A Tasting of the Best Wines from Castellon Province.

Maritina Hernández - Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Historically Castellon Province was a source of huge amounts of exported wines and in the 18th and 19th centuries produced wines to bolster Claret, sent 46% of its wine to London, Dublin, Gibraltar and Guernsey but by the turn of the  1900´s wine making had collapsed. Much of this was due to the arrival of phylloxera but winemaking never really recovered and what spark there was snuffed out by legislation forbidding the use of hybrid grapes. Much of the wine making areas saw their vines abandoned and by 1998 there were just 1238 hectares of vineyard land left.

Joan Piquera´s  totemic book `The coming of Bachus-The wines of Valencia´ published in 2000  dedicates barely a handful of pages to this important wine growing area; PROAVA´s  ( The Governments Wine and Food promotion body ) guide for 2010 included just one producer of alcohol, The Rutas del Vino en España ignores the area completely.

 The fight back has started with a vengeance! Yesterday the Association of Summilleres of Castellon held the second fair dedicated to promoting the wines of the Province. Credit the Valencian Government who sent Minister of Agriculture Maritina Hernández to open it. She has not been slow to attack the Spanish Government for its failure to support the wine industry, one of the most important to the economy and has identified the challenge as linking the quality of wine from Valencia as a whole to the prestige of the Community.

A major part of that challenge is to gain recognition within Valencia for it´s own wines, so often supplanted by wines from other zones on restaurant wine lists. The Minister was not the only person there ready and willing to help promote wines from Castellon as part of that initiative.  Antonio Vergara, Levante´s food writer , gastronaut supreme and author of the Guide to Valencian Gastronomy attended as did fellow wine writers Juan Manuel Gonzalvo, Miguel Anguel Jorda ( both sumilleres )  and John Maher.


Juan Manuel Gonzalvo and Miguel Angel Jorda

 The fair brought together  some 14 bodegas, together with a range of wines from the main growing areas, such as they are. I had set myself a task this year to learn more about the wines of Castellon and had barely commenced upon the journey with the recent visit to Bodegas Flors of Les Useres. I was somewhat  surprised and delighted to be given an opportunity to try to complete it in one session at this fair!

Held in the Casino Antiguo gardens in the centre of Castellon itself the fair was another of those friendly affairs with the producers falling over themselves to be helpful, describe their operations and issue invitations to come and visit soon!
The organisers clearly had it in mind that the Minister was going to taste a lot of the wines before formally opening the fair! Once the rest of us could get started I visited the stand of Bodegas y Viñedos Baron d´Alba from Les Useres and home to Clos d´esgarracordes.
First wine was a Macabeo 2010 from vines with more than 50 years of age. José Luis Sánchez the winemaker explained the harvest and winemaking processes with the care and dedication to ensuring quality at all stages so evident in winemaking across the Community.  The wine had a good yellow colour, was clear and bright. On the nose there was nice concentrated fruit, pineapple and mango and in the mouth the wine displayed a roundness already with good balance between a surprisingly full and fruity wine with good acidity making it round. If anything the finish was a little short but this is because the wine had been bottled for the show and is still actually in deposit!

Clos d´esgarracordes and artwork on the new lables.

  Second wine was the Rosado also 2010 and from deposit. This was a blend of 50% each of Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon. A good deep rose and strawberry colour the nose was a little closed with a hint of sulphur. However in the mouth it was full with a touch of spritz from the maceración carbonica giving a fruity wine a bite! This was also round , very nice and with a touch of lychees.
The tinto 2008 Barrica is a half crianza wine with 6 months in wood. A blend of 60% Tempranillo, 30% Merlot and 10% Monastrell , it like the two previous wines has scored 87 in the Penin guide.
Nice ruby-red with long slow legs, medium density it is very fruity and round , nicely balanced with soft smooth tannins and a touch of chocolate, vanilla and toasts from the barrel..an easy drinker!
Star wine from the bodega is the Clos d`esgarracordes 2006 from Tempranillo 40%, Merlot 30% and 15% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This has won a bronze medal at the International Wine challenge. Mature cherry red, deep and intense with long legs. On the nose black fruit jams with mature fruit, plum cherry and blackcurrant. In the mouth nicely structured, smooth, round, balanced with good fruit, tannins which give it body and a meaty long finish. 89 points in Penin and a very good wine!

Señorío de Villafames.

 Next I moved to the stand of Señorio de Villafames and their dosdecopas presentation. As well as a selection of wines from the property they were promoting a four bottle tasting box of monovarietals which would provide sufficient for a small group to try.

First I tried the monovarietal Chardonnay 12.5%  ABV. Pale lemon, clear and bright this had good pineapple and tropical fruit on the nose. It was full and round in the mouth and proved a popular wine with many present. Second wine was a Pago de Mas Nou, tinto, 2006 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. This was a nice cherry red, medium density and with long legs. Initially a touch woody on the nose in the mouth it was light and fruity, an easy drinker. A bodega to come back to after a visit.
Next I was advised to try the wine from di vinos y viña, a small new bodega from Segorbe in the Alt Palancia comarca. A young winery and a young wine, 2009  Joven from 100% Tempranillo with three months in French oak and 7 months in bottle. Bright purple with long legs and clearly high glycerine levels. On the nose still a little closed, but as it opened good fruit, vanilla and cream. In the mouth young fresh and fruity, well-balanced and very interesting. One for an early visit to see how the bodega progresses!
Next bodega was El Rosso, known to us at Vino-Valencia where they presented their Macabeo last year. From 2008 and oak aged. Enologist Eloy Haya Robolleda, an experimental winemaker who is behind Bodegas Haya in Requena as well as Viña Natur helps this small family vineyard from La Barona, near to Vall d´Alba. The Macabeo Esperit is straw yellow, almost gold in colour, a result of its time in wood. On the nose toasts, vanilla and tropical fruits. In the mouth nice acidity balanced with the fruit welcomes you back for another mouthful of this full-bodied wine.

Bodegas El Rosso Esperit.

I liked this very much when I first tried it in September last year and nothing has changed since then. However the reds, 2008 pure Syrah and the 2009 also pure syrah are also superb wines! The 2008 is deep cherry red, obscure, with good long legs. On the nose a touch of wood, nice deep fruit, liquorice and in the mouth wonderful smoky syrah, jammy fruit and more liquorice! I loved this!
The 2009 is younger, a deep cherry red with much more violet around the edge and good legs. On the nose boiled fruits and whilst these were not quite so evident on the palate this is a full wine with abundant fruit trying to get out and nice tannins. It will be a wonderful wine!
We moved on to Bodegas Bocoi from Benlloch, who were showing two wines. The first was a joven 2009 Vi Negre at 13% ABV.

Bocoi wines from Agrotaula.


 The wines were being shown by José Vicente Bernat head of sales at  Agrotaula on behalf of the bodega. The vi negre was light cherry red with a touch of violet at the edge. On the nose the red and black fruits were abundantly obvious with a touch of boiled fruit sweets.In the mouth those full fruity and boiled sweet flavours were well evident. The wine is a blend of Tempranillo, 30% Monastrell 30% and 40% of cabernet Sauvignon.
Top wine of the two is Arrels de Bocoi 2008. This was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon a little deeper in colour and with long legs colouring the glass. At 14% ABV it has spent 6 months in Hungarian oak.  A little closed initially on the nose, as it opens there are hints of plum and green pepper. In the mouth it is very fruity , with smooth tannins  and a long round finish.
I first met José Manuel Molina of Vega Palancia from Azuébar last April in the Valencia wine and food fair in the dry river bed where he and other Castellon producers were taking the revival on the road. He was showing two wines at the Castellon fair, his 2005 Vino Palancia tinto and 2006 Tinto Vega Palancia.

Bodegas Vega Palancia.

  The 2006 is Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha and 13.5% ABV. A very deep dark red, with long legs. On the nose jammy red and black fruit and in the mouth full, jammy a wine which passes easily across the palate, smooth and very nice! The 2005 Vega Palancia also 13.5% ABV and from the same blend of wines. More garnet in colour with good legs, the nose is more open and the red and black fruit more mature with vanilla and a touch of oaky toastiness. In the mouth full, fruity and perfectly balanced. One of my favourite wines on the day!
And of course next stand to this was Ismael San Juan of bodegas San Juan from Viver. He was showing the 2007 tinto barrica and 2010 joven. Ismael had also been part of the Castellon wines delegation in April and his wines were well received then The 2007 tinto barrica is 50% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ruby red with good legs and deep. On the nose complex, full, fruity and spicy with a touch of cinnamon. In the mouth full, fruity, round and deep with a long full satisfying finish. The joven was different and full of promise. A medium cherry red, with emerging fruit on the nose in the mouth boiled fruits sweets, young and needing time.
We also tried great wines from L ´Alcalaten, a superb Macabeo 2010 , a Macabeo Chardonnay blend and a 2007 Crianza from Tempranillo, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, the former full of freshness and the latter which will hit the market in summer full of jammy fruit.
Other wines from the fair worthy of note were the whole range from Viñya Natur ( Les Useres ) the Cooperative at Almedijar ( Alcovi) and Mayo Garcia whose Magnanimus warrant further investigation and visits. 2011 could be very busy as what shone clearly from this fair is that what is described as a `residual area´( which I think means what is left) is far from dead with some real revival taking place. Castellon has a great deal to offer the Valencian wine scene and it is hoped it retains it´s identity and moves from strength to strength! I predict this fair could be bigger still next year given the quality of  genuinely fruity easy to drink quality wines being made. No need for this to continue to be a forgotten area of wine production!
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  • John Maher  On January 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    It was a fun event, as you say. Little-known wines that are full of surprises and made with dedication by enthusiasts who for a long time were voices in the wilderness. Good to have the event open to the public and see the people of Castellón enjoy their local wines, which many of them won’t have known much about. I wish the wineries would provide fuller info on where to get hold of their wines. Please pass the word on if you know relevant stockists.

  • micheal hennelly  On February 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    v good info.
    going over in may, need to know areas on map would you have that
    regards michael

    • rikiwigley  On February 4, 2011 at 12:47 am

      Hi Michael, Yes I can let you have details about locations across Valencia, eg from Castellon to Alicante. Contact me nearer the time with any specific locations you want or if you would like a tailor made visit arranging.


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