceration at 8 degrees before fermentation and raising in new French
 oak for 4 months with batonnage weekly. This process produces a light clean gold wine with green flashes and long legs.Elegant on the nose with patisserie and toasty flavours which open with the wine. In the mouth fruity, herby and balanced with light touches of wood, balanced but quite rich with a good finish. Selling for just under 9€ a bottle this was a quality chardonnay.
Sein 2008 is a tinto, 60% Monastrell and 40% Syrah and 14.5%ABV, and following manual selection undergoes 15 days of maceration with skins and pips before secondary fermentation and 6 months crianza in new French and American oak. The wine is neither fitered nor clarified. Cherry red with a purple edge of medium density and long legs. On the nose nice black fruit,spice, minerals, with toasty notes and chocolate. On the palate nicely balanced tannins with complexity, from mature fruit, easy to drink with a long full finish.
This is a bodega to watch and I hope to see the wines shortly in Valencia. 
Marta Ribera Hernández ( right) of Vinessens with their two wines.
This fair although predominantly agricultural offered an opportunity to taste wines from different producers but sadly the 2pm closing interfered with the opportunity to taste wines from the remaining 2 bodegas. Nonetheless the producers were all very friendly and enthusiastic to show their wines and invite visits. I hope to visit again next year and that there will be more bodegas, this year only seven participated against the 14 in previous fairs.
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