L´Alcúdia, Gastronomy Fair 2011. (Feria de Gastronomia.)


Bright Poster For This Years Fair!

Well, the Gods are almost smiling on L´Alcúdia this year. Certainly the sun is shining on this 5 day long fair of food and wine even if the organisers have chosen to ignore the one piece of advice given last year. You really cannot call it a Gastronomy Fair and expect people to try serious wines  from a squat water-glass! They are pants!

I would like to think that as a punishment for this, Valencia day fell on the  Sunday so the expected Bank Holiday Monday crowd  did not materialise  making it  a working day and the turnout was thus very low for the morning session.

All the better for the rest of us!

This fair always attracts some interesting Bodegas showing wines and top quality cheese producers, ( this year Quesos de Cati, Romero  and Granya Rinya) olives, proper bread cooked in a wood fired oven, bacalao ( salt cod sides ) with some of the thickest pieces I have ever seen, fruit, especially kakis which are grown in the zone and the housewives associations with their typical local produce which makes this a serious contender for the best of the `gastronomy fairs´ challenging Utiel´s which is held at the end of the month.

For the first session we concentrated on some of the bodegas and started with Celler La Muntanya from Muro, the only bodega in the Valencian Community entirely surrounded by mountains, made up of a number of parcels of recovered vineyard and with very small parcels belonging to 30 different growers. The vineyard is a microviña that is to say it has to meet four strict criteria and all the wines are Vino de autor rather than within DO rules. Amongst these criteria are making wine from regional grape varieties in an entirely ecological way and promoting them locally.

Juan Vicent of Celler La Muntanya.

Alicantino Gustavo Pascual was a mini-fundista, fully behind this small scale production and is perhaps better known for writing `Paquito el Chocolatero´the pasadoble played at every festive occasion in Spain……look it up on Youtube, my favourite version is the South American regaeton take on the tune by King Africa!

Which neatly brings us to the first wine tasted, Paquito el Chocolatero, Muro Negre 2009 14.5% ABV and `low in alcohol´as Juan Vicent, Director of the group would have had us believe! A medium density brilliant, cherry red wine , with long legs…..well they would have been in a proper glass….on the nose a little restrained, but in the mouth full of red fruit, good body, dry but with a long fruity finish and well-integrated.

From Monastrell, Garnacha Pais and Garnacha tintorera, the wine has had separate vinification with the Garnacha pais having six months crianza in a 40 hl cube of french oak, the Monastrell six months on its lees in stainless steel and the Garnacha Tintorera six months in French oak barrels of second and third use.

Second wine was the Celler la Muntanya, 14% ABV and a blend of Monastrell, the two Garnachas, Bobal and Bonicaire with the Bobal and Monastrell being picked later in November.

Also a brilliant cherry red, of medium density this was quite light on the nose with cherry, red and black fruits of the forest and blackberries whilst in the mouth morello cherry predominated with a final hint of citrus, ( grapefruit ) and a hint of minerality. Long satisfying finish.

Finally we tasted the Almaroig which means pasture in old Arabic. 14.5%ABV and a blend of 70% Monastrell with Garnacha this has had about 13 months in crianza and allegedly can be left open for up to a fortnight quietly improving as it aerates. This was a much deeper black cherry with a floral nose, particularly of violets  which in the mouth convert to full on black fruits, a lovely wine with great depth and power and length.

The bodega also produces two whites and sweet wine which were not available to taste….a visit is on the cards.

Suitably impressed we crossed the boulevard to the stall of Che Que Foie the Navarres Foie Gras producer `sin pareil´ which I have written about before and where we tasted the foie with red wine, foie with figs and the straight foie. I know what will be on the menu on Xmas day!

Belda´s 2011 Verdil and Rosat!

Now, one of the reasons for visiting this fair is that Bodega Daniel Belda regularly attends and launches both the new vintages of Verdil, a grape which he is credited with saving from extinction and their Rosat. This year once again Helena Velasco,  comercial at the bodega was present to enjoy a tasting with us having just returned from  a sales trip to Canada!

Last year the 2010 Verdil had only just been bottled and still had that hint of electricity that wine sometimes has after bottling from stainless steel. It also had a slightly sulphury nose which disappeared with a swirl or two of the glass. No problem as this wine is completely sold out! The 2011 on the other hand is clean, brilliant, pale yellow with good legs. On the nose the flowers and fruit are  much more pronounced and ripe with gooseberry, elderflower and amongst the tropicals ripe passion fruit. In the mouth crisp, dry with a good minerality. Lovely, already better than the 2010 this is going straight on to  the buying list.

The Rosat 2011 was a surprise. Firstly it was not Merlot, but rather Pinot Noir and secondly there are only around 1200 bottles so get in quick! A pale strawberry colour, with raspberry on the nose this has a strawberry flavour in the mouth but is drier and less full than last years Merlot, crisp minerally and very satisfying!

We also tasted new vintages of Pinot Noir 2010, Shiraz 2007 and the Migjoorn 2007 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha Tintorera before the top wine, the Ca Belda, which is Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell, 14% ABV and very full, round, deep with good body. A truly great flagship wine from this excellent bodega in Fontanars.

In need of some food we went to try the cheeses from Granya Rinya who are based in Valencia and who have been operating since 1991 but with a history of activity going back more than 100 years. They produce traditional Valencian cheeses and are part of the Valencian Cheese Producers Association. These cheeses may be from cows milk, goats milk or sheep’s milk and all are made in the artesanal style , some using the traditional molds which give the cheeses their distinctive shapes! Soft fresh cheeses and Requeson, in Barra style, semi-cured cheeses with a mix of milk and pure sheeps milk aged cheeses, fresh and rolled goats cheeses, and pure cured goats milk cheeses such as curado or servilletta. And the company also make puddings such as `burnt tart´, cheesecakes, chocolate tarts, bio-yoghurts and much more. Soon there will be an on-line shop to make life easier!

Wines From Torrevellisca.

I first came across the wines of Torrevellisca at the fair in Ontinyent some two years ago but have not seen them around since. The bodega which is also in Fontanars was created in its modern format in 1993 to bring together the 28 members who make up the Co-op although the history going back to 1880 sounds much more interesting. A visit is imminent so some of this history will wait for that post.

Since my last encounter the bodega has undergone a change of management and style. I remember competent pleasant wines. This time I found some real pleasures, worthy of inclusion in serious tastings! Rafael Penadès showed us the wines.

First up was the white, Palacio de Torrevellisca, a blend of Verdil, Macabeo and Verdejo. 2010, a blanco joven this was yellow, with golden flashes, clean and bright. On the nose apple and banana and in the mouth fresh, balanced, fresh fruit , easy to drink with a long satisfying finish.

There are three new reds, worthy of full comment and new to the scene with the new management and style. These are Brundisium, Argentum and Aurum.

Brundisium is a 2008, Crianza with a blend of 50% Tempranillo, and 25% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The crianza was 20 months in a mix of French and American oak. The wine is purple, intense and deep with long legs…….the bodega thoughtfully produced more sensible tasting glasses! On the nose powerful, mature fruit, a little hint of the crianza and balsamics. In the mouth well-balanced and well structured with a long oaky finish.

Argentum, 2009 and a crianza of 15 months in French and American oak is 50% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. An intense and deep black cherry colour the crianza hits you straight away with soft coffee-cream aromas, vanilla, red fruits and spices ( clove and nutmeg). In the mouth smooth, smooth tannins, nice soft fruit and a long satisfying oaky finish. Strong contender for Xmas lunch with the turkey!

The Aurum 2009, also a crianza of just 12 months is 50% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This wine is a bright ruby-red colour, deep intensity and with long glycerinous legs. On the nose black cherries vie with  violets and orange peel. In the mouth the wine has a complexity, good length, is very full, unctuous, with smooth and pleasant tannins. Well integrated.

One of the great pleasures of fairs like this is to find a brand new bodega….and La Encina met this criteria! Describing themselves as new Artesans of wine this entirely ecological vineyard has vineyards in Almansa and Caudete in La Mancha, and Villena en Alicante and sits around that border we covered in the last post.

Bodegas La Encina.

The wines are called Cero, ( nothing to do with a lack of alcohol), Albalat and Rojoydulce for the sweet wine.

I had the pleasure of tasting five wines just before the session closed.

The Rosado ( there is no white although they do have some Forcallet which can make a white!)) is a pure Monastrell, with good colour and cherry  and raspberry nose which in the mouth displayed lovely fruit, balanced acidity and is worth another go!

The Cero, with 10 months in both barrel and then bottle, is a blend of Merlot, Monastrell, Garnacha and Forcallet and from 2008. this had good legs, and was a medium density cherry red, on the nose cherry fruit and in the mouth the cherry was morello, with good depth, nicely balanced. ç

The Albalat green label Tinto Roble is 80% Monastrell and 20% Merlot and 13% ABV. Again bright young cherry red in colour, this has had three months in barrica and three in bottle. On the nose quite light cherry then freshness. In the mouth a very enjoyable fresh young wine with lots of fruit!

By contrast the Albalat crianza has had eight months in barrica and eight months in bottle. Also 13%ABV this is 90% Monastrell. The wine presented almost turbio with deposit as it has had the minimum filtration and therefore needs decanting. On the nose red and black fruits, smoke, and in the mouth black fruits with nicely balancing acidity but a little bit more  tannin, though smooth.

The sweet wine, Rojoydulce, is like a ratafia from champagne or a vino amable. With 13.5% ABV the fermentation has been stopped by the addition of pure alcohol to preserve the natural sugars. It too has a cloudiness reminiscent of ratafia. Perfect with Pates and Foie Gras this wine is sweet and grapey.

Olives, Antonio Moreno.

Preserved olives for aperitifs are a huge favourite here in Valencia and you can also buy onions, capers and artichokes preserved in brine or vinegar to decorate salads or add to dishes as well. It was at the stall of Olives, Antonio Moreno from San Antonio where we bought our thick sides of salted cod, which will be used for ajoarriero ( the fabulous cod and potato dish with garlic and boiled eggs ) served on chunks of bread and one of the great dishes of Utiel-Requena and la Mancha, or bacalao vizcaina, ( Basque cod) served desalted then cooked with fresh tomatos and parsley and to my preference with star anis, ( or fennel or Ricard) to liven it up a bit!

Bodegas Josep Tortosa from Fontanars is a small scale production with a white, three reds, Portella, Barrica de Autor  and Claus de Celler and a new project Uvula, which also produces a red ( Plattum).

I have not tasted these wines, probably for a couple of years so it was a pleasure to have an opportunity to try them again. We started with Portella, a Cabernet Sauvignon /Tempranillo blend DO Valencia with 13% ABV. The wine has had 3-4 months in barrica and is a deep dark red with good legs. On the nose lots of cabernet characteristics, particularly red and black fruit, blackberry and blackcurrant. In the mouth very fruity with blackberry predominating, smooth tannins, and spices, clove. A long satisfying finish and a wine I liked very much.

Claus de Celler from Josep Tortosa.

Claus de Celler is a blend of 40% each of Syrah and Merlot and 20% Tempranillo with 13% ABV. Medium density, with good legs, the nose is initially coffee and cream, with black fruits and spices, complex. In the mouth nutmeg, wood, smooth tannins, again with a long finish.

Uvula Plattum is a wine for drinking now. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and  Syrah. Medium density with deep garnet colour, and mature fruit on the nose the wine tasted full, with well integrated alcohol and tannins, balanced. Good with game and at 14% ABV quite powerful.

I shall be looking for these wines again for winter drinking.

Finally Xmas is a coming and dates are in season. Tomás Boix Pomares from Alzira was displaying and selling three or four different types of dates which we tried before buying some very juicy sweet big examples to go with the cheeses from Granya Rinya and the sweet wine from La Encina.

A very enjoyable fair again. Lots to try and do and some bodega visits to organise for later this month and next!

Selection of Dates.

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