Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bodegas Baron D´Alba – In search of the Perfect Soils.


Back in December 2013 we visited the Les Useres ( Castellon) bodega owned by Sergio Garrido as part of an educational trip looking at new wines and  wines developing  in deposit and cask. This is an important part of our work in giving wine tastings because we are often asked technical questions about wine-making methods in the Valencian Community. The reality is there are many twists in wine making where enologists have their own personal ideas and practices to obtain the best results from the material the vine-grower provides them at harvest time.


Of course any wine-maker will have commenced his work long before the harvest, ensuring the vines are not being stressed by asking them to produce too much. Pruning at the post flowering stage and removal of unwanted shoots ( poda en verde) is one of the first issues to be dealt with at the end of Spring. At Clos  D´esgarracordes the soils have always been important. Wine maker Mario Malafosse who has been there for four years working with Sergio Garrido, makes the soils his number one priority. On VÍ vid´s follow-up visit yesterday ( at which we were once again to taste the new and developing wines)  we started with a walk into the vineyards to look at the flowering taking place in the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.

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Cabernet Sauvignon, flowering.

From here we went on to look at the Merlot where `poda en verde´ was taking place, the two arms of the vines were being stripped of the excessive growth as were shoots coming from the base of the vines. This involves removing some of the putative bunches so that the vines do not produce more than around 1.5-2kg each of grapes.

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Buds on the Merlot.

Here, Mario has been experimenting with green manure to feed the roots of the vines and improve the soil. Soil  is a priority for both Sergio and Mario. The former has always wanted his wines to express the land      ( or  terroir) from which they come ( a mixture of sand and stone.) For Mario it has been his major study as an enologist.

Experimental area with wood chippings.

Experimental area with wood chippings.

Currently they are experimenting with different ground cover such as growing broad beans down the middle of the rows of vines. These fix a lot of nutrient into the soils, enriching them and subsequently benefiting the vines. They also protect the soils from the direct sunlight. But they have also experimented with sawdust and wood chippings packed around the base of the vines to act as a mulch and keep moisture in. Certainly the vines receiving this treatment had a much more humid soil.

Sergio Garrido demonstarting Pode en Verde.

Sergio Garrido demonstrating Poda en Verde.

Nor could you help but notice that the soil had a lot of spores growing in it, a sure sign that it was alive with nutrients. Not that any wood will do of course, pine for example does not work because of the resins it holds! We returned to the bodega and commenced our tastings from the deposits and barrels. Starting with the 2014 Rosado, still to be filtered but ready for bottling this is a blend of Monastrell, Garnacha and Syrah. Sergio and Mario are  trying to produce a rosado which gives a nod to the fashion for paler wines without losing the essence of Valencian Rosados. Although a paler salmon than in the past it  retains a brilliance in the glass. Moreover this is not a wine from free run juice , the press is used after a two-hour maceration to ensure that the characteristics of the soils come through from the skins. This will be a fresh , raspberry fruit wine with a natural sweetness balanced with a good acidity and a long dry mineral, even salty, finish. The best rosado we have tried from this bodega!

2014 Gewurztraminer.

2014 Gewurztraminer.

Second was  the 2014 Macabeo/Viognier blend which will make the new `Clos´wine. Both varieties have a short crianza in oak to enrich the wines, with battonage once a week.Second usage oak tends to impart less oak flavours into the wine , rather giving them a fuller body. This wine has it with lovely depth of fruit and balancing acidity. A wine to watch out for on release! The bodega´s Gewürztraminer has been much-lauded since its release last year and is a best seller at winefairs. This 2014 is the most expressive so far although sadly there will only be about 400 bottles because of last years drought. The 2014 is the most expressive yet, the fruitiest , richest and most spicy with a finish that never stops developing!

Sergio Garrido with VÍ vid.

Sergio Garrido with VÍ vid.

Moving to the reds, `Pelegri ´ is the bodega´s top wine in the `Collection´ series.In 2011 the wine was a French style Cabernet Sauvignon, full of green and black pepper and an excellent wine. But, Pelegri will be made from the variety which performs the best each year and in 2012 that was the Syrah. In 2013 it will be the Merlot.

Pelegri 2012, Syrah

Pelegri 2012, Syrah

We tasted both, the Syrah from deposit where, having been stabilised  it awaits bottling and the Merlot from barrel where it has spent its first year in wood. The Syrah is a bright chery colour, the wine painting the glass. On the nose it is very expressive with tobacco, chocolate, pepper, plum and fruits of the forest. In the mouth the tannins are smooth and the the wine powerful This will be a worthy successor to the Cabernet! The 2013 Merlot is a plum colour, youthful and still has more time in barrel to come. There is a lot of jammy fruit, black pepper, but at the moment it is quite tannic. Huge potential this wine. We look forward to tasting from barrel or  from deposit next year before bottling!

Marian, Juanjo and wine-maker Mario in the bodega.

Marian, Juanjo and wine-maker Mario in the bodega.

Finally we tried the  Monastrell 2013 which is fresh, fruity and aromatic with big hints of violet in a floral nose. Over lunch, which consisted of a local paella with rib of pork, rabbit and chicken with vegetables we continued our talks and discussed a range of issues.

We were given one final surprise! Sergio and Mario have been experimenting with a sparkling wine to add to the range. Castellon is outside DO Cava so although it will be made by the traditional method it will be an `espumoso´. We tried a bottle to finish off the meal and it showed great promise with a year,  so far, in bottle on the lees.

We are very pleased to have this bodega as an associate and to be able to promote their wines in future tastings. we look forward to a long continuing relationship with them, a bodega whose owner and winemaker have a clear idea of their style and want to ensure the future improvement of the vineyards and with it the wines!

Paella for Lunch!

Paella for Lunch!

Romantic Dream…to Reality! Viñedos y bodegas Monsata Perdigón is Born!

Monsata Perdigon3


I am not sure where to begin!

With the creation of a new Bodega? With the revival of a `lost´grape variety? With a seemingly impossible dream shared by three friends?  Oh well, let’s have a go and see if we can draw the themes together!

So, we start with a grape variety, a peculiar white variety with the name `Plantafina de Pedralba´. This is a variety which has long been believed to have disappeared,  un-appreciated, the variety uneconomical, the vineyards grubbed-up in the 1980´s, victims of the push for the new cash cow of  citrus fruits and silly money from the EU who paid for their destruction!

8 years back or so, I asked a question in Verema´s forums about the variety, but no-one was able to tell me whether there was a wine produced from it.

Plantafina was a variety planted widely around Pedralba  and clearly had a reputation as there is reference to it in Jancis Robinson´s 1986 classic book, `Vines, Grapes and Wines´. This remember was a period when the only wines known outside Spain were from Rioja and nobody had ever heard of Valencian wines! No wines from the region were bottled, being produced solely for local consumption or export and subsequent blending.

Jancis Robinson MW, Photo by John Wyand.

Jancis Robinson MW, Photo by John Wyand.

Moreover, it appears that it was only grown  around Pedralba. To the North West in the Alto Turia the preferred white variety was, and still is , Merseguera. To the East in Vilamarxant the favoured variety was red, Garnacha or Tempranillo. To the South, Moscatel de Alexandria is still the dominant variety around Turis, Monserrat and Godelleta.  In Utiel-Requena to the West the main varieties were the red Bobal and if you wanted white,  Macabeo was readily available.

Pedralba´s Cooperative dates to 1919. According to Juan Piqueras who recorded the history of Valencian Wines in his tome from 2000, `El Llegado de Baco. ´ According to Piqueras, production halved between 1999 and 2000 and inevitably the co-op stopped making its own wines. Elaboration transferred to Covibex as did that of the neighbouring towns of Bugarra, Lliria, Vilamarxant and others although the trademark names of the wines remained. To day the Cooperative is dedicated to fruit only.

They sell wines with the name `Plantafina´ in the co-op shop in Pedralba. This is the old trademark of the former bodega.

Stainless steel deposits in the modern Bodega.

Stainless steel deposits in the modern Bodega.

Pedralba itself sits at the base of the Cambrillas range of hills, on the boundary between the Camp de Turia, Serranos and Alto Turia `counties´ of Valencia.

The river Turia flows around, as well as through, the village. The Coop is owned by Spain´s biggest agricultural conglomerate, Anecoop. The grand houses of the bodegueros on the main street are sadly long gone or converted into flats.

But, the wine making tradition has not died, even if it has skipped a couple of generations! Ironically, despite the lure of citrus fruit production, made easy by the huge natural underground water deposits, today the local farmers are introducing Kiwi fruit!

Nor has the variety `disappeared´ as it turns out!

Last year a Spanish friend told me about a plot of Plantafina which had been discovered and despite neglect, recovered. In December 2014 I was told two new wines were being produced from the Plantafina variety and within days I had found a source for them!. The local co-op, despite a potential clash of trademark, was selling them in their shop!

Tasting Plantafina de Pedralba at the 48º Circulo de Pedralba Tasting

Tasting Plantafina de Pedralba at the 48º Circulo de Pedralba Tasting

In January they had been tasted, evaluated and placed on the agenda for the 48th meeting of the Pedralba wine club! They were an instant hit!

On 12 February the wines  were being offered at a major event in the village in which VÍ vid took part as collaborators , `Sabores HispanoMexicanos´ organised by Silvia Melendez Herrero of `La Pitanza de Pedralba´ restaurant.


Once again the wines were an instant success and when speaking to villagers attending the event they spoke of the historical wines from the variety and recalled how in good vintages they were aged in oak. Many said the new wines reminded them of their historical antecedents.

And so to today´s new Bodega, `Viñedos y bodega Monsata Perdigón´. This is a project, the romantic dream of the title, of Gonzalo Ortega Sanmiguel. Ricardo Bayo and Toni Sebastian Rodriguez.

Gonzalo Ortega Sanmiguel, Ricardo Bayo and Toni Sebastian Rodriguez.

Gonzalo Ortega Sanmiguel, Ricardo Bayo and Toni Sebastian Rodriguez.


Having found the old plot of vines ( vines between 40-60 years in age and planted `en vaso´)  and a new plot into which to plant new vines from  the variety with cuttings crossed with phylloxera resistant vine-stocks, they set about creating the new bodega five years ago.

As an estimated  colleague from the press put it last week `why on earth would you do it, especially in Pedralba?´


Old Plantafina de Pedralba Vines `en vaso´.

Old Plantafina de Pedralba Vines `en vaso´.

All three appear to be typical  of the young generation, who have reacted to  Valencia´s financial crisis and are  determined to  revive  a great historical variety and give the town back its reputation as the `cradle´ of Valencian wine-making!

But there is little more than a passing reference to the history of bulk wine-making involved here! The bodega is dedicated to making quality wine with modern techniques. If future vintages can be improved they will be, including   the use of oak for fermentation or short crianza.

Pruning the old vines.

Pruning the old vines.

We were very pleased to have been invited to attend a presentation this week, not just an opportunity to taste the wines again, but to participate in a brainstorming session with colleagues from the specialist wine-press, sumilleres and  wine-makers including the former technical director of DO Valencia .

In Palacio Fesol restaurant, just off Calle Colon,  in the heart of Valencia we met to hear a presentation  from the owners, taste the two wines they produce and advise them on future production and marketing .

5 Barricas, ( El Mundo) and José Vicente Guillem Ruiz.

5 Barricas, ( El Mundo) and José Vicente Guillem Ruiz. ( centre).

First the wines. Both are from 2014, both 12% ABV and both Vinos de Autor. Currently the bodega is outside the rules of DO Valencia but is receiving advice and help from them.

2014 is the first vintage and reflects a very dry year with healthy grapes. The vines had undergone two periods when the putative grapes were removed resulting in a selection which ensured later flowering, budding and producing bunches with  looser grapes with more concentration, certainly not more than 1.5kg per vine.

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The first is a pure Plantafina de Pedralba. Pale straw, edging to pale gold in colour, clean and very bright although the wine has a tendency to display fine bubbles when first poured. On the nose it is not initially hugely expressive, a view of the whole panel who believed more could be done in the maceration period to extract more flavour from the skins.

However there was plenty of ripe melon and orange blossom on the nose. With evolution in the glass it showed apricot stone and membrillo.

In the mouth on the initial pass there were hints of fennel, great acidity, round, a wine which fills the mouth before a very long full dry finish with a touch of minerality reflecting the soils which are a mixture of gravel and sand but almost no chalk. The panel felt that this was a typically Mediterranean and Valencian wine, although it was not hugely expressive initially it was distinct and very expressive of the soils on which it was grown.

Vicente Morcillo ( Levante-EMV) left, Axel LLorens, Nariz Plata, 2014. ( ist from right.)

Vicente Morcillo ( Levante-EMV) left, Axel LLorens, Nariz Plata, 2014. ( ist from right.)

With a touch more natural sugar the experts felt that future vintages could indeed benefit from fermentation or short crianza in oak. It was certainly a wine which meets current market requirements .

The second wine is a blend of 60% Plantafina and 40% Moscatel. Slightly paler in colour but cleaner and more brilliant in glass. On the nose the influence of the Moscatel predominated with ripe white apricot and peach. There were also hints of fennel and lychee, a point of view emphasised also by Axel Llorens, Nariz Plata  and  sumiller and Vicente Morcillo, journalist at Levante-EMV.

The blending of Valencia´s sweet variety with drier varieties ( Chardonnay, Macabeo or Verdil) is a proven success producing wines which are fresh and floral on the nose but well balanced and dry.

In the mouth this was undoubtedly the case, the Plantafina predominating despite the presence of the Moscatel!

And, so to the future. The bodega´s two hectares produced around 5000 bottles in 2014. A better year weatherwise might allow slightly larger production in 2015 if there is no need to reduce the number of bunches per vine quite so dramatically…. but quality will remain the watchword.

This will all depend on natural rainfall as the vineyards are not watered and no chemicals are used in an ecological production.

VÍ vid with the Bodega´s owners.

VÍ vid with the Bodega´s owners.

VÍ vid were very pleased to have been invited to participate in such an exercise, we wish the bodega huge  success for the future and we hope to be able to help them market wines which clearly should appeal to the UK market.

Any UK-based importers of wines from Spain should be contacting us rapidly. The 5000 bottle production of this first vintage is rapidly diminishing and we promise you, the wines are wonderful!
















Valencia´s Clotxinas are back in Season!

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Following the launch of the Clotxina last week, Valencia´s regional  variety of the bivalve has been widely available in the markets and fish shops as well as the plate to eat in Valencia´s restaurants.

The Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus Galloprovincialis, is incredibly popular here being generally accepted as the superior version of the family. Its concentrated flavour makes it good not just for eating in the traditional manner ( al vapor ) but is added to seafood paellas.



Each year at the beginning of the season the `Agrupación  de Clochineros de Valencia y Sagunto´ hold a presentation (or launch)  of the variety. This is held on the catamaran `Boramar´ in the harbour of Valencia´s port. It is attended not just by the press but enjoys support at Government level and the Autonomous Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Water, Alfredo González Prieto was present to add official  presence to the event. The brief opening ceremony commenced as soon as the dignitaries arrived on board for the formal welcome by Chema Ferrer, MC and  journalist with Las Provincias newspaper as well as the President of the fisherman’s association, Juan Aragonés.

Alfredo Prieto, Chema Ferrer and

Alfredo Prieto, Chema Ferrer and Juan Aragones.

It is followed by a trip around the harbour and this years event, in a strong Spring sunshine with gentle breezes,  was sponsored by Turia Cervezas, one of the local artisan breweries, Bodegas Mustiguillo with its superb fresh dry white wine Mestizaje (from Merseguera, Viognier and Malvasia) and the Valencian firm of Castro and Gonzalez who provided a superb reserve jamon from Iberian pigs fed on acorns, the best!

Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Castro y Gonzalez.

Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Castro y Gonzalez.

The production of the mussel is very traditional , some twenty-two  former barges ( or bateas) being used as a base from which the bi-valves hang in the waters of the outer harbour, where they feed on the fresh, but rich, and salty waters of the mediterranean. The season does not end in September rather this being the start of the agricultural period  with the selection of the baby mussels (or seeds) which are attached to the ropes on which they will grow. Each batea has some 400 ropes which will be heavily laden with mussels by the start of the `cooking season´. It is believed that the mussel will filter some 60 litres of sea water each day and part of the process is to lift the ropes from the water and expose them to the sunlight occasionally. This is one way to kill off some of the many pests which are attracted to mussels whilst they are growing.

 `Batea´ in the outer harbour.

`Batea´ in the outer harbour.

Apart from the superb flavour of this variety of the species, one might wonder why it attracts such important support. In fact the Clotxina is a very big part of Valencia´s industry, keeping an incredible 120,000 people in work in  agriculture and tourism as well as countless restaurants during the summer season…it is a variety which is only eaten during the months when there is no `R´ in the month. Nor is the claim that  the quality of this variety is superior  an idle Valencian boast. No less that the University Politecnica discovered they were richer than their atlantic cousins in vitamins, iron, calcium , phosphorous, magnesium, folic acid and omega-3! At about 60 calories per 100gm they are a healthy non-fattening option on the menus of Valencian Restaurants and homes.

Mestizaje Blanco, merseguera,

Mestizaje Blanco, merseguera,

The production is traditional, at least as far back as the 19th century. The anchored bateas have been covered to provide shelter from the sun for those working aboard and are owned by families who have been involved in the industry for generations and whose shops are still to be found in the Cabanyal and Grau districts of Valencias port district. Queues are not unusual at weekends as Valencian families will make their pilgrimage to their favourite outlets.

Cruise Ships in the Harbour.

Cruise Ships in the Harbour.

And when they get them home what do they do with them? Nothing for 2-3 days! They are best left in the fridge covered with a towel in a box .

Then they will be cooked in the following manner, `Al Vapor´.

Turia Mazen, Artisan Beer.

Turia Mazen, Artisan Beer.

Taking about 250gm per head, you will also need ground black pepper, a bay leaf, a lemon and virgin olive oil.

The clotxinas are then washed well under the tap to clear any impurities. Once cleaned they are placed in a terracotta dish, with a dash of olive oil , a pinch of the pepper the bay leaf and the juice of a lemon.

Once they begin to heat through they cook in their own juices and once these have come  to the boil you leave them for a few moments to concentrate and for the last few to open then remove them from the heat.

Serving is very simple. They are placed in bowls with their own juices and decorated with slices of fresh lemon.

Clotxinas `Al Vapor´.

Clotxinas `Al Vapor´.

They are a real joy and at approximately 3.50€ a kilo this season very good value for money. Their rich flavour, meaty texture and the juices can be mopped up with fresh bread!

Once the season is over there is no choice but to eat `mejillones´, or the lesser quality mussels for the rest of the year. Small wonder that during the summer those in the know eat the regional variety!


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