A Visit to Bodega Primitivo Quiles….Alicante´s Wine Story Starts Here!


Wines from Primitivo Quiles

Wines from Primitivo Quiles

Alicante´s oldest bodega, Primitivo Quiles, is to be found in the village of Monóvar. The family which owns it started their relationship with wine in 1780. Historically of course Alicante´s wine making traditions go back much, much further, some 2000+ years to the Iberian period, as is the case with much of the Valencian Community. However whilst the tradition may be long as with much else in life it has been subject to devastating events. Pre-phylloxera wines from Alicante were exported in bulk, but the most famous of them , Fondillon, went to the tables of royalty and the upper classes. There is no shortage of historical proof for this. Elizabeth 1st  of England `loved Alacant wine above all others´, her successor James 1st described his urine as being as `red as Alicante wine´  and Louis the 14th approaching the end of his life after a long illness called for Fondillon with sponge cakes. There is no evidence that pre-phylloxera, Alicante produced just Fondillon wines. It is more likely that wine-making was a community affair with wines being transported to Alicante for Export.

Oal Barrels for Fondillon.

Oal Barrels for Fondillon.

When Phylloxera hit France wines from Alicante, as well as Requena and Castellon were all exported to Bordeaux to help bulk up the wines of the region. But this did mean that old, aged wines were not produced to the same level that they had been. When phylloxera finally arrived in Alicante the bodegas were not capable of reacting fast enough and wine-making almost died out. Exports from Alicante fell by half in a single year. Fast forward a little, and with phylloxera gone, thought was being given to replanting the vineyards. However the Industrial revolution in Spain arrived, somewhat later than other parts of Europe, and those who might have worked in the vineyards or indeed owned them were tempted instead by the textile industry which was opening up nearby. Primitivo Quiles played a big part in the revival and production of this legendary wine and wine growing as a whole!

Abuelo Barrica 1892

Abuelo Barrica 1892

Despite the bad state of the economy Primitivo Quiles carried on with their traditional winemaking, even managing to preserve Fondillon throughout the whole period. In 1951 another Primitivo Quiles, this time the grandson joined the family consolidating production and setting the bodega on its course to the modern-day. By the 1970´s this had led to the introduction of new wines, expanding the range. The family originated in the hamlet of Raspay, near to El Pinoso where the family vineyards were. Today those vineyards are still used to produce the wines from the bodega although they have changed hands many times with death and inheritance.

 Rosado, Raspay, Blanco Caña and Tinto Coño.

Rosado, Raspay, Blanco Caña and Tinto Cono.

Monovar was chosen for the location of the bodega because it is near to the railway network which made transport so much easier. The vineyards are mainly old plots of Monastrell, up to 80 years old which produce low yields but high quality grapes. Monastrell traditionally is believed to have been imported to Castellon first ( Camp de Morvedre) from Greece and in France is known as Mourvedre. The wines are bright red, capable of long ageing which of course makes them ideal for Fondillon.

Tinto Roble

Tinto Roble

Fondillon is a rancio style of wine. The naturally fermented wines from over-ripe grapes are placed in large oak barrels where they are typically aged for a minimum of 10 years but usually much, much longer. Unlike Port and sherry which are fortified, no raw alcohol is added to the wine which reaches 16+% ABV naturally. Over time, the wine oxidises becoming rich and complex, and of course changing colour. The wines can be subjected to a solera system but at Primitivo Quiles wines from different vintages are blended with the barrels being refilled and left to age peacefully. The smallest amount of wine necessary is drawn each time a bottling takes place. The bodega still possesses two of the original barrels from 1892 but only one now has Fondillon in it. The other was filled with Moscatel in a year when there was insufficient wine to fill two barricas with Monastrell, thus starting the Gran Imperial wine we were to taste later. The old bodega is difficult to navigate and the day we visited wines were being pumped through long pipes. We were very lucky therefore to be given such a definitive and comprehensive tour!

Vine on the Terrace

Vine on the Terrace

Emerging into the sunlight and the  terrace we were about to be given an equally impressive tasting of the bodega´s products. First up was Blanco Caña 2014, a white from 100% Airen at 12%ABV. Pale yellow, very clean and bright with golden flashes, it was typical of the variety in that the nose is not very expressive, maybe a little citrus. In the mouth that converts to  fresh grapefruit juice acidity, a very nice fresh, easy drinking white wine! The 100% Monastrell Rosado Virgen 2014 is very popular in the United States. A fresh and bright strawberry pink with long legs this wine shows no move towards the fashion for French style pale wines! On the nose it is lightly floral with a hint of wild fennel. In the mouth it is very fresh, light , with good acidity to balance the fruit and a good, long finish. An excellent summer wine! ( 12.5%ABV) The Tinto Cono Nº 4 is also 100% Monastrell at 14.5%ABV. This time a red wine, it takes its name from the deposit in which the best barrels of Monastrell are blended. A nice fresh medium bodied wine it is cherry/ruby red with glycerinous long legs. On the nose it is a very traditional fresh Alicante style with morello cherry fruit. In the mouth it is initially smooth on entry with a hint of astringency but a long satisfying finish. The 2008 Raspay Reserva at 14%ABV has spent two years in old oak barrels. It has a distinctive red and yellow ribbon which replaced a blue and white one after a visit to Alicante from the then King in 1977 who reportedly liked the wine very much. A medium bodied garnet colour, reflecting the ageing process, it too has long glycerinous legs.

Writing Tasting Notes!

Writing Tasting Notes!

On the nose you note the oak ageing and tobacco leaf. In the mouth it is dry, but full , complex balsamic notes mixing with tobacco flavours and a long satisfying finish A wine to accompany good, rich food. Next we moved to the bodega´s more specialist products. We started with the Gran Reserva Fondillon 1948 at 16% ABV. This was drawn in 2000 and comes from a run of just 3000 bottles. Tawny in colour with a bright orange edge, it has long slow legs. On the nose it is rich and complex, raisins, nuts, toasty nuances with figs and honey. In the mouth, satisfying, complex, rich, smooth and complex it is an aperitif worthy of a good meal afterwards! The Moscatel Extra Vino de Licor at 15% is not a normal golden mistela. This is a nutty brown colour, with a tawny edge and gold flashes reflecting its barrel ageing. On the nose rich, ripe peach and apricot overlaid with caramel. In the mouth it is deep, complex, raisins, rich …quite fabulous!

Vermut

Vermut

The Bodega´s Vermut has been made for years, it is a style of aperitif very much back in favour in Spain currently. Deep tawny in colour, with long legs, it is fresh on the nose, with bitter herbs but in the mouth was fresh and almost slightly sweet. Finally we tried the 2003  Gran Imperial Moscatel, a vino generoso. This was drawn in 2013 and is from a run of just 182 bottles! A deep dark dense brown, almost liquorice in colour, it has old toffee and tobacco leaf in a complex rich nose. This is matched in the mouth! Intense, a completely different style of wine… a few drops on vanilla ice-cream would be perfect!

VÍ vid,  a comprehensive tasting,

VÍ vid, a comprehensive tasting,

This was a fascinating and highly educational visit by VÍ vid to a historic bodega carrying on a much longer historical tradition with wines of the highest quality. It also reflects the regional variety which makes wines from Alicante worth investigating and tasting against their cousins from the other provinces of Valencia. A truly unforgettable visit!

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