A Tasting of Vinos Alicante


Vinos Alicante Stand at Lo Mejor de Gastronomia

Lo Mejor de Gastronomia is the professionals gourmet fair and is held in the modern exhibition centre near Alicante airport each year. Kindly invited by one of the exhibitors this was my first visit to this giant show. A mecca for the public and hotel and restaurant trade one could spend four days here and not have time to try everything on offer, whether it is wine or food, cookery demonstrations etc. On the Sunday I went for example there were twenty seven tastings including Valencian cheeses, cooking with olive oil, jamons,  foie gras with Valencian sweet wines and displays of cooking by various chefs from top restaurants not just from Valencia but including also Tokyo, Croatia, Italy and Switzerland!

Vinos Alicante, the DO for the southern province of Valencia took a giant stand and invited a host of bodegas to exhibit, not to mention allowing us all an opportunity to taste and compare wines from across a good range of producers.
So setting aside the temptations provided by a host of gourmet food producers we set about a comprehensive tasting within the time available!
First bodega was Heretat de Cecilia, a three hundred year old bodega in Novelda which has only been producing wine in the modern manner since a restructuring in 2000. With 30 hectares of vines the bodega produces a range of wines including two whites, a rosado and two reds. They are already prize winning wines with Ad Gaude , the top red named as best red wine in Spain in 2008 by Mundovino and several silvers and bronzes at other competitions.
We started with the rosado 2009, 13.6 ABV and 85% Merlot and 15% Monastrell, the regional grape variety. This is a wine I had tried before at a Vino-Valencia event and remembered the  pale onion skin colour reminiscent of wines from the South of France. On the nose a few floral notes and in the mouth this wine has a nice strawberry fruit, is quite smooth, unctuous even, it´s long finish very agreeable and inviting a second taste. A very easy drinker in a smart bottle with good presentation. With its reputation before it we moved straight to the AD Gaude 2006. 70% Monastrell, 15% each of Syrah and Petit Verdot and 15.5% ABV this is quite a potent wine. Following a 10 day cold maceration the must was fermented using autoctonal yeasts, in stainless steel. A lovely deep black cherry in colour with a violet edge on the nose the overwhelming sensation was black olive and cinnamon and in the mouth smooth tannins, very round, elegant with a good structure. This a big wine destined for a long life ( the bodega believes up to 15 years) and will match game, old cheeses and sausages.

Representatives from Bodegas Xalo and Sierra Salinas

Bocopa is a group of bodegas from the towns of Cañada, Castalla, Ibi, Petrer, Sax and La Romana
The bodega unites some 1500 growers from this area, producing wines from Monastrell, Garnacha, Cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Petit verdot and Garnacha in red and Macabeo, Chardonnay and Moscatel de Alejandria from the 1500 hectares they control.
Probably best known for the popular white, Marina Alta they actually produce a huge range of wines, crianzas, monovarietals an espumosa and their Alacanta range is available from Consum.
I want to visit sometime and have a longer look at this range so on this occasion I treated myself to the Orujo, a fine aguardiente made from Moscatel. I love these single variety digestifs and this was elegant , fragrant  with the soft nose hiding the  fiery spirit which warms you up instantaneously! Selling at about 10€ for a half litre bottle this is one to add to the collection as soon as I can find it!
The wines from Val de Xaló  or the bodega of the Poor Virgin also represents a collection of towns , in this case Xaló, Lliber and Alcanali with some 400 members, 400 hectares and has been producing for about 50 years. They also grow, Monastrell, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. These are wines I have used for tastings but on this occasion they had a fine selection of their Mistelas, fine sweet wines to try and given the rare opportunity we snapped it up.
First wine was the Roblé, Mistela, 100% Garnacha and 15% ABV. To the eye a youthful purple, ( though it has to be said we were competing with the strange choice of disco lighting on the stand ) with long legs. On the nose unmistakably black olive ( something we were to note quite a few times during this tasting ) but in the mouth light black fruit, then quite full with concentrated pomegranate jammy fruit, then boiled sweets A complex fun wine for nuts, cheese etc and one to watch out for. Next from the same range was the Roblé 100% Moscatel and 13%ABV. Old gold with long legs and bright gold flashes, on the nose orange flowers then marmalade. In the mouth orange flowers, and honey. For cakes and almond tarts.
 Thirdly we were offered the younger style Mistela from Moscatel. This was much lighter in colour and on the nose more honey and apricot predominated. In the mouth a gentler smooth honeyed flavour came through. Nice and useful with patés etc. As a special treat the Riu Rau, legendary Vino de Licor was produced. This was not quite what we had expected. From grapes which have been either partially dried or left to dry on the vines and picked late this wine was beyond old gold , almost brown in colour. On the nose concentrated sultanas and raisins which turned to Xmas pudding in the mouth. This is a complex, concentrated wine with an astonishing finish and worth driving to Alicante to taste on its own!

Marta Ribera Hernández and two vintages of Seins.

   Vinessens, the Villena bodega is too new to have made it into the Anuario de Vinos de Alicante 2010, one of the most useful reference guides produced. However Marta the winemaker  was exhibiting the two wines from the bodega when I visited Villena for the Feria del Campo in late September ( see earlier post ). The Vinessens chardonnay fermentado en barrica and the Seins tinto both from 2008 are firm favourites already and this is a new bodega to watch. Marta had with her the 2009 Tinto seins, not yet bottled but ready to sample. 50% Monastrell, 40% Cabernet sauvignon and 10% Syrah this is a very deep youthful purple, which colours the glass, and not unexpectedly was quite restrained on the nose with just a little black fruit and a hint of balsamics edging out. In the mouth though this young wine was quite unrestrained, potential, powerful and with smooth tannins it is already quite round. This is going to be a very good wine when it is released and one with potential to keep for some time!

I have never written about the wines from Francisco Gomez Bodegas but Joaquín Manuel Lorente Cánovas kindly showed us three wines from their range. An extremely pretty bodega surrounded by vines in the style of a French chateau there are some 6000m2  of buildings including a chapel and crypt, as well as beautiful gardens.
They grow Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo as well as Monastrell, cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Graciano. They hold 1300 oak barrels 80% of which are French oak and produce some 300k bottles a year, 90% of which is sold within Spain. ( Fricarne sell some of the Fruto Noble and Moratillas ranges for example. And it was with the Fruto Noble 2009 sauvignon blanc at 12% ABV we started.
Pale lemon, green flashes and clear and bright with long legs. On the nose the wonderful characteriscs of the variety shone through. Cats pee, elderflowers and gooseberry fruit abound giving a fresh but complex nose. In the mouth fresh with nice acidity good fruit ( grapefruit ) and a long satisfying aftertaste.  The Boca Negra 2006 and 14.5% ABV is a monovarietal, 100% Monastrell. Deep cherry , purple, with long legs. On the nose cherry and damson jam, quite mature fruit, with hints of spice in a complex nose. In the mouth full, round, balanced, lots of spice, white pepper and black fruit Full bodied, well structured and with a long finish….very nice wine.
The Serrata 2005 at 14% ABV is a blend , 40% Merlot, 30% Petit Verdot, and 20% each of Cabernet sauvignon and 10% Monastrell. This has spent 14 months in new French Oak and then 12 months in bottle before release. Ruby red with long legs, on the nose a little oak, blackberry and blueberry. In the mouth round , balanced, complex with an elegant long finish. Nice wine.

Helena Velasco of DanielBelda and Mari-Carmen from Finca Collado

Although I have visited Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, some 5 years ago with Verema I have never seen the wines at fairs before. This is one of Alicantes flagship bodegas, ( Veremas best bodega in Spain in 2007 )  Pepe Mendoza being a renowned flying winemaker ( New Zealand and Argentina )  and I have also used some of these wines in tastings. An ecologic and biodynamic outfit, with terroir being very important these wines are renowned throughout Spain.

We began with Estrecho, 2005 and Monastrell, 14% ABV and Tinto crianza. Ruby red of medium density and long legs. On the nose a little blackberry, complex, elegant, fresh and in the mouth, warm, full, round but quite tangy with a hint of cloves. A different Monastrell and one I like very much. The Dolç de Mendoza sells for about 19€ a bottle. It is from 2004, and a blend of Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Monastrell.  15.5% ABV and a wonderful colour with long legs. On the nose black olives, red fruit jam, black fruits and spices and balsamics all compete harmoniously and in the mouth balanced, meaty, some tannin but creamy. A truly complex sweet red that is wonderful.
Finally we tasted the Vino dulce Natural, the sweet white wine from Moscatel and 15% ABV. 11€ a 50cl bottle. A paler lemon colour, clean and bright with long legs, this is a legendary wine with a huge ageing potential if looked after. On the nose honey , flowers, mandarine and minerals from the clay-like, chalky soils on which the vines grow. In the mouth complex, well structured elegant with hints of mandarine, a touch of oak, a wine for an aperitif or a range of puddings.

David Carbonell , Bodegas, Vins del Comtat

  I first met David Carbonell at the feria in  the Turia  in April of this year and was unable to get back to the fair to write a piece at the time. This was the first time since that our paths had crossed again and he generously showed a good selection of wines from Vins del Comtat, producers of 8 wines two of which are already award winners.

We started with the Verdeval 2009, a vino blanco seco joven from Moscatel, Macabeo and Chardonnay. 12.5% ABV this a fresh, approachable well made wine, nicely balanced fruit and fresh acidity combine to give a herby fresh and dry wine which summons you back for more! Sadly the 2008 Viognier was sold out so we moved to the Penya Cadiella Seleció a 2003 Tinto crianza with 13.5% ABV and from Monastrell, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz , Tempranillo and Giró ( garnacha).
A good, intense red, with long legs, on the nose nice blackberry fruit, with minerals, tobacco and a hint of cedar. In the mouth creamy and smooth, expressive and elegant.
Third wine was the Montcabrer, Tinto crianza, Cabernet sauvignon but without DO. 14% ABV. To the eye, black cherry colour, and on the nose intense black fruits, spice, cinnamon and in the mouth very full and round, sweet tannins and a very nice wine!
The Crystal.li is a Vino dulce Natural from Moscatel with 14%ABV. This is a wine which has found a niche in many restaurants . A fine and elegant wine with citrus notes and residual sweetness. First tasted at a vino-valencia event earlier in the year it is easy to see why this wine has won two awards already. By contrast the Maigmó, is a tinto dulce from Monastrell which has spent four months in French and American oak. This also has floral notes and solid mature fruit and in the mouth hints of honey and a nutural acidity which balances the wine perfectly!
Bodegas Salvador Povedor can be found in the Sierra Salinas. The bodega is most famous for its Fondillon, based on the historic `Alacant´some of the first wines shipped from Spain to the UK in the 1700´s! But more of them later. The bodega also produces a range of other wines including a light fresh table wine from Riesling and  Rosella, which is a rosado from Monastrell and Bobal. 12% ABV, and just 2.50€ a bottle this is a pale rose colour, floral with a hint of liquorice sweets, on the palate minerals and fresh acidity. However it lacked a bit of fruit.
The  Fondillon 87  Gran Reserva 17% ABV and  one of the winners of the most awards. Some 9000 bottles were produced in large ( 1700 ) litre barrels. This is a long aged wine from a single vintage and not a solera.  Golden in colour with copper hints, on the nose complex with nuts, yeasts, turron, toffee and balsamicos in the mouth there are also dried grapes, sultanas, and dried figs. Beautiful balance and a fresh acidity gives a wine with a long finish and slightly sweet.
But if that was good the Sacristia is a miracle still happening!  From pure Monastrell and 16.5%ABV this is the top Fondillon produced by the bodega. It is a mere 90€ a bottle. Quite light in colour, belying its age, it has a subtle complex nose with toasted hazelnuts, marmalade, much more like an aged sherry. In the mouth it is initially dry and nutty before the peach notes kick in and some of the complex flavours from the nose. Long, immensely satisfying and a real treat!
Finally we caught up with Fernando Coca Calvo, Technical Director of Bodegas Sierra de Cabreras who produce the limited Carabibas  also first tasted at the Villena fair. This wine is now on the market for about 12€ a bottle. Do not expect the 2500 bottles to last long!
This was a wonderful opportunity to assess a range of wine styles from the Alicante province. Credit is due to the DO for it´s well organised central stand which permitted us to have a perfect day.
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