Monthly Archives: June 2013

Les Useres, Poble de Vi, Ist Wine Fair.


 

Les Useres Fira de Vi 2013

Les Useres, or Useras in Castellano, is a hilltop village in the Alcalaten district of Castellon Province. It has a population which hovers around the 1000 mark and sits at 401m above sea level. Historically it was one of the most important wine-producing areas until phylloxera devastated the vineyards in the early 1900´s which plummeted from a peak of 13,500 hectares at the end of the 19th century to just 3500 by 1945, most of these illegal hybrid varieties. It was the wines from here that made Benicarlo and Viñaros ports so important from the mid 17th Century onwards with massive exports to the UK and important European capitals and as far as St Petersburg.

Opening the Fair.

Opening the Fair.

These vines ( lost varieties such as Edo and Señorito)  had to be grubbed up of course. Wine-making continued with around 100 members of the L´Alcalaten Coop just outside the town but today the revival that is taking place in Castellon province allows this tiny village to have no less than six separate wine producers!

Over the weekend of 15/16 June the village saw a fourfold increase in that population when it held it´s first ever wine fair, an initiave of the growers, new mayor and with the impulse of the Interior Tourism project which has seen the town join bodegas in Vilafamés, Benlloch and  Benecassim  create a new wine route.

The growers were joined by around 16 other producers such as  the Amas de Casa with their traditional bunuelos dripping in the local honey,  sheeps cheese from Tot de Poble, fresh tomatos, olive oils and almonds from the Mas de Fumeros, an horchata made from almonds rather than chufa, a local butcher with a range of traditional local sausages and sides of bacon as well as craft producers. All of which helped turn this into a very traditional local fair….just what Spain is all about!

The six bodegas are Baron d´Alba, El Mollet, Bodega Les Useres, Vicente Flors, Vinya Natur and Torregil. Each had brought a selection of wines to show and taste and some 3500 bottles were allegedly set aside for the two days!

Baron d´Alba

Baron d´Alba

I have visited Sergio Garcia´s vineyards and Bodega Baron d´Alba, Clos descarragordes ( Archives February 2011) and have tasted the wines from the property on many occasions in Castellon. Sergio´s father was on hand to ensure another comprehensive look at some of their wines during the fair.

On a hot day the White and Rosado were always going to be favourites! The 2012 white is a pure Macabeo, which is pale lemon, clean and bright with good long legs. On the nose fresh white flowers and red apples whilst in the mouth it is fresh, clean and with good fruit flavours a lovely acidity and full, long dry finish.

The Rosado 2012, which is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha is a very pale salmon pink, clear, bright and again has strong legs. On the nose it is redolent of red currants and in the mouth soft, fresh, ripe fruit, a very easy drinker for summer!

Later I tried the 2008 Tinta Barrica, the top wine, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. A good deep red, the wine has long legs but was served a little too cold for me. On the nose it has a slightly vegetal nose, ( common with Cabernet Sauvignon and not a fault)  whilst  in the mouth there are lots of mature fruits. This is a nice wine!

El Mollet I have not yet visited but I have regularly tasted the Roques Negres. These fairs often throw up surprises and Juan Carlos Pavia was showing an `under the counter´ sample of his new syrah. This is a wine from deposit which will go to oak barrels later this week to `domesticate´ it. The grapes were from vines which are just three-year  old and this was the first harvest. A typical spiky young syrah with lots of bright purple colour, black cherry on the nose and in the mouth green tannins. I will be interested to see this develop and taste it again when it is bottled finally!

The Roques Negres remains a firm favourite. Medium bodied, cherry to ruby-red with long glycerinous legs. On the nose spiky fruit with chocolate and liquorice. In the mouth the wine is big, full, with hints of oak , cherry fruit and a long creamy vanilla finish. ( 70% Monastrell and 30 % Syrah).

The crowd grows!

The crowd grows!

Bodegas Vicente Flors I have visited twice, ( archives January 14, 2011) most recently to taste the newly released `M´  a wine from Monastrell. At this fair Vicente was showing three wines, and I tasted first the new Flor de Clotas 2011, a young wine from 70-year-old Tempranillo vines, with a whopping 15% ABV.

A youthful purple colour, long legs and evidence of glycerine! On the nose it has ripe , mature fruit in abundance, damson and plum, and hints of spice. In the mouth rich, with a full body, meaty, lovely structure and an easy pass across the palate before an explosion of fruit. Well worth investing in a few bottles of this!

The Monastrell is also from 70-year-old vines, and is cherry red and medium bodied. At a mere 13% ABV it does not have quite the glycerine of its young brother! Nonetheless there is plenty of red fruit, jam, with smoky hints. In the mouth well-balanced,well structured, smoke, and plenty of fruit. A good long finish, this wine is improving as it evolves.

Wines from the Coop.

Wines from the Coop.

The  Bodega Cooperativa Les Useres  is having to come to terms with its new upstart neighbours and evolve its wine making as well. They were showing a basic range and I tried the  Rosado. A very deep colour, dark strawberry, with long glycerinous legs. On the nose persistent ripe fruit, strawberry and a hint of caramel. In the mouth the fruit was a little over mature, but it retains a good fresh acidity and I liked it very much.

The Tinto was a deep cherry red with long legs, on the nose a mixture of red and black fruits and in the mouth young fruit, fresh, an honest every day drinker which is pleasant.

The above wines were from the Alcalaten range. There is a higher quality range , bottles of which were available to buy but not on general taste at the fair. Another time I hope to prise some of these open!

Last but far from least the wines of Vinya Natura are always a hit, particularly the Quatre Vents and the Babel Cava both of which I tried again at the fair. The Tinto is from Cabernet Sauvignon with four months in oak and produces a very easy drinking red which I have seen used at functions in the Palacio de Congresos in Valencia.

The Cava ia a prize winner having come out on top at the Els Bodeguers tasting prior to Valencia´s last cava fair. It is fresh and full, very satisfying with a long finish.

Sadly, Bodegas Torregil were not present on the first morning of the fair but as the Mayor has already announced the fair a great success ( I agree) and that there will be a second edition next year, it seems there may yet be another chance!

Souvenir Wine glass...Cheers!

Souvenir Wine glass…Cheers!

 

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News from the IX Noche del Vino de la DOP Valencia.


 

 

Opening the White at Aranleon.

Opening the White at Aranleon.

Once again the organisers of the Noche del Vino had chosen a warm evening in June for this annual look at developments in the DO, in its Bodegas and to try new wines as well. It is also a night to catch up with the many friends and acquaintances made over the last few years! This is the night that professionals from the press, hotel and restaurant trades mingle with the bodega owners and distributors of their wines. interestingly this year it clashed with the equivalent fair in DO Alicante and a serious tasting offered by the distributors in Castellon although you would not have noticed any shortage in the number of people attending this event!

I started with Aranleon, one of several bodegas whose vineyards are in Utiel-Requena but choose the Valencia DO to market their wines. The bodega has been very lucky to avoid this years devastating hailstorms which have done considerable damage in the area.The new white Blanco Solo 2012 is a blend of Chardonnay, Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc at 13%ABV. It is clean and fresh with glycerinous legs and a well-balanced fruit which is quite rich with a big clean acidity. A big wine.

 

Bisila Range.

Bisila Range.

The Verdil from Daniel Belda is also fresh but lighter in style and it seems amazing that in just four months the wine, which is always the first wine in the Northern Hemisphere to be marketed each year, will be available in the 2013 vintage! Belda has not been quite so lucky this year with a large area of the Chardonnay crop  in their Fontanars vineyards destroyed by hail.

Also from Fontanars I tried the 2012 vintage of the Brote white from Dominio de los Pinos. This is a barrel fermented blend of Viognier and Verdil and is a whopping 14.5%ABV. Old gold, clean and bright, with very long slow, fat glycerinous legs. The wine is unctuous too. On the nose white flowers, acacia and tropical fruits. In the mouth very full, peach, clean acidity and a very big silky mouthful of wine.

Nearby were the wines from Ladron de Lunas, another Requena based bodega  and marketing well with sales abroad. They now also make the wines for the African Literacy project, Bisila wines which I wrote about in February 2012 when the wines were made by Torre Oria. I tried the  Sauvignon Blanc 2012, 12.5%ABV, a fresh white with a big gooseberry nose and clean fresh acidity and ripe fruit in the mouth. To me this seemed to be French in style , very aromatic and pleasant. The Chardonnay also has a hint of the Macon style about it. 12.5%ABV and with a month in barrel, it is straw yellow, quite restrained on the nose but in the mouth well-balanced, dry and a long finish.

Arquis supporting Muscular Dystrophy.

Arquis supporting Muscular Dystrophy.

 

And on the subject of Bodegas helping charities Torrevellisca from Fontanars were showing their new wines from the Arquis range which support a muscular dystrophy charity. The Primum Selección 2010 is 25% Merlot, 25% Tempranillo and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and is bright red, intense with ruby flashes and good legs. On the nose oaky and in the mouth smooth, easy drinking, with good mature red fruits.

Back to the whites and a very good one at that from Casa de las Vides, the Agullent bodega which I visited last year, ( Archives 2 June 2012) This is a blend of Macabeo, Verdil, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc and 13% ABV. Very clean and bright, fresh from its blue German style bottle, the nose is complex and full of white flowers, ripe fruit, pear, melon, peach and is quite spicy. In the mouth this complexity is less apparent, a nice fresh clean wine good acidity but well-balanced with lots of fruit flavours.

The Rosae ( rosado) is frankly one of the best I have ever tasted. From Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon it is rose in colour, smells of fresh red fruit with floral notes ( rose) and in the mouth is fresh, dry , fruity and very satisfying. This is the wine I heard the most compliments about on the night.

There are of course wines from other parts of the DO and from higher vineyards. From Siete Aguas the wines from Sanchez Zahonera are at about 900m above sea-level. This young bodega won a gold in Brussels for  the first vintage they made! Now producing four wines and the white  Bressols from Merseguera is an excellent example of what can be produced at these levels from a dry white grape. Alfonso Sanchéz the winemaker has produced a white which is fresh, clean and bright and with a floral nose. In the mouth this searingly dry variety is easy to drink with an aromatic intensity and is  fresh and fruity. Long dry finish.

Wines from Polo Monleon

Wines from Polo Monleon

Not far from here are the vineyards and the Bodega of the Polo Monleon family in Titaguas, one of the underated bodegas of the Alto Turia. Under the Hoya de Castillo label Manuel, the current winemaker is producing a range of four excellent but sadly little known wines. The white which is a blend of Merseguera and Macabeo ( 20%) is a very good wine. Pale lemon in colour I was surprised at the depth and richness of the fruit on the nose, white fruits such as melon and apple. In the mouth an initial sparkle the wine is full, well-balanced and with well balanced acidity. This bodega should be the subject of next weeks post.

Also high up above Valencia in the village of Alcublas (Valentino) the coop is producing two very good wines this year. The white is a pure Merseguera called Balcon de Valencia and it too is a fresh, easy drinking dry white with fresh fruit on the nose and in the mouth. But it is the red Tempranillo Palacia which has surprised me this year. Normally not a wine I would buy in the past,  the 2012 joven is full of fruit and a real easy drinker! The bodega sells both wines for just 2.15€ a bottle and produces a traditional Moscatel Mistela and a range of excellent award-winning olive oils. An easy drive from Valencia it is worth a visit for the views as well!

Reymos 1918

Reymos 1918

From the Moscatel growing area around Cheste, Chiva and Turis, the bodega in Cheste has increased its range of sparklers from the variety, in this case a `cava´ style called Reymos 1918. The bodega is of course part of the giant Anecoop brand and the bottle has a label designed by Montesinos. A brut nature the wine is winning prizes already. Clean fresh with hints of peach and orange skin on the nose it is fresh in the mouth with a creamy long full finish. A serious wine if a little overpriced for me.

The four sub-zones of the DO ( Alto Turia, Valentino, Clariano ( which includes the Terres dels Alforins) Moscatel and of course bolstered by the wines of Utiel-Requena using the Valencia DO have a wide diversity and produce wines for all tastes. Sadly there was no time to try all 200 wines on show given the crush and the social nature of the event. At least next year i can concentrate on some of the bodegas I missed this year!

Finally it is of course the event which acts as prize-giving for the DO. Chief amongst the worthy winners was Pablo Ossorio, technical director at Murviedro and one of the owners of Hispano-Suizas who was recognised with the DO´s Order of Merit.

 

 

 

Pablo Ossorio, Order of Merit.

Pablo Ossorio, Order of Merit.

 

39th International Fideuà Competition, Gandia.


fideua_1 Gandia 2013

 

Gandia is to Fideuà what Sueca is to Paella, L´Alcúdia is to Putxero and Xativa is to Arroz al Horno – its spiritual home and home to the annual International competition to cook the best example. Yesterday was the turn of Gandia to host the 39th edition of the competition and gastronomia day in the Bayren Hotel on the seafront.

Setting up In the Grounds of the Bayren.

Setting up In the Grounds of the Bayren.

Accreditation for competitors and invited guests starts at around 10 am but until around 12.30 the attendees mill around the competion area, chatting or strolling along the seafront in their whites whilst the hotel staff are briefed on how to attend to the guests once the various sponsors tents open.

The event is sponsored by a number of different companies, Bodegas such as Pago de Tharsys and Chozas Carrascal from Utiel-Requena who provided the wines for the subsequent lunch, cheese producers Queserias Cuquerella whose trademark Flor de Oro traditional products were served alongside the new craft ale from Gandia, La Delicà, and less traditional beer from Mahou.

The competition also attracts a large press presence, TVE, Cadena Ser, A3 and a host of bloggers and photographers.

To say that  the Competition is important to Gandia is a major understatement. The Mayor, Arturo Torro went so far as to claim that it is the `major ambassador´ for the town and that it would lead Gandia out of the crisis long before the rest of the Valencian Community recovered…..What is certain is that Gastronomy is a major part of the communities tourism strategy. The CdT (  The Valencian Colleges for training in Cooking, wine and waiting service) were all represented by competitors and waiting teams.

And Fideuà is what the day is all about….what exactly is it though?

Well, Paco Alonso the TV journalist and acknowledged expert in Valencia gastronomy calls it the `Queen Consort´ alongside Paella Valencia. He attributes its creation in to Bautista Pascual Sanchis a cabin boy on a local fishing vessel. It was adopted in local restaurants and, as tourism grew in Gandia by the hotels which were springing up.

Chef´s Work Station.

Chef´s Work Station.

Essentially it is a dish consisting of monkfish, cuttlefish, common and Dublin bay prawns,  garlic, tomato, stock made from rockfish, pimentón, saffron, olive oil, salt and the fideuà which is a small pasta.

And so, on a fresh grey day in Gandia, a day not suited to a walk on the perfectly manicured and flat beach, the competitors from Restaurants across the Valencian Community, from Cordoba  and from France took to their stations, each of which consisted of a gas ring, paella pan, spoon, and the fideuà. Now, each chef has his own secret recipe for the stock that flavours the dish and the pasta is cooked in. These are brought along in a variety of containers, some large saucepans, some concentrated and to which water is added.

Nor does everyone add the ingredients in the same order. Traditionalists put a little oil in the centre of the pan and spread salt around the outside. The gambas and cigalas ( prawns) are cooked first then removed,  followed by the monkfish and then a sofrito of tomato, garlic  and pimentón . Yesterday I saw prawn heads and tails being hand pressed in the pan to extract every last drop of flavour, but the next step is to add the fideuà to the pan and cook it gently turning it in the garlic, tomato, oil etc. Then slowly the stock is added and the pasta cooked to perfection at which point the dish is decorated with wheels of the seafood, or in some enterprising cases these are presented as if they are still alive and waiving a claw!

Starting with the Prawns.

Starting with the Prawns.

Then the heat is turned off and the dish rests before being passed to the jury for assessment and then gifted to the public who can book a table in the hotels restaurant area. The jury this year was led by Evarist Miralles, Spanish Best Chef in 2011 and consisted of 10 other jurors drawn from the press, gastronomy clubs and  experts in cooking traditional dishes.

The Winning Fideuà!

The Winning Fideuà!

For the invited guest and sponsors ( some 500 people) there is a more formal lunch which yesterday consisted of traditional plates of Ibericos and cheese, prawn with chard on toasts, stalks of thistle in a salad with tuna loin, a mandarine sorbet, Fideuà, and a chocolate mousse with orange sauce and summer fruits.

This was well accompanied by the excellent Las Dos Ces white and red from Chozas Carrascal, followed by the equally excellent Carlota Suria Brut Nature from Pago de Tharsys.

Then begins the awaited prize giving and results of the competition, strung out between speeches  from government representatives and local dignitaries.

As there were about fifteen prizes space does not permit full details in this post!

The major prizes relating to the competition were awarded as follows:-

Best Tapa presented by one of the CdT colleges went to Castellon and the Best Fideuà from one of the colleges was won by Gandia.

Best Pudding made with orange went to Rte Chef Amadeo of Gandia.

Rte Maritim from the port of Gandia won the award for the best Tapa.

In the International Fideuà Competition third prize went to Rte Puturrú de Foie, Gandia, Second went to Hotel Kazar, Ontiniente, and the overall winner was Victor Navarro Gimeno, the ever present owner of Casa Granero in the Serranos village of Serra. Victor is an acknowledged master of traditional Valencian gastronomy and his dish was traditionally presented, which may be a useful lesson for competitors to note next year. I hope to be there to witness this very friendly but fiercely competitive day of quality cooking. In the meantime Victor, I will be calling in  for the recipe for your stock!

 

 

Victor with the Collar of santa Isabel.

Victor with the Collar of santa Isabel.

 

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