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Coopera Sumiller Seleccion 2015, A Huge Step!


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In a very interesting and most enjoyable ceremony involving music and poetry six of Valencia´s best Cooperative Bodegas introduced twenty new wines to an invited audience in the `Merchants Palace´ in Calle Caballeros.

The Organisers

The Organisers

The event was organised by the Federation of Valencian Sumillers (FASCv) , whose President Mari Lu Martin had invited VÍ vid  to participate, and the Coop Federation responsible for agricultural and food products whose HQ the palace is. It commenced with an opening welcome from Mari Lu and Vicent Insa of the Coop Federation.

VÍ vid, Ready for the tasting

VÍ vid, Ready for the tasting

 

The sumilleres took their places and a tasting, tutored by the representatives of the individual  bodegas commenced with Pablo Cortés of the Moixent Coop, San Pedro Apostol, and three wines from their Clos de la Vall  range. And what a start it was, beginning with one of VÍ vid´s favourite white wines, the oak aged Pedro Ximenez. This wine from a variety associated with sweet wines from Jerez, is a pale gold colour but it is on the nose and in the mouth that it shines! One of the most complex noses I have come across has citrus fruit, white flowers, citrus and tropical notes followed in the secondary notes after swirling the glass by honey, figs acacia, dried fruit, nuts vanilla and orange blossom ( orange). It does not disappoint in the mouth either with its ripe fruits, complexity of flavours and a round very long finish.

Mari Lu Martin and Vicent Insa introduce Pablo Cortes

Mari Lu Martin and Vicent Insa introduce Pablo Cortes

 

This was followed by the Clos de la  Vall Tinto Negre a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell. Deep cherry red with good glycerinous legs, the nose is full of blackcurrant, cherry and güindas, ( a type of cherry preserved in alcohol) and marmalade. 6 months in barrica gives this wine good  fruit, easy tannins, hints of güindas ( from the Monastrell) and it is a perfectly balanced , rounded wine with a long finish.

 

Finally from this bodega came the Clos de la  Vall Vino Autor from the local Mandó variety. 10% of the wine is Monastrell and it is a deeper black cherry colour than the previous wine. Smoother on the nose and lighter this has hints of morello cherry on the nose. It is a variety which needs care during the growing season and is generally better with ageing in French oak, and this wine repays that care with its slightly rustic finish, a distinct very pleasant wine.

Maria Angeles, La Viña

Maria Angeles, La Viña

Next came Maria Angeles from La Viña whose wines we are very familiar with and very happy to use in tastings. We started with the single variety Juan de Juanes Petit Verdot which has had eight months in second use oak. This gives the wine a softness and less harsh effects from the wood, notable on the nose which has fresh red fruit and blue flowers ( violet), a meaty mouthful, well-integrated and balanced wine.

Petit Verdot, La Viña

Petit Verdot, La Viña

The Icono Special Selection 2013 is a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell with ageing in French and American Oak. Another deep black cherry wine with mature  fruits, floral notes on the nose and in the mouth mature black and red fruit against a background soft tannins. Another wine with a long finish.

Finally we tasted the Venta del Puerto 12, one of the bodegas flagship wines with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah  and  Merlot, blended and then aged in oak. The wine is cardinal red, with a fruity but very pleasant oaky nose dominated by blackberry and blackcurrant fruit in the mouth. Very well-balanced and a very competitive price for the quality.

Joan Pico. Baronia de Turis

Joan Pico. Baronia de Turis

Joan Picó, Technical director from Baronia deTuris was the next to present the new wines from this Bodega. We had been invited to the press launch for these wines last week, aimed at the restaurant trade and a departure for the bodega better known for supermarket wines.

We were impressed by the new Son dos Dias 2015 a fresh dry Moscatel, pale yellow, with a fresh aromatic nose of apricot , lychee and mango and in the mouth light, fresh, expressive which opens out leaving a fuller long apricot fruit finish.

Notetakihg

Note taking.

Henri Marc is the name of their new brand for monovarietal reds from vines planted around 15 years ago. The bodega is famed for its traditional wines but they too are stepping out of this mold to experiment with quality wines. The first of two was a Syrah. This is a variety which generally grows at about 650m and more above sea level and needs the temperature changes between night and day to function at its best. These vines are planted in the Valencian hinterland at about 350m where the difference in temperatures is far less marked. However, the bodega has achieved a wonder with this wine. Very good red fruit, forest fruits and a touch of minerality in the nose, in the mouth an explosion of fruit with smooth tannins and a long fruity finish.

Second wine from the range is the Merlot, a touch more classic than the Syrah. A very short period in French oak has given this wine a roundness, damson, plum, deep fruit but  not too mature. In the mouth the variety grown here can give a bitter finish. This wine avoids that with a nice oaky finish.

Eva from Bocopa.

Eva from Bocopa.

From Bocopa, the DO Alicante bodega producing 70% of the province production came five wines. First was the classic Marina Alta dry Moscatel, consistent every year, and a very popular wine to accompany seafood dishes.

The second wine was the Marina Alta Espumoso, a 7%ABV sparkler made in the traditional way and with natural fermentation. I love this wine, it is fresh, very approachable has a very distinct nose that is initially like fresh asphalt , then herbs, fennel and in the mouth has lovely fruit, lively bubbles….. and is as refreshing as a chilled beer. Love it!

Third wine was a Chardonnay, pale gold in colour from a run of just 11,000 bottles and a departure from the bodegas normal style. Marked in the nose by its brioche, bread, patisserie overlaying tropical fruit in the mouth it displays nice Chardonnay characteristics in the French Challonaise style. A worthy new addition to their range.

Sumilleres at Work

Sumilleres at Work

The Laudum Crianza is Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, garnet in colour and with mature fruit on the nose. In the mouth it has body and with good fruit and Vanilla and a long finish.

The Laudum Roble with its distinct columnar bottle  is a blend of Monastrell and Syrah aged in three different types of oak, French , American and Hungarian. Deep garnet in colour and violet at the edge it is pure jam on the nose, figs, dates and vanilla. On entry you note the oak but it is a very fresh, easy to drink with a deep creamy finish.

We are looking forward to getting to know these wines better at the Bodegas Valencia launch on tomorrow.

El Villar.

El Villar.

El Villar, the Cooperative from Villar de Arzobispo showed three wines from the basic Laderas range, popular in bars and restaurants across Valencia. The white is Merseguera with 30% Macabeo in the blend and has a fresh floral nose. in the mouth it is typically dry, with fresh fruit flavours and a long dry mineral finish.

The rosado is a blend, also. In this case Tempranillo with Bobal it is traditionally bright strawberry in colour, fresh strawberry and raspberry nose and typical fruity, bubblegum flavours, A light very easy drinking wine.

Finally the Tinto from Tempranillo was garnet in colour, forest fruit flavours and bramble fruit. Good fruit in the mouth, very round and quite full. Easy drinker.

Diego Morcillo, Coviñas.

Diego Morcillo, Coviñas.

Last but by no means least Diego Morcillo, technical Director of Coviñas showed three wines from  this Requena based Bodega who have been making great strides recently with innovative wines.

The Marques de Plata Brut Nature Cava is yellow with green flashes, small well-integrated bubbles and again has plenty of patisserie and brioche on the nose with white flowers and hints of fennel from the Macabeo. A really good attack in the mouth, smooth, with good volume, and a finish full of mature melon fruit.

The Al Vent Rosado 2014 is one of three wines in this range we regularly show in tastings. It has three months oak ageing which means, when it reaches it second year it has some body to keep it going. Many prefer their Bobal rosados fresh and fruity but this wine has class to go with it! Old rose in colour, it still has lots of fresh fruit but the oak gives it an elegance in the mouth.

Diego presents the cava

Diego presents the cava.

Adnos, the new Bobal Alta Expresion was introduced a year ago and we have followed its progress. It is a wine which amply shows the characteristics of the variety, Deep colour, cherry fruit, liquorice, chocolate both on the nose and in the mouth we love its depth . A fitting finish to a quality tasting.

This of course was only the first part of the evening. The sumilleres withdrew before the competition began. In the second part they were to be presented with one of the wines and using their notes had to identify the wine and write a professional tasting note.

For the record the wine was the Petit Verdot from La Viña and the competition was won by Javier Cantos, Sumiller at our favourite restaurant in Cullera, El Rincon de Faro, enhorabuena Javi!

The rest of the evening was taken up discussing with the bodega´s their new philosophies and aims for the future.

In the Presentatin.

In the Presentation.

If this was a blog about cooperative wines from France it would be very different. The reality is that there is a real purpose behind the philosophy currently in vogue here in Valencia. Firstly all the bodegas are moving more towards bottling wine rather than selling it in bulk although that will always be a source of income for them. Now the mood is to provide quality wines which show varietal characteristics and both satisfy the new market and the demands of a new range of younger wine drinkers.

Many of the new wines are single variety rather than blends but even the latter have their markets as well.

The tasting was interesting because it brought the cooperatives together with the sumillers who recommend their wines in restaurants etc FACSv are to be congratulated for this initiative and for us it was a rare opportunity to look at and compare what  forms the backbone of representative wines in the hostelry trade which tourists and other visitors are most likely to see and drink on a visit to Valencia.

Overall we would give these Coops a big thumbs up!

I’m sure VÍ vid will be enjoying closer relationships with these bodegas and playing our part in showing more of their wines in our forthcoming tastings.

 

 

 

 

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Dominio de La Vega Introduces a New Range of Wines. #VinosSeleccionDV


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Yesterday, Monday 20 April, the press were invited to Dominio de La Vega, in San Antonio, for the launch of a new range of wines.

The winery has been producing amongst the best wines year after year and the winemakers have had a growing desire to make a new style of wine. This includes new modern lables, new designs and names which perfectly reflect the precious liquids the bottles contain.

Its success in doing so is reflected in  a combination of more successful  marketing and wine sales and to a  higher level of interest from export markets.

The bodegas entry-level brand, Añacal , (a white, rosado and red)   continues unchanged for the time being.

Their next range, the `madurado en barrica´ Bobal and special selection Sauvignon Blanc and a Reserva tinto are the wines being replaced.

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The encounter  started with an aperitif under the pines ( either a cava or the rosado) whilst everyone was welcomed, old acquaintances renewed and one or two new contacts were made! The old Casa del Conde which sits alongside the old National road from Valencia to Madrid, was built around 200 years ago at the height of Valencia´s export sales to France, a time when phylloxera had killed off the vines particularly around Bordeaux. This period also coincided with the growth of the railways which transported the wine to Valencia´s port.

As a treat, we were about to be offered a vertical tasting of the bodega´s Artemayor red wine. This is a wine from Bobal, made only from the very best plot of the variety belonging to the bodega , La Beata, It is not a conventional wine. The 90-year-old plus vines are now producing concentrated, small berries which , with careful skills Dani Esposito , the bodegas  winemaker and winner of many awards, is turning into an exceptional wine. When Dani started with the 2001 vintage Bobal it was still considered a poor variety only good for rosado. It certainly was not considered a wine to make heavy reds for ageing in bottle!

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The wine is also a blend of three vintages.

We commenced with the first `añada´ produced, a blend of 2001, 2002 and 2003., approximately 75% being from 2002.

This had been bottled in 2004 . Garnet in colour there was evidence of sediment in the glass and it is beginning to show a hint of terracotta at the rim. On the nose it is still lively with mature, sweet fruit, a vegetal hint and oak. In the mouth it was fruity, slightly jammy, lively, with soft tannins and a touch of chocolate in a long full finish.

The second añada, a blend of 2002, 2003 and 2004 was a slightly deeper colour with softer fruit on the nose but the tannins were a little firmer.

By the third añada ( 2004/2005/2006) the bodega was experimenting with the maximum maceration and extraction of colour and flavour from the variety. The wood was much more marked on the nose, with the wine showing cacao and leather. This was the leanest añada with the least fruit, quite hard and tannic.

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The fourth, a similar colour to the last two, was perhaps a little brighter. This had undergone fermentation in open barrels and the 2005/2006 and 2007 were more balsamic on the nose , with hints of concentrated Marmite yeasts. concentrated and whilst rounder in the mouth the fruit was again a bit lean. This wine has some way to go before it will be ready and I will be sitting on my bottles for a while, I think!

Finally the 2006/ 2007 and 2008 which comprises añada 5 was the brightest colour yet. This had notably long,  heavy legs. The nose is initially closed but as it opens up cherry fruit, mature emerges. In the mouth the wine has a lot of oak, toasty, but black fruit, chocolate and a touch of tobacco leaf.

All the wines show good reasons to keep well made Bobal wines for some time to allow them to express themselves fully.

Alvaro Faubel presents the new wines.

Alvaro Faubel presents the new wines.

Then it was off to work with Alvaro Faubel, one of the bodegas three owners presenting the new labels and wines.

This was accompanied by a lunch provided by  El Yantar, the highly favoured Venta del Moro fusion restaurant.

It has to be said the Bobal and Sauvignon Blanc with their modern , brightly coloured labels have proved a very popular range. It was with interest that we sat down to see what was taking their place!

There was to be no disappointment!

Recuérdame Blanco Seco 2014 with three months in oak is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, ( 80%) with 15% Chardonnay and 5% Macabeo. It is golden in colour, surprisingly so, clean, brilliant with good legs ( 12%ABV).

On the nose it is initially very floral, elderflower, grass, with the Sauvignon Blanc dominating. As it evolves so does the passion fruit and then a little pineapple as the chardonnay appears.

Cod to accompany the Recuérdame.

Cod to accompany the Recuérdame.

In the mouth it seemed light but suddenly it all comes together, a big , well-integrated mouthful, fruity, with lively acidity, rich, well-balanced and with a long full finish. At 6-7€ a bottle in the market this is a worthy successor and we look forward to showing it at tastings. It was matched with cod ( slow cooked at low temperature) still translucent, served on potato and a creamed runner bean and onion sauce made with arbequina olive oil, and decorated with pomegranate seed and cress. This was stunningly good.

Bobal En Calma

Bobal En Calma

The second wine is a Bobal 2013, `Bobal en Calma´ with 9 months of ageing in 500 litre oak barrels. This is made to be fresh and to show the acidity and tannins which balance the fruit. Deep black cherry in colour with long slow, glycerinous legs. At first the nose was a little closed but the wine evolved quickly in glass ( it needs another couple of months in bottle) with fresh cherry nose then liquorice, chocolate and smoke. In the mouth it is indeed a fresh fruity wine, with good tannins and a long finish. It is a wine to drink with friends and good value at .7-8€.

Egg in a nest!

Egg in a nest!

This was matched with poached quail egg on foie in a nest of pasta canaif, and roast apple with small cubes of gelatine made with white, rosado and tinto wines.

The third wine `Paraje Tornel´is also a Bobal with 12 months oak ageing. This is designed to show the intensity of wines from the variety with very mature vines.

Paraje Tornel Bobal

Paraje Tornel Bobal

Very deep black cherry, very full with long slow legs.

On the nose the fruit, acidity  and the alcohol are perfectly integrated. Ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, liquorice, chocolate, café, crema patisseria were all evident. The fruit and spice are matched in the mouth with a full, creamy , round mouthful with a long fruity finish. Excellent!

This was served with carillera, perfectly tender cheeks served in a rich sauce and garnished with a macedoine of carrot and courgette and beans with baby pickled onion and tomato garnish.

Carrillera

Carrillera.

But , most of those around us agreed that the Bobals also went best with the sponge served as dessert with ice-cream and cinnamon with a hot chocolate sauce…..Bobal and chocolate, no surprise there!

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An excellent presentation, three worthy new wines to bear the Dominio de la Vega name, a tasting of five añadas of Artemayor and more examples of the excellent fusion food from El Yantar. An excellent mornings work! Thank you to Dominio de la Vega!

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Arroz al Horno…More Than Just Leftovers!


Arrozes from the Cofradia de Arroz.

Arrozes from the Cofradia de Arroz.

We are now well into Autumn and in the canon that constitutes Valencian gastronomy traditional dishes would include Arroz al Horno…oven cooked rice. It does seem to be a little incongruous however to want a dish which is a `rib-sticker´ when the sun is still shining and the temperatures are still in the mid to high 20´s!

Nonetheless it is appearing on the menus of local restaurants and many visitors to Valencia will not be aware of either its history or what a good meal it is.

Historically it is believed to be a dish of leftovers! The base of the dish is the stock left after cooking   `Putxero´ or `Cocido´ ( See my posts of 10 October and 17 February 2012.)  You are left with a big pan of stock full of goodness and flavour and have to find something to do with it!

Today it is a mainstay in  Valencia with regional variations and ingredients depending on which part of the Community you are in. It is particularly popular in and around Xativa and Ontinyent, the Ribeira Baixa and Alta and parts of Castellon as well as the Horta Oeste and Camp de Turia.

The dish has several names  but essentially `Arroz al Horno´ and `Arros al Forn ´ simply reflect the Castellano/Valenciana languages.

In some  areas I have heard it called `Arroz Paseado´ or `Arros Passajet´ no doubt from the tradition of households without ovens walking their dish to the local bakers to have it cooked for them after the bread was finished….something I have seen for myself  in Vilamarxant.

The dish is nearly always cooked in a Cazuela de Barra, the traditional and immensely popular terracotta oven to tableware which is ubiquitous here! I have however seen it cooked in a roasting pan and some of the trendier Pyrex oven pans which are now available.

Ingredients.

So what goes in it? Well, typically my Spanish friends will tell you that it should contain pork ribs, morcilla ( either with onion or `de carne´which are a little more robust in the cooking process) , blanquet ( or white sausage) pancetta ( thick rashers of belly pork) , chickpeas, rice, sliced potato and tomato all crowned with a head of garlic and a good stock.

You may also add pilotas  ( small pork balls with parsley and spices ) around L´Alcudia and  in some cases green beans or artichokes.

Arroz from L´Alcudia, Cooked by Galbis.

Arroz from L´Alcudia, Cooked by Galbis.

I have seen versions that include a whole duck ( La Ribera Alta – Alginet, Carlet ) , rabbit or chicken ( La Marina Alta- Parcent, Pego, Ondara ) and even incorporating pumpkin ( La Plana Alta – around Benissa and Almassora)  . Other friends tell me that there is sufficient flavour in the ingredients and that only water , salt and maybe a little saffron should be used.

What is absolutely clear is that the quality of ingredients is paramount. I have learned that buying mass-produced morcilla or blanquets is a mistake. Going to a traditional, specialist butcher for quality, artisan made products will pay dividends! Valencian gastronomy is after all about the juxtaposition of natural flavours and not about adding flavours to make something taste better! I buy my blanquets and morcilla de carne for the  version I cook from specialist butchers in Carcaixent and Ontinyent. I do not buy prepacked, pre-chopped pork rib from supermarkets, it is too small. The local butcher will chop your `trozos´ to the correct size. pancetta from such a butcher is also likely to be better quality if you wish to use it.

The local greengrocer is also a good source for the individual  ingredients which make up the stock and they generally have a better quality local tomato than the supermarkets who often source theirs from the Canaries or Holland!

Of course you should also soak your dried-chickpeas in water overnight as this is the alternative basis of the stock! Pre-cooked chickpeas work but the stock you use then becomes more important.  There are one or two proprietary brands of pre-prepared stock, or `Caldo´ available and as long as you  buy  the natural ones such as `Aneto´ you will be fine.

Arros Passejat, Casa Ricardo.

Arros Passejat, Casa Ricardo.

Ricardo´s Arros passejat or Arroz al horno.

Ingredients for four People.

400gm Arroz DOP Valencia.

250gm Pork ribs chopped into chunks.

I head of Garlic.

2 Garlic cloves chopped.

4 Morcillas de Carne

3 Tomatos.

2 Potatos

125gm Chickpeas

Stock

Olive Oil and Salt.

Thereafter the method of cooking is straightforward. Commencing in a frying pan with the potatos which are sliced thickly and fried on both sides and  set aside  The chopped pieces of rib come next, which are browned and sealed then removed, then the pancetta or blanquets and finally the morcilla.

The pan will now have a lot of fat and juices in it! You need some of this for flavour and texture! In the cazuela on an open heat, add some of the fat to  one chopped tomato and the diced garlic cloves. These should be cooked until you have a sofrito at which point the drained chickpeas are added and then the rice to absorb the flavours.

Add in the pork ribs and warm through. Then start to heat the stock and add it slowly to the rice. The potatos and the remaining  tomatos which have been sliced thickly  are then arranged on top and the morcilla, pancetta and blanquets are pushed into the dish. ( See pictures) . The head of garlic sits in the centre like a crown!

Adapted for the paella!

Adapted for the paella!

The rest of the stock is then poured in and the dish is put into a preheated oven ( 200ºC ) until all the liquid has been absorbed. This depends very much on the rice used. Round grain D.O.P. Valencia rice such as `Señorial´  will absorb 2-3 times the amount of liquid. Normally you will need up to 3/4 of an hour followed by five minutes resting time but check to see that there is either sufficient stock to completely cook the rice or that it is not already cooked.

Competitions are common place, the best known being in Xativa every year, but Torrente also has a competition for its `Arros Rossejat´and in Utiel at the Gastronomic fair every year there is a competition for amateurs. There is also a cod and cauliflower version!

Judging at the Utiel Fair Competition!

Judging at the Utiel Fair Competition!

 

Whether you try it in a restaurant, at a fair or cook it yourself the plate will not disappoint!

Just Another Day in Paradise!..Visits to Vicente Flors and Juan Carlos Pavia Before Lunch in L´Escudella!


New Garnacha at Vicente Flors

New Garnacha at Vicente Flors

Leaving Valencia at 8.00 am in the morning and joining Friday´s  rush-hour traffic on the A7 Motorway towards Barcelona the day did not seem to be getting off to an auspicious start! I don´t do early morning nor heavy traffic normally!

But I will make exceptions to help friends and in any case a visit to the Bodega of Vicente Flors in Les Useres always throws something new and interesting up and today was to be no different. Vicente had been asked to host a visit from International Students undertaking a Master’s Degree in wine, agriculture and the marketing of wine. He did not know much about the background of the course and had asked me to help with translation into English. As I know his bodega and methods well I was more than happy to see what I could do. When they arrived, all 23 of them and the course manager a lot became clearer!

International Masters Students.

International Masters Students.

Yes there were Japanese, French, Argentinian, American and Russian students but interestingly a requirement of the course is to be fluent in a second language. The course is funded by UNESCO and partly administered by the EU. The students receive 45,000 euros to do the course and spend three months at a time in different countries and then do placements before qualifying.  Oh how I wish I was young again!

Before the coach arrived Vicente showed me the Garnacha Grano Menudo he has allocated for his new Natural Sweet wine, the grapes looking very healthy hanging in small bunches, small, concentrated , loose grapes with a healthy bloom. The intention is to pick them in about a month and press them slowly to extract all the colour and fruit and then ferment to about 14º alcohol leaving a enough natural sugars to give the wine its sweetness. The vines are just three years old and this will be their first vintage…..as long as the rain does not come and ruin everything!

Garnacha Grano Menudo.

Garnacha Grano Menudo.

The previous day Vicente had picked his Garnacha and Tempranillo for the new Rosado he is making and this was in a nearby bodega ( Vicente does not yet have permission from the Authorities to use his own premises) in deposit. This harvest had been undertaken dodging the frequent showers of Thursday afternoon.

The tour went well, the students asked lots of technical questions and between us we got it all explained, if slowly because of repetition in French, Spanish and English! The cata however was done in English, four very distinct wines, the maceración carbonica Flor de Tarongers 2011 Tempranillo, the Flor de Clotas with just five months in oak, also 2011 and Tempranillo ( fresh, fruity ) the Clotas Tempranillo with 14 months oak from 2010, Tempranillo, ( intense fruit, complex, spicy) and we finished with the Clotas Monastrell, also 14 months of crianza, ( Fruit, spice and hints of violets and figs).

Juan Carlos Pavia and Vicente Flors.

Juan Carlos Pavia and Vicente Flors.

The students left and moved on to nearby Clos d´escarragordes. We cleared up and went to see Juan Carlos Pavia in the next village,  La Barona. Vicente was keen to see how his rosado was coming along and Juan Carlos who was up to his ears in managing everything that was going on dropped everything to come and chat to us.

Juan Carlos eventually hopes to open his own bodega but , for the time being is very happy with the arrangement he and Pilar who owns Bodegas El Rosso ( former producers of L´Esperit)  have come to. He makes their bulk wines and uses the premises to make his own Roques Negres and this year has also been experimenting. A brief tour of the bodega was followed by a fascinating tasting…a continuing part of the learning process!

Selection of Wines Tasted!

Selection of Wines Tasted!

We started with a new white, a pure Macabeo, still fermenting in deposit. Cloudy but absolutely reeking of fresh apples, bananas and  boiled sweets this already has a fresh acidity. I was keen to monitor the progress of the Syrah, a new wine which I had tried from deposit in Les Useres earlier in the year. ( See archives June 2013). Thoughtfully Juan Carlos brought samples from the deposit and the barrica ( approximately half the wine has had a four-month crianza and is ready to go back to deposit to allow the other half to go into the  barrels). The wine in deposit has a spiky fresh black cherry fruit and the sample from the barrel has just rounded off nicely! The two sets of  wine will need to blended and bottled and allowed to stabilise but by around the end of Spring next year it should be ready for the market……cant wait!

Next we tried a Macabeo 2008 fermented in barrica which comes from the El Rosso stable. It was a modern attempt to produce a fuller wine in the style which was and still is traditionally made in the village. We were not all in agreement that it had worked. However the next two wines a traditional rancio aged in big oak barrels and a 16º + version which are sold in bidons were pleasant. Typical of the style of wines still produced in the Valentino of DO Valencia in villages such as Casinos and Vilar D´Arzobispo these have an interesting fruit base but are oxidised and on the way to being a sherry style wine….the second was very close.

After these we tried the Roques Negres red, a great way to finish a visit on a very busy day in the bodega and thanks to Juan Carlos for his time!

L´escudella Restaurant.

L´escudella Restaurant.

Visits to this area are never complete without lunch! It is not every day your host says `let’s go 60km and try a restaurant in Villafranca´….especially as the thunderstorms were gathering over the mountains we were about to cross! It did allow for some spectacular scenery as the plots  of vines, almonds and olives gave way to  proper fields with stone walls like you get in Yorkshire, cows, oak trees, hawthorn with bright plump red berry´s on, eagles flying over the windmills beyond the town of Ares del Maestrat ( itself an eagle’s nest perched on the Col de Ares) and later the truffle fields and hazelnut groves around the spa town of Benassal.

This is the country of El Cid and well worth a visit.

Salmon with Yoghurt.

Salmon with Yoghurt.

Villafranca del Cid has a small but spectacular restaurant, L´escudella run by Emilio Pons and Bruno Morrajo. It offers clever, traditional dishes using modern techniques such as low temperature cooking, fabulous presentation and with subtle touches such as salad dressings of concentrated grape juice, home-made jams and jellies and creams and yoghurts with hints of lemon to lift them and ice-cream with a dressing of lemon and basil to accompany a chocolate pudding to die for.

For starters we had rovellons and a potato dish marinated in vinegar with onion, salmon marinated with yoghurt and which was perfectly fresh,tasty and tender.

Baby Pigs Ears.

Baby Pigs Ears.

This was followed by a goats cheese salad and then baby pigs ears , crunchy and with a sesame seed crust served with cherry tomato garnish. This was followed by little croquettes ( or Napoleanas named after the tricorn hat) .

Main courses were baby lamb or baby piglet , slow cooked and absolutely tender, melt in the mouth meat served with a potato and maracuya garnish , (part of the passion fruit family). How well the Clotas Tempranillo went with them!

Pudding was the chocolate….too good to miss!!!!!

Baby Lamb. Melt in Mouth!

Baby Lamb. Melt in Mouth!

This was an excellent example of simple, top quality ingredients being cooked with care, love and a great deal of thought….cocina mimada  at its best! A very big thanks to Vicente Flors for a fabulous end to a truly great day!

Sueca 2013, The Best Paella Valenciana in the World and a Truly International Competetion!


Sueca paellas 2013.

The  53rd International Competition for professional chefs and restaurants to cook the best Paella Valenciana in the world was held on Sunday last in Sueca.  Thirty invited restaurants from the 150 applicants took part on a hot day in the park by the station in the centre of town. The most notable element this year was the higher proportion of International contestants taking part!

No less than eight participants came from around the world as follows:-

Casa Paella Ltd , Nelson ,New Zealand.

Restaurant Chambao, Miami, USA.

Restaurant La Chaumiere, Font-Romeu, France.

Restaurant Ginza Espero II , Tokio, Japan.

Tomoko Kawabuchi, Osaka, Japan.

Paella Fella, West Sussex, England.

Restaurant Español Picasso, Hamburg, Germany.

Vale Paella, Tokio Japan.

So with all these foreigners taking part there was a fair chance that the Best Valencian Paella in the world may actually be cooked not   by someone from Valencia! Last years American winner it should be remembered didn´t really count because the chefs were exiled Valencians!

Chambao, Miami.

Chambao, Miami.

The competition has a very strict set of rules, requiring the competitor to cook a paella for fifteen, over wood, with ingredients provided by the organising committee. No additional ingredients are allowed, but of course you do not need to add the whole amount of each of those you are provided with. These are:-

Salt and water from Sueca. 

1.5kg, Valencian rice from Sueca.

1 Litre Olive Oil, DO Valencia.

4 dozen snails.

1.5kg of the three beans, garrofón, tavella and ferradura.

Ikg tomatos.

1 head of garlic.

Saffron in strands and powder form.

115gm of pimenton.

2 special chickens.

2 rabbits.

The day starts with the participants setting up in their individual `kitchens´ and then doing the preparation. Almuerzo is then eaten before the cooking starts around 11.45 with the paellas being submitted to the judges at 14.00pm

Edrick Corban-Banks from New Zealand had cooked last year as well and had come fifth. He was well into his preparation when I caught up with him and was hopeful of finishing further up the order. Edrick runs authentic paella demonstrations and Spanish cookery classes.

Edrick Corban-Banks, NZ.

Edrick Corban-Banks, NZ.

First timer was Nick Blythe, the `Paella Fella´ who cooks authentic Valencian Paellas in Turners Hill, West Sussex, in England. He was cooking with his sons and freely admitted at the end that it was much harder than they thought it would be! Nick has been holidaying in the Sueca area for some years and has fallen in love with the area.

Paella Fella, UK.

Paella Fella, UK.

The Japanese contingent came accompanied by the Consul, Mitsuyo Kajita, who was also a juror this year. Vale Paella and Tomoku Kawabuchi were also cooking here for the first time but Ginza Espero II had cooked last year and brought some colour and interesting utensils to the kitchen!

Chambao from Miami is a fusion restaurant advertising a range of cooking influences and styles open all day and specialising in Cuban, Basque, Tapas and Seafood dishes.

Restaurant Picasso from Hamburg may have had a bit of a shock when they received their ingredients. I see from their lunchtime menu on the website that their Paella Valenciana includes meat and fish!

Colour in the Ginza kitchen!

Colour in the Ginza kitchen!

La Chaumiere certainly has some nice food on its website but there was no sign of a paella, just a black rice risotto with lobster!

The Spanish entry to watch was of course El Redoli, home of Pepi Montero, a family restaurant on a bit of a roll at the moment having won the Alli Pebre competition in each of the last two years.

So the cooking begins, the crowds gather at each of the kitchens and watch the efforts as they progress. The crowd is entertained with free coco-cola and San Miguel from the sponsors…very welcome on a hot day and Tio Fredo, Valencia´s rock star belted out his homage to paella…a catchy little number!

Tio Fredo

Tio Fredo

As the cooking progressed it quickly emerged that this year the paellas would be more similar than last year. Indeed the depth of rice, distribution of ingredients and the colour was indistinguishable as the paellas were finished and walked to the judges table.

The judges were clearly going to have a hard job this year  they and would have to rely on all the elements of their decision-making process….in addition to the symmetry and colour the taste, the degree of cooking of the rice and the `socarrat´ ( the caremelised bit on the bottom which is most sought after) .

To the Judges!

To the Judges!

The rest of us went to the banqueting suite for a cold beer and anticipated the formal lunch and subsequent prize giving.

When it comes to the awards the ceremony was split in two. Before lunch retired chefs from the area received certificates recognising their contribution  and the judges a small sculpture recognising theirs. Amongst the judges was Guillermo Navarro from Wikipaella, recognising the contribution to the International Year of Valencian Paella that the organisation has made through social media to defending and promoting the dish.

After lunch the finalists all receive something and for the record the following were recognised with an `accésit´:-

Casa Paella NZ.

Jordi Freecook, Valencia.

Picasso, Hamburg.

El Redoli, El Palmar, Valencia.

Vale Paella , Tokio Japan.

The Winners! Posada Real.

The Winners! Posada Real.

The three main prizes were awarded as follows:-

Third, Chambao, Miami, USA.

Second, Casa Picanterra, Cullera, Valencia.

First, Posada Real de Santa Maria del Campo Rus, Cuenca, Spain.

And so, another year was over. The organisers, principally Jesus Melero of Restaurant Ri Ra in Sueca had managed another triumph. Maybe one of the foreigners will win in 2014!

Paella Valencia. Best Paella in the World!

Paella Valencia. Best Paella in the World!

 

DO Utiel-Requena, Bumper Harvest Underway and Ferevin 2011 Memories.


Chardonnay at Vera de Estenas.

It seems as though the optimism reported a couple of weeks back about the prospects for a bumper harvest this year in Utiel-Requena are proving correct so far. Discussions with friends from several bodegas produced reports of good, healthy and large crops some of which were already being harvested. Emilio Esposito, one of the owners of  Dominio de la Vega  explained that son Daniel was overseeing the harvest of Chardonnay, Macabeo and Pinot Noir for their Cava. Pablo Ossorio of  Hispano Suizas was reportedly collecting their whites in as well ( see Pig.tv on Facebook for a film report) and this week has seen the harvest begin in Vera de Estenas of Chardonnay and at Pago de Tharsys their Bronx for the sweet wine is currently undergoing pasification in the sun whilst the Bobal for the cava Unico, a white cava from a black grape, is also underway.

With prospects of an excellent quality crop which could attract higher prices the DO has not been slow to exploit the possibilities. One of the principal duties of the controlling body is to set the limits of how much can be harvested by hectare, a means of controlling quality. Yesterday it was announced that the DO was temporarily changing these yields for this year. For the grapes grown in goblet style it will now be possible to harvest 9,900kilos per hectare as opposed to 7,500k. Bobal yields rise to 8,600k but other red varieties will be reduced from 8,000k to 7,500k per hectare.

2011 Harvest at Vera de Estenas.

For grapes grown `en espalda´ ( trained on wires) the yield rises for whites from 9,100k to 12,000k and for Bobal to 10.5K per hectare. Other reds drop from 9,700 to  9,100 kilos per hectare.

This is clearly aimed at maximizing the excellent prospects for Macabeo for cava amongst other reasons. The DO was quick to point out that this is going to be a harvest of great quality.

Ferevin 2011 was set against this background with optimism high. New markets for both quality and bulk wines were emerging, not only in China.

I spent a couple of days talking to some of the 20 or so members of the organisation and introducing a young putative wine-merchant from the UK, keen to import Mediterranean wines and particularly interested in Bobal, Tim O´Donnell , Director of soon to be Alizarin Wine Ltd, in South London.

Tim O´Donnell, Alizarin Wines with Latorre Agrovinicola.

This led to some quite detailed tastings at a number of stalls of some of the best bodegas attending. We began with Emilio Esposito at Dominio de la Vega, always one of the busier stalls at the fair. We began with the 2010 Bobal, a joven style madurado en barrica which was released in March. At the time I was quite disappointed because by comparison with 2009 it was a much less concentrated wine. However with a few months evolution in bottle the wine has settled down and I was impressed that it is now showing much more. Cherry red, with a blue edge and long legs, on the nose cherry and raspberry fruit, liquorice and eucalyptus and in the mouth nice fruit and coffee. Long concentrated finish.

Second we tried the 2009, medio crianza 2009 which won a gold medal in Brussels at the International wine challenge this year. 60% Bobal, with around 15% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 13.5%ABV, it is also cherry red, medium density with good long legs. On the nose ripe, red fruit, damsons and plums, with a hint of smoke and eucalyptus. In the mouth well-integrated good balance with a long smooth finish.

Top of the range is the Arte Mayor IV. This is the bodega´s flagship red and its representative in the Asociación Primum Bobal range. A blend of the best cuvees from three vintages ( 2005/6/7 ) of pure Bobal from the Beata parcels, all from French oak. A wine which needs decanting it is a rich cherry red,spicy (clove) with deep  concentrated fruit, perfumed and with smoke and liquorice. At around 20€ it is a fabulous wine and a real privilege to taste. ( One good lottery win and there would be a lot of this in my cellar!)

Next we turned to a couple of the cavas, starting with the Brut Joven. This is a nice blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo which shows well how good cava can be made. A good yellow colour, with white melon and green apple with a touch of citrus. In the mouth nice fresh acidity, good attack and full. Good value easy drinking cava from a quality producer.

Finally we tasted the 2008 Cava from Pinot Noir. A good raspberry colour with a persistent crown and fine bubbles. On the nose raspberry fruit, quite full and in the mouth lovely acidity and attack, balanced fruit, fresh and a quality drink. I love this with a seafood paella or arroz. See August 2010 archive, A Visit to Dominio de la Vega and  www.dominiodelavega.com

Tasting Brut Rosado from Pinot Noir at the Dom.de la Vega Stand.

In June, as part of the bob@l-bloggers weekend we had visited Latorre Agrovinicola in Venta del Moro. This is a complete contrast to the previous bodega with huge intake and bulk sales as well as retaining wine from the best parcels to make a range of quality but inexpensive wines. With Manel Guasp, Marin and Louis Rafael Latorre we looked at some of that range starting with the Viura/Verdejo a new white from 2010. Pale gold colour, dry apple nose and a long mineraly grapefruit fresh finish. This is a classy different white from the DO and the first to legally use the recently authorised Verdejo variety.

The rosado from this bodega has a lot of colour and is  deep rose with long legs. On the nose strawberry leaf, fresh and in the mouth strawberries and cream but a bit fuller than some rosados. From 60-year-old bobal vines I have had a lot of this wine from the Parreño range this summer.

Latorre´s real strength though is the range of Crianzas and Reservas. Traditional style wines with absolute adherence to the rules of the DO in ageing in both wood and bottle the wines are surprisingly inexpensive and would provide a good range for importation to the UK market.

The 2007 Crianza is an easy drinking blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bobal and is all red and black fruit on the nose with hints of wood, smooth tannins, good fruit and a solid long full finish.

The 2001 Reserva with its traditional label is full of black fruit, hints of vanilla from French oak and chocolate from the ageing process. Very smooth and at 5€ a bottle ex-cellars very good value for a 10-year-old wine. But the top of the range Gran Reserva also from Bobal is the blockbuster, with three years in wood and 5 years in bottle before release this has huge amounts of glycerine in the legs, and is full of cinnamon, clove, black fruits and at around 8€ a bottle is very good value for quality to price ratio.  See archives 2011 (July 1 ) and www.latorreagrovinicola.com .

Tracy,Nicky and Denise from the Pedralba Wine Circle with Maria José from Chozas carrascal.

Another representative bodega with a steady reputation and exciting wines is Chozas Carrascal and once again Maria José Lopez Peidro showed us the range. Originally planted by a French enologist Chozas has a lot of classic varieties as well as Bobal.

We started with the Cava 2008, a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 45% Macabeo, with 2 years in contact with the lees this has depth, yet is fresh, crisp but still full. A serious cava for food this would be excellent with paella  and some pasta dishes. Palates cleansed we tried the Las Dosces 2010 Sauvignon Blanc which I first tasted before Xmas last year. The wine won an award in a wine show in San Francisco and has now rounded out a little. Full of tropical fruits with peaches and grapefruit, the 11% Macabeo gives it a nice balancing fresh acidity…..a lovely wine!

We next tasted the Las Tres 2010, which will not be made in 2011 because of damage caused by the hailstorms which devastated the vineyards of San Antonio last month, hailstorms the size of a fist. The 2010 is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Macabeo with three months in French oak. On the nose this has something from each of the varieties, wet wool from the Chardonnay, apple, flowers ( Macabeo) , peaches  and very ripe melon from the Sauvignon. You could be forgiven for thinking there is Viognier in this blend. In the mouth this is full of ripe fruit and is rich. Roll on the 2012 vintage!

We moved to the first of the four reds, the Las Dosces tinto joven, the bodega´s contribution to the Asociación Primum Bobal range. Now 80% Bobal with the rest made up by Tempranillo and Syrah this is a really easy drinking style of wine, lots of fruit but topped off with chocolate and coffee. A modern style…lovely.

Next we compare the Las Ocho 2007 and 2008 vintages.  A blend of the 8 varieties grown at the vineyard with  Monastrell ( mourvedre) included the 2007 has a very deep colour, and good long legs. On the nose spicy but quite closed and in the mouth powerful and still quite tannic. By contrast the 2008 is more forward. It has a little less colour and on the nose a little less spice but more fruit and in the mouth soft, smooth and elegant. Quite different and shows well how difficult consistency of style in Utiel-Requena is…not that this is a big issue at Chozas where the whole family and the enologist taste from all the barricas before deciding on the final blend each year!

The Bodegas flagship wine is a pure Cabernet Franc, a classic variety from the Loire valley where it is important in Bourgueil and Chinon. The 2008 is now legal, the variety finally having been authorised in the DO. And comparisons with the Loire valley are reasonable as the wine has classic raspberry and mineral flavours with a Mediterannean flavour. I love this wine!

More info on the bodega in the September 2010 Archive and www.chozascarrascal.es. Many thanks to Maria José and Sonia Velazquez who kept a supply of fresh glasses and bottles coming and coped admirably with the Pedralba Wine Circle who descended en-masse  to taste the Cava! Best wishes for a speedy recovery also to Julian, Maria José´s father who was taken ill before the fair commenced.

Next we tasted a number of wines from Rodolfo Valiente and Bodegas Vegalfaro.

Wines from Vegalfaro.

We started with another joven style, the Barrica 3 months 2010 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot and Bobal and 13.5%ABV. Medium density, long slow legs and with a blue edge. The nose was quite closed although with a little eucalyptus, this was fresh with a huge explosion of fruit in the mouth, round , balanced and a pleasant easy drinker! Also an award-winning wine.

The 2008 Crianza 14% ABV is a blend  of Bobal, Tempranillo and Merlot and had a deep colour, again with long legs. On the nose heavy ripe fruit and in the mouth smooth with balanced tannins.

The Pasamonte Tintorera Garnacha was again quite closed on the nose whilst having a freshness in the mouth, good fruit and balanced smooth tannins. Elegant and mineral finish.

We went on to taste the Pago de Balagueses 2007 and 2008 the former from Syrah and the latter from Merlot. Both were served chilled, the heat still being high in the evening session and I felt the wines were losing a little as a result. In any case the bodega warrants a visit and I hope to do this in late September after the harvest.

We did finish with the Cava which has spent 40 months on the lees and which was fresh but full, initially appley but lovely and I look forward to trying this again shortly! www.vegalfaro.com

No visit to Ferevin is complete without tasting the wines of Vera de Estenas and Felix Martinez obliged on the Saturday lunchtime. Over a bollo we tasted almost the entire range before being invited to lunch at the bodega on the Saturday where we conducted a further tasting! www.veradeestenas.es and see Archives September 2010 and March 2011.

Lunch at Vera de Estenas.

The wines from this bodega are well documented in my blogs and truly  representative of the best that can be produced in the DO. Thank you Felix and Yolanda for your hospitality.

Whilst there were 2-3 less bodegas present this year ( Notably Cuevas) there remained a fully representative selection of wines to try and the usual excellent quality from this excellent DO. Lets hope the optimism is fully justified and 2011 is the start of a strong period for Utiel-Requenas wines!

100 Blogs, 5 Vineyard lunches, and Friendship in the World of Wine!


Figatells Lomo and Salcichon.

 

Nearly two years of blogging and the land-mark 100th blog has been reached! The last couple of years are full of happy memories, almost all of it centred on the world of wine and food. It seems to me that I am not the only one to think that it is a world full of surprises and huge satisfaction, there is nothing better than enjoying and sharing good wine and food with people who are like-minded and in the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to meet  so many people willing to share their wines, recipes and meals with me!

Arroz from La Safor.

I have a book, Ten Vineyard Lunches, by American chef Richard Olney who describes his favourite meals as those improvised when friends turn up unexpectedly! I have enjoyed several of these here but my favourites are those at the vineyards where lunch is an opportunity to try their wines, some from the barrels,  the vintage bins or private reserves, to discuss them and also to try wines from elsewhere, always of course with typical food from the region and family recipes, variations on local themes.

Somewhat luckily the last month has seen five of these vineyard lunches and this seems a good opportunity ( if self-indulgently) to share some of my experiences

First lunch was  pre-harvest at Finca Collado with my adoptive Spanish family Mari-Carmen and Guillermo. It is always a pleasure to visit this property as readers will have discerned from previous posts. Finca Collado for me is one of the top properties in DO Alicante, emerging rapidly from the shadows and producing wines which are winning and will continue to win awards. This year the white has won both the Els Bodeguers silver medal for barrel fermented white wines and a bronze Baco .  The 2009 Merlot which is evolving beautifully in bottle but still needs decanting before drinking should win medals soon as should the tinto.

The vineyard is an expression of its terroir, sitting in the valley above Salinas and with three distinct soil types in the same vineyard. This allows for separate vinification and a tasting from the barricas shows the effect the different soils have on the grape varieties, especially in the reds.

 

Testing the must!

 

I sat and chatted with Guillermo who manages the vineyard and Joan the wine-maker over lunch and we discussed the way forward. Five plots have been cleared for new plantings of Monastrell  and some whites which will be initially experimental. These are likely to be Viognier which performs well in nearby DO Valencia, the boundary is very close and Roussane.

I was joined that day also by fellow blogger Javi Prats and his family, Javi having been very impressed at the Turia wine-fair was making his first visit.

Mari Carmen prepared lunch that day with Joan who comes from La Safor, and the food theme was based on his local cuisine. Mari Carmen had produced tortillas of red peppers and onion and plates of lomo, chorizo and jamon. Whist the main course was cooking we all sat and enjoyed the white and  rosado and then the Merlot with `Figatells´a small hamburger sized ball of pork liver and  shoulder minced roughly with parsley, thyme, rosemary and clove and wrapped in caul before cooking in the oven. Really tasty. Then with the main course of an arroz cooked with clams, squid and two types of prawns we enjoyed the tinto 2008 and a new wine still in the barrica which is largely Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Merlot from two different cuvees. This wine will replace the Merlot when it is ready early next year. Lunch was finished off with fresh fruit. Simple fare but with the right people and a wonderful atmosphere with expectations high of a good harvest!

 

Tortilla of red pepper and Onion.

 

Just ten days later I was back again, this time with Val and Tony from the Vilamarxant wine club to observe the harvest of the Merlot for the 2011 Rosado vintage, the 2010 being one of the most popular wines in my house this summer!

Mari Carmen learned to cook at her mother’s side, her mother having cooked in a care home and I have described her as someone who instinctively can throw something together with great ease, very much in the Olney style! Her mothers cooking was influenced by the different parts of Spain in which they lived. Starters of cheese, sausage and jamon were followed by a green salad and then a simple arroz, almost an arroz abanda but oven cooked in a cazuela, , although the preparation of the fumet looked anything but simple and used loads of fresh small fish (moralla) which the cats enjoyed later! This was followed by chunky slices of roasted meat  from a large beef joint, served with its own juices and necessary to keep the grape pickers on their feet. This was a largely family affair with a couple of friends drafted in and , for the record, the Merlot juice was very sweet and fruity, already developing colour after just a couple of hours in the deposit! Can´t wait until this is  released!

 

 

 

Fideuà.

 

Just a couple of weeks before this Vincent Petré, son of Daniel Petré Champagne and his girlfriend Marine came to lunch here…hardly a vineyard I know but five vines just count I think, even with no grapes…birds! Daniel has been in Valencia for several months and we had met at several tastings and visited a bodega together. He was joined by Laura Weatherston a teacher who arrived in Valencia a year ago, threw herself into tasting and bodega visits , both local wines and food. Vincent is returning to France to do an MBA and Laura was moving on to Mexico City to teach for a year. Together with Javi Prats, his wife Elena and Miguel Angel Martin , a professional wine teacher and his artist partner Inma, we were joined by Adela Hernandez and Mariano Taberner of Bodegas Cueva and Tony and Val from the Vilamarxant wine club for a farewell meal.

 

Farewell lunch.

Once again the super fresh produce of Valencia provided the backdrop and we sat around the table outside on the terrace enjoying plates of humous, with peppers, carrots, pitta bread and celery, a tuna salad and an English contribution, home-made scotched eggs from our chickens. These were something new for the Spanish who took to them readily! Main course was a fidueà cooked by Javi and Laura and we finished with a lemon tart made by Tony from his own lemons….again something our Spanish friends are all chasing the recipe for! Lunch became supper and we enjoyed wines from Finca Collado and Mariano´s wines from Cueva including some of his experimental spirits, an orujo with horchata ( just like Baileys!) an orujo from ginger, his cava and the super-concentrated Macabeo, naturally fermented with 23.5% alcohol, just like a fino. As well as a Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 Jaboulet we finished with La Palera, a vi Negre Dulce from Vilafames.

The following day we just de-camped to Bodegas Cueva and carried on!

 

At Bodegas Cueva with Adela and Felix and Vincent.

 

 

Here we were joined by Felix Garcia, formerly professor at the Requena wine school and behind natural products from Bobal, grape juice and a concentrated jelly which are very healthy!

Adela is no mean cook either and had prepared salads, morro, bravas, home cured olives and  curious pickled baby plums, bottled before ripening and which were like large greek olives. Absolute winner on the day was her Gazpacho Jalancia! A version of Gazpacho Manchego from the Jalance valley the meat,( partridge and rabbit) is cut into chunks rather than shredded as is traditional elsewhere. Then for dessert we enjoyed the carne de bobal frozen with goats yoghurt ice cream and little cakes also made with grape juice. All of course washed down with wines from the bodega and a French wine brought by Javi and Vincents family champagnes.

 

Felix, Yolanda, Elena and Javi.

Finally  and by no means least was a surprise lunch on Saturday right in the middle of Ferevin. Javi and I and an English friend setting up as a wine-merchant in South London with a penchant for Valencian wines and Bobal in particular were invited by Felix Martinez of  Vera de Estenas.

We started with an aperitif of the bodegas excellent cava down in the cellars.

Together with his wife Yolanda and other family members and Andrés Alonso Pons a Valencian lawyer and Gourmet, we then sat down to starters of traditional Requenense food. Bollo ( the flat olive bread cooked with bacon and local sausages,) a quiche of tuna and tomato with the egg cooked on top, not mixed in, coca ( a sort of pizza or pisaladiere) empañadas of cheese and ham and pisto, cheese and a russian style salad. These were accompanied by Viña Lidon the excellent barrel fermented chardonnay, the rosado from Bobal and the merlot fermented in barrel, all chilled perfectly.

 

Chocolate to Accompany Bobal, Including Chocolate with Morro!.

 

These were followed by an oven  roasted whole shoulder of Pork with baked apple and its own juices full of herbs, the first time I have seen pork served anything other than the size of a small chop!

To finish we of course had to have bitter chocolate to go with the bodega´s Casa Don Angel Bobal, looking at the three vintages, 2005, 2006 and the recently bottled 2007.

Once again a truly memorable lunch in fabulous surroundings with great company demonstrating the generosity and warmth of the Valencian people and the diversity of cooking across the region.

 

Casa Don Angel Bobal, 2005,2006 and 2007.

If the next year is half as good as the last two have been it will still be a wonderful experience enjoying genuine family based friendships and writing about the wine and gastronomy of Valencia! Who knows, there may be a separate cookery book in it!

A Visit to Bodegas Carlos Carcel, El Rebollar.


From a case of Wine.

 

Officially Bodega Hijos de Ernesto Carcel and situated in Calle Bodegas, this is the enterprise of the younger Carcel, Carlos who is also President of Ferevin. Carlos and elder brother Ernesto inherited the bodega from their father , also Ernesto, in the 1980´s and following a period of service in the armed forces and college in Vallodolid Carlos joined his brother in running the family business, producing `Rebollar´ in 1982. The brothers decided to invest in a bottling line , one of the first of the small producers to do so,  and gradually their wines began to grow in recognition.

By 1991 they were investing in oak barrels and showing their wines in competitions across Spain, garnering certificates and diplomas and with it greater recognition. Today some 80% of the barrels are American with the remainder being French.

Carlos Carcel.

When the brothers split the business in 1992 Carlos retained the family bodega and Ernesto built his own nearby ( See July 2011 Archive). The bodega had been built in 1948, just up the road from their grandfather´s original bodega which still stands today. It is a series of large concrete deposits lined with epoxy resin with cold plates for keeping the temperature of fermentation down, with pumps and three types of filters for the different styles of wines. Next door in  a modern building Carlos has the bodega, barrel cellar and store of wines on the lees as he also makes a sparkling wine of which more later. Here also the grapes enter the bodega from the vineyards, the furthest  of which is just three kilometers away before being consigned either to deposit directly for the maceración carbonica wine or via the press for the remainder. Carlos has Garnacha, Bobal, Tempranillo, Macabeo and Cabernet Sauvignon on his 20 hectares comprising of thirteen parcels of land.

New Bottling Plant.

Here also are the offices, bottling line and sales department and Carlos would like to remodel this area, put attractive traditional wooden doors on the entrance and create a tasting area for visitors.

Carlos was described by Joan Piqueras in his book ` The Coming of Bachus´, the definitive work on the wines of Valencia as a winemaker who will pass into the history of the region for his work on promoting the Bobal grape, producing the first Bobal fermented in barrel towards the end of the 1990´s, a wine which was well received by other winemakers locally and nationally. This was made from vines with ages between 50 and 90 years of age, some planted by his great-grandfather in 1906. Today Carlos produces a Reserva from Bobal and is marketing the 2001.

Carlos is also President of Ferevin, Requena´s annual wine fair and in his five years tenure of this post has seen the opening of its own permanent headquarters in the old district of Requena, La Villa. Here visitors can choose from a huge selection of wines from Utiel-Requena which the organisation promotes on behalf of it´s members. This years fair takes place between the 25th and 28th of August in the Avenida Arrabal.

In the Barrel Vault.

Throughout our visit Carlos explained the different techniques used for the different styles of wines he produces. These fall into two broad categories or marques, Vallé de Tejo which ( reflects the location of the vineyards at the foot of the Picos de Tejo in that part of the corridor between the mountain pass up from Buñol and the plain of Requena, where the winds from the sea and those opposing from the land, meet.) The second marque is Carlos Carcel and this reflects the modern wines he is making. In total he has thirteen wines for sale at the bodega and produces a relabeled wine for export to China which bears the date of the vineyard planted by his great-grandfather.

We commenced a comprehensive tasting with the Carlos Carcel sparkling white, a `Methodo Propio´ wine made from mature Macabeo grapes. Unlike Cava where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle Carlos´s wine starts its fermentation in deposit and is then transferred to bottle when the sugar levels are right to finish its one and only fermentation. It has no sugar added and when fermentation is complete it sits on the lees for two years. Carlos made an initial run of 2000 bottles for fun. As there was no labeled bottle in the fridge we sampled from  a bottle with it´s crown cork and plug of yeasts intact.

Dis-gorging the Methodo `Propio´.

Once the bottle had been disgorged, the wine showed a pale, golden colour, clean and bright with a good crown and persistent fine bubbles. On the nose, toasts, patisserie and melons in the mouth, mature melon fruit, round and balanced with just a hint of acidity at the finish. Fresh and elegant and 6€ a bottle at the bodega.

We then looked at two wines from the Vallé de Tejo joven range. We started with the 2010 Macabeo, macerated a little longer to extract all the aromatics. This was clearly succesful as the wine has a good yellow colour, is clean and bright with good legs and on the nose white flowers, ripe melon and ultimately wild fennel. In the mouth beautifully balanced, fresh, smooth and dry with good acidity and a long finish. 2.60€ a bottle.

The rosado is a blend of 45% Garnacha and 55% Bobal. Quite deep rose and strawberry red colour, initially floral on the nose with rose-hip, red currant and bubble gum all of which are present in the mouth where it has a good balance and a minerally long finish. Very nice! 2.60€ a bottle.

We moved up to the Carlos Carcel range for the Macabeo 2010 with 5 months crianza in American oak. This wine is pale golden-yellow, clean bright with good legs. On the nose the oak is marked but smooth and elegant and reminded me of a white reserva from Tondonia! In the mouth the wine is very smooth, fruity. The wine enters crianza with a little natural carbonic gas from the fermentation. This acts as a barrier between the wine and the oak and allows the former to take up the flavours more slowly. The result is an elegant classy white which at 4.90€ is a very well priced wine.

From the Wall of the 1948 Bodega.

First red was the Maceración carbonica from the Vallé de Tejo range. This technique for producing wines by fermenting the whole grapes and then lightly pressing to extract youthful fruit, colour etc is not traditional in the region and although one or two other bodegas have the technology Carlos believes he is the only wine-maker currently producing a wine by this method. It is a deep  cherry red, medium to full density with long legs. On the nose boiled sweets, mature fruit, and a violet floral touch. In the mouth youthful, fresh, boiled sweets ( golosinas) but round, with smooth tannins and a very long fruity finish. And it is from pure Bobal, quite different to what was expected! 3.60€ a bottle.

Moving up we tried the 2006 red with 14 months crianza from the Carlos Carcel range, a blend of the four reds. A medium density, cherry red wine with long legs. On the nose complex with a lot of mature fruit, laurel and a little clove. In the mouth smooth,  powerful , good body, red and black mature fruits, a long satisfying finish.

Finally we tried the 2001 Bobal Reserva, the flagship wine from the Vallé de Tejo reserva range. This wine has spent two years in deposit then a further two in oak, before a long period in bottle. I have fond memories of trying the 1999 last August in Requena and the memories were not upset! The 2001 has not acheived the slightly terracotta edge of the 1999, showing just how well the colour lasts as it was still a deep cherry red colour with a touch of violet at the edge. On the nose mature red and black fruit, balsamic notes, eucalyptus and liquorice. In the mouth very smooth, full fruit, balanced, meaty and powerful with lovely touches from the oak. Smooth , elegant and one of my favourite Bobal Reservas! Around 10€ a bottle and worth every cent. A wine to keep for a lot longer yet!

Range of Wines Available at the Bodega.

Our comprehensive visit came to an end and we had enjoyed a three-hour period which seemed to pass very quickly. I hope to visit again and the wines will certainly be regulars now at tastings and here at home!

 

 

 

 

 

Champagne Daniel Pétré Arrives in Valencia and Another Interesting Bottle (or Two) Come My Way!


 

 

Vincent Pétré opens the Cuvée Marie.

Champagne Daniel Pétré are a family firm based in the Cote de Bars, one of the lesser known components of champagne, and specifically in the town of Ville sur Arce, known also for the painter Renoir. The firm have their own vineyards but work with the Cooperative making them Recoltant Cooperants. Father Daniel and wife Marie are current owners of the family firm and both sons work in the business, one as a winemaker the other in marketing.

The latter, Vincent, has been in Valencia for several months and I have met him at several tastings whist he has been looking for work here. During this time we have been asking him to bring the family wines to Valencia for a tasting and finally this took place at Vins KM.0 in Russafa last night. Daniel Monsonis and Norbert Korsmeier who run this friendly little wine-merchants in Russafa hold occasional tastings and having decided to import some Champagne this gave us the opportunity to sample a potential new wine to Valencia.

The vineyards are Kimmeridgean chalk, full of old sea shells which are ideal for champagne production. Here they grow the traditional varieties of Chardonnay, and the two Pinots, Noir and Meunier. The first wine we tasted was the Cuvée Marie, named after Vincent´s mother. This is 2005, could be a `millesime´but with an unjustified modesty it is not claimed as such on the lable! A Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay and 12% ABV. To the eye, this wine has a good colour, golden-yellow, with fine persistent bubbles and a good crown. Very clear and bright. On the nose fresh fruits, apples, citric notes, peach and hints of minerals. Also nicely toasty ( the wine has spent 24 months on the lees ) giving it a fuller nose as well. In the mouth nice acidity and attack, minerals, citrus flavours, ( orange peel), as it passes the palate hints of tropical fruits as well, vanilla, and a persistent long finish . Very elegant!

Champagne Pétré.

Second wine was the 2007 Cuvée Réserve  Coupage.  12%ABV and a blend of 40% each of the two Pinots and balanced with 20% Chardonnay. This wine has won a gold medal recently at an international Sumillers competition. Fine persistent bubbles, a little more colour but a little less crown this wine appeared fresher, but still clear and bright. On the nose fresh, lighter, but still with very nice toasts, butter, white flowers, and grapefruit and sweet apples. In the mouth, the freshness is marked, the fruit flavours swirl across the palate with the bubbles added to by nuttiness  and it is beautifully balanced with a creaminess from the time on the lees. Another very nice wine!

For me both wines have benefitted greatly from the time in contact with the lees, the yeasts breaking down and adding depth to the nose and the body of the finished  wine. Both are wines to eat with food, having sufficient depth and acidity to cut through the flavours of Ibericos here, or full rich French sauces with white meat or fish. In this respect both would be a good match for top of the range cavas from Requena which also share this fuller style and are good with food. prices to be announced later but for sure a welcome addition to the wine scene here in Valencia.

Now, no tasting here is complete without an additional surprise bottle appearing and on this occasion a further four emerged. By contrast we tasted another champagne, Jean-Paul Deville Brut from Verzy and 12% ABV. From a Negociant Manipulant who buys in his wines rather than owning the vineyards, this was a younger champagne with less time in contact with the lees. In colour it was between the two Pétré wines, with good bubbles initially but which died off quite quickly.

On the nose, red fruits suggesting a bit more Pinot Noir in the balance, but quite floral as well. Much less evidence of toasty , yeasty flavours. In the mouth more acidity, brioche, and citric notes. Lighter, fresh, more of an aperitif style of champagne. Pleasant but not in the same class as the previous wines.

Castillo de Chulilla.

Surprise of the night was a white wine presented by one of the invitees and covered in tin-foil! Pale lemon clear and bright, but with long slow legs. On the nose wet wool, then apricots, and tropical fruits….this was getting interesting and Macabeo seemed to be the perceived variety that was emerging. In the mouth, full, nice acidity and minerality.

Wrong guess with the variety! It was 100% Merseguera, Castillo de Chulilla, DO Valencia Alto Turia, 2010, from Pascual Mancho Yuste and 13% ABV and sells for around 1.20€ a bottle at the local co-op which I will now have to visit! Normally I find Merseguera from the Alto Turia bone dry but floral and they are popular wines here in Valencia, fresh and easy to drink. This had something more and is worth another visit!

Final white of the night was Mariluna DO Valencia from the Utiel-Requena Sierra Norte vineyards. ( Yes, wines from Utiel-Requena can be labled DO Valencia but not the other way round!) This may be an early escapee from someone who believes that Valencia´s name sells better than Utiel-Requena. 12.5% ABV a blend of Macabeo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc it sells for 6€ a bottle. Pale lemon, clean and bright, with good legs. On the nose quite intense floral notes and huge tropical notes. And that is where it ended…for me a reasonable depth of body and good acidity were marred by a lack of fruit and I found it a bit short on the palate. Maybe it wasn´t a good bottle and I will give it another try as generally I like wines from this bodega.

Finally for inveterate buyers of cheap reds from supermarkets a wine to avoid despite the price….70 cents on offer at Lidl. Not often I dislike a wine completely! La Mancha DO Tempranillo, Libertario 2010, from Bodegas Lopez Mercier of Manzanares. A youthful cherry red, medium density, with long slow legs. On the nose vibrant cherry and blackberry fruit, but in the mouth quite…..avoidable, rustic. It would be a shame to pollute gaseosa with this!

Dani Monsonis of VinsKM.0 , (right).

Thank you to Dani, Norbert and Vincent for another `eclectic´tasting as Norbert accurately described it.

 

A Visit to Mas Nou, Bodega Señorio de Vilafames.


Mas Nou, is almost a Californian style property set on the slopes overlooking the Pla de Vilafames and the nearby town and with uninterrupted views to  Penyagolosa, one of the highest peaks in the Valencian Community. With its neatly terraced vineyards, all capable of being lit at night, olive groves, some with thousand-year old trees, almonds, lake,  pine groves and palms this is one of the most spectacular looking wine making properties I have visited. Owned by Fernando Diago this dream property is a vineyard based on a dream of making wines which truly express the Mediterranean spirit with its hot sunny days, cool, breeze fed nights and the smells of wild herbs and aromatic plants.

The Mas Nou.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the vineyards date back to times when Castellon was a hugely important exporter of wine to the UK, France and elsewhere …and whilst the Mas itself is old with its own chapel…..the vineyards were only planted in about 1998, producing the first wine in 2002. The estate consists of some 40 hectares in total, 26 down to vineyard with the rest landscaped beautifully and with its own private bull-ring with white sand brought from Seville and even space for domesticated jabali´s!

Of course after phylloxera devastated the vineyards at the beginning of the 20th century, all the vines were grubbed up. When vineyard planting began again later in the century the Controlling body only allowed noble varieties with their disease resistant American rootstocks to be planted and many growers abandoned their vineyards for ever or turned to growing table grapes instead.

Señorio de Vilafames is thus another of the vineyards in Castellon leading the fightback for this once great wine-producing area.

We arrived in Vilafames early so went to buy a sweet wine produced locally before going to the Bodega….only to meet our hosts, Ana and José outside the same bar to which we were heading for coffee! Inside we bumped into Gabriel Mayo Garcia whose bodega we had visited earlier this year.

Once in the Mas Nou´s grounds we walked around the property over its manicured lawns and under the trees to see the different parcels of vines and understand the environment better. The chapel with its cross engraved above the door ( the arms of the Kings of Jerusalem and now one of the catholic orders of Knights, )is available for baptisms and visitors to the bodega can arrange to have meals either in the vineyard or on one of the many terraces.

Some of the terraced vineyard.

Currently they grow Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and there are plans to extend the vineyards down towards the Pla de Vilafames in a couple of years time. Fernando is also a co-owner of a property in Utiel-Requena and it is from here he draws on the winemaking skills of Louis Gil-Orozco at Finca Ardal.

The grounds are almost ecologically managed, the wild plants that grow between the vines being chopped to form a green manure but also as a mulch to retain water. The vines are irrigated and incorporate a management system which allows vitamins or iron to be fed directly to areas where the plants may be showing distress or deficiencies.

After our walk around accompanied by a quartet of dachshunds, we sat down under a pin oak with the sound of the fountain in the lake behind us, to taste some of the wines produced.

It should be said that a lot of the grapes from the vineyard are sold in bulk to Valencia to make wine elsewhere and only the best parcels are retained to make the flagship red, Fernando Diago, of which more later.

A View towards Vilafames.

Through `Dos de Copas´, the bodega has found an innovative and clever marketing ploy to sell four varietals in a box , Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, in bottles containing just two glasses of each wine. This allows purchasers to enjoy the different wines at home, either as a tasting or as wines to accompany different dishes. This strategy has proved very popular and I first encountered it in January at the Castellon wine-fair ( see earlier post). It has not extended into restaurants but clearly there is a huge potential development here.

Part of the purpose of the visit was to taste the two new cavas which will be launched next week, just as soon as permanent  labels arrive!

First wine therefore was a Cava, Rosado, a blend of Garnacha  and Pinot Noir which is 11.5%ABV. Deep strawberry in colour this has fine persistent bubbles, is clean and bright with a good crown initially. On the nose it is creamy, hints of yeast, lots of red fruit, raspberries, fresh and in the mouth an immediate hit of fresh fruits, lovely acidity, fresh, crisp and with a long finish. We tasted this with chorizo, and soft cheese for which it is a perfect accompaniment, as it will be with paella and arroces. The bottle sported its provisional lable…see the picture!

The new Cava Rosado with provisional lable.

The second wine was the Brut Nature, a blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo and also 11.5% ABV. Pale lemon yellow, clean and bright and also with fine persistent bubbles and a good crown. On the nose initially a little wet wool, then white flowers and green apples. In the mouth soft, smooth, initially light, but refreshing, an easy drinker.

Both wines are the sort that invite you back for another sip…even another glass and will prove popular when they hit the market! However there is only a limited amount of initial production…..just a couple of thousand bottles of each!

Finally we tasted the Fernando Diago 2006, the bodegas flagship red. This is a Vino de Autor, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah with a touch of Tempranillo in the blend. This is a lovely bright cherry colour with hints of violet at the edge, medium density, with long glycerinous legs. On the nose red and black fruits, fruits of the forest and cherry. In the mouth very full, fruity and fresh, soft tannins, meaty and with a long fruity finish. This wine proved very popular at May´s Vino-Valencia  presentation.

A visit to the property takes your breath away and you are assured of a friendly welcome as the philosophy is to create long term friends of the bodega. Our thanks go to Ana and José for an informative visit and to Fernando, who sadly could not be there, for allowing us the opportunity.

A Tasting under the Trees!

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