[caption id="attachment_1406" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Tasting in Villena."]
Well 2011 has been a spectacular year for tastings with first visits to regions outside Valencia, some hot tastings in Valencia, some wonderful evenings at Las Añadas, Vino-Valencia, Pedralba and Vilamarxant Wine Clubs, some great fairs in Valencia, Requena, Alicante and Castellon and a host of Bodega visits!
Now, of course any list is entirely subjective, it doesn´t matter whether you are Peñin, Parker, Miller, Els Bodeguers or an avid supporter of Verema. We all have aspects about wine which excite us more and in the final analysis even if you know a particular wine is spectacular it will not make it to a final list if something else in another wine tips the balance, be it fruit, a preference for French or American oak, concentration or just plain quirkiness or a preference for a particular variety or disdain of the same! And please remember these are the wines I most enjoyed, not necessarily the best
[caption id="attachment_1407" align="alignright" width="102" caption="Poster for 3rd Cava Fair."]
All I know is that going back over the years tasting notes there were wines each time which got exclamation marks and `loved it´in the margin! No boring gradation from 1.1 to 9.9 in my notes! ( Well there are and it was surprising how many made it into the 8.2 to 9.2 range!) And on that note any bodega which feels their wine should be included in my list....I am sorry.....all wines not included are 0.1 point below the succesful ones!
Let us start with cava....and what a list there was to choose from including some which don´t count as cava because they are made outside the DO or from grape varieties that are not permitted. Amongst these are the `Metodo Propio´ of Carlos Carcel whose just disgorged bottle we enjoyed at the bodega or brother Ernesto´s 9 D'Octubre....both pure Macabeos. Amongst the strong contenders....and still in the running for Xmas Selection ( which comes later) along with these two are three more from Requena, `Sybarus ´from Torroja, Chozas Carrascal and Vera de Estenas. Top contenders for me were however ArteMayor from Dominio de la Vega together with their Pinot Noir rosado, Hispano Suiza´s Tantum Ergo and their rosado also from Pinot Noir, or Pago de Tharsy´s Unico....a `blanc de noir´ from pure Bobal. There is also a 6-year-old cava lurking in the cellars of bodegas Cueva where Mariano Taberner has been conducting one of his experiments! Well Hispano Suiza did rather well with the critics who probably know much better than me naming the rosado best Cava........but for me `Unico´ just wins, a distinct quality wine which for me is better value than commercial champagne such as Veuve Cliquot, Lanson, etc.
[caption id="attachment_1408" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="With carlos Carcel."]
In fresh whites the choice was immense from varieties such as Macabeo, Merseguera, Verdil, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tardana, Viognier, Riesling, Moscatel, Malvasia and more. Of the Tardanas the outstanding wine is of course Sybarus from Torroja. ( A Spanish friend thinks he knows of a small parcel which still remains in Pedralba- where it will be called Plantafina and which could possibly be recuperated.) Of the Verdil´s the best for me is Belda´s 2011, much cleaner and fresher than the 2010. I still like a co-operative white from Merseguera, Balcon de Valencia from Alcublas and loved some of the dry moscatels from Alicante, but in the end Macabeo produced some of the best wines in this category, full of ripe melon and green apple, satisfying with lovely acidity it does grow well in Valencia. Torre Oria, Marmiton, Enterizo from Coviñas in Requena, Vera de Estenas, the list is immense but the wine which stood out was the Marmiton, accompanying morteruelo and ajoarriero in La Sarten in La Portera.... a truly unforgettable couple of bottles with a wonderful meal!
[caption id="attachment_1409" align="alignright" width="112" caption="Finca Collado at the Valencia Mostra."]
No messing about with the cask aged whites. There were chardonnays from Vinessens, a new bodega in Villena, Viña Lidon from Vera de Estenas, Sauvignon Blanc from Hispano Suizas....(who can forget that vertical tasting of five vintages?) Ernesto Carcels Macabeo crianza from American oak and of course Chardonnay from Alvarez Nölting and Finca Collado´s blend of Chardonnay and Moscatel from Salinas in Alicante. Magnanimvs blanco, Clemente´s Florante , Angosto Blanco and Frailes Blanco also performed memorably in this category.
Els Bodeguers placed the Alvarez Nölting first and gave the silver to Finca Collado ( ahead of Daniel Belda) which also went on to win a Bachus later in the year. Of the pure Chardonnays Viña Lidon is hands down winner for me with its banana fruit and acidity in 2010 but overall I just prefer the Finca Collado 2010, DO Alicante, blended with Moscatel which now has wonderful citrus ( grapefruit) flavours.
In the rosados Beldas 2010 Merlot, Finca Collado´s Merlot, Pedro Moreno´s Bobal, Parreño from Latorre, Vera de Estenas Bobal, Torre Oria´s and some others were refreshing, easy drinkers. Amongst the biggest prizewinners were the rosados from Bobal from Coviñas who consistently provide outstanding wines in the category. Of the range from Enterizo, Al Vent or Aula the Al Vent was the winner in this catgory, lovely colour, fresh fruit and cream nose but with a hint of minerality and better acidity in the finish.
In the light red category there were some interesting wines from 2010, generally considered difficult in Utiel-Requena, better in Valencia Castellon and Alicante although there was a lot of oidium and a lot of treatment as a result.
Of the reds with a touch of cask ageing Vicente Flors `Flor de Clotas´ from Tempranillo, Bobal from Dominio de la Vega, Cero from La Encina a new ecological bodega in Villena, the 2009 Merlot from Finca Collado, the Martinez Bermell Merlot from Vera de Estenas , La Peña from Alejandro Perez a small family bodega in Mañan and the green label Viñas de Calles from Vegamar have all excited at tastings. For me the Finca Collado and Vera de Estenas, the Bobal from Dominio de la Vega are serious wines whilst the La Peña and Viña de Calles are more everyday drinkers. Judging by the number of bottles which came through the house or those of friends the La Peña wins the former light red category and the Martinez Bermell the slightly more serious category. There were no basic tintos which excited me at all!
In the `proper´cask-aged reds category there are some very heavyweight contenders. Wines from Muro (Almoroig) , Torrevellisca, Belda, Enguera, Mendoza, Carabibas, six of the seven members of the Asociación Primum Bobal, Olivastro, Mustiguillo, Emilio Clemente, and from Castellon `Clotas´ from Vicente Flors, a Tempranillo that I will forever remember standing up to artichokes, Gabriel Mayo Garcia´s Platinum series, a whole host of wines with depth, concentration and flavour.
[caption id="attachment_1412" align="alignright" width="129" caption="Serious Contenders from Muro D´Alcoy."]
Bobal is such a distinct grape and with such potential that `best bobal´ is a category in its own right. The only rule was that it had to be a pure 100% monovarietal. Contenders were Olivastro from Viñedos y Bodegas Carres, Pago de Molinos from Dani Esposito, `Casa Don Angel´ from Vera de Estenas, all three quite distinct wines. I have enjoyed the Pago at Asociación tastings, the Vera de Estenas at special tastings and lunch at the bodega and the Olivastro at home as well as the bodega. For me there is very little to separate them but for me the 2008 Olivastro just edges the other two for its explosive fruit. All three develop after opening and are outstanding wines from the variety that demonstrate the ageing potential, depth, concentration and flavours possible.
For me the other winner in this category is the Carabibas, Sierra de Cabreras from Salinas ( DO Alicante) a wine of huge concentration but pushed hard by the Almoroig, Mendoza´s Petit Verdot, Terrerazo from Mustiguillo, Ca Belda, with a lot more coming up on the rails!
In sweet wines where to go? Moscatels abound in Valencia and are concentrated but not exclusive to the Marina Alta in DO Alicante and the area around Turis in DO Valencia ( Valentino). But there are some produced in Utiel-requena from Bobal (Sybarus or Dagon ) and from other varieties at Dominio de la Vega and Chozas Carrascal amongst others. In Castellon La Palera produced around Vilafames is a sweet sticky syrup of figs from Tempranillo and we should not forget the Bonachon from Pedralba ( Garnacha) or the dulce from Comeche in Villar d´Arzobispo or the sweet reds from Alicante from Monastrell, not to mention the Fondillons from around Monovar. Some of the Moscatels are produced as light espumosos such as those from Bocopa and Reymos from Cheste. There are also wines produced for the mass from Malvasia in Turis and this year was a delight even if the Sweet wine fair in Valencia and the Alicante LomejordeGastronomia had rather less to taste this year than last.
[caption id="attachment_1413" align="alignleft" width="99" caption="Miquelius from Bodegas Dagon."]
Two straight winners....... in sticky reds it has to be the unforgettable Dagon and in the lighter espumos0s Reymos for it´s consistency and light easy drinking!
So there you go, my favourite 10 wines of this year. Bet they will all be different at the end of 2012!
1. Cava....Pago de Tharsys Unico.
2. Light Whites....Marmiton Macabeo 2010 , DO Utiel-Requena.
3. Oaked Whites....Finca Collado Blanco 2010, DO Alicante.
4. Rosado....Bobal ...Al Vent 2010 Coviñas DO Utiel-Requena.
5. Young reds......La Peña Alejandro Perez. DO Alicante.
6. Medium reds..... Martinez Bermell Merlot, Vera de Estenas, DO Utiel-Requena.
7.Serious Reds...Bobal...Olivastro 2008 , Carrés, DO Utiel-Requena.
8. Serious reds...Other Varieties....Carabibas, Sierra de Cabreras 2009 DO Alicante.
9. Sweet Wines....Heavy...Bobal, Bodegas Dagon, Utiel-Requena.
10. Sweet Wines...Espumosos, Reymos, Cheste Co-op. DO Valencia.