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Alicante - the "Home of Spring"


The Denominación de Origen (DO) Alicante is located in the Levante, in the southeast of Spain, on the Mediterranean coast. The houses, which are traditionally painted white, as well as the strong sunshine, which makes the sand on the beaches appear extremely light and bright, result in the coast here being referred to as the Costa Blanca (white coast). Alicante is part of the Valencia region, and the DO (protected designation of origin) bears the same name as the province, in which it is located, and of its capital. The typical Mediterranean landscape is characterized by hills and valleys, criss-crossed by many small rivers. Crops grown here include vines, olive trees, cereals, vegetables and Mediterranean fruit.

The DO is sub-divided into two sub-zones: Alicante Clásico and La Marina Alta. The vineyards of the Alicante Clásico sub-zone are located partly in the environs of the port city of Alicante, with four-fifths of the vineyard area located inland to the northwest of the city at an altitude of around 500 metres. The climate is virtually continental, with hot summers and cool winters. To the northeast of this, and separated from it, lies the La Marina Alta sub-zone, along the stretch of coast between Altea and Dénia. Dénia is the easternmost point of the Iberian peninsula. In this region, the Mediterranean climate provides high humidity, the summers are also hot, and the winters milder. La Marina Alta is known primarily for sweet wines. The total vineyard area of the DO Alicante is around 14,500 hectares.

Monastrell – the signature red variety

The DO Alicante was established in 1932, making it one of the oldest in Spain. The current generation of wine producers remains very conscious of its traditions, but also sets some new accents in style. The international reputation of wines from Alicante is spreading, as they are very diverse, and can be used for many occasions, with some speciality products also available. The quality of the wines has improved significantly in recent years, with producers concentrating on the key grape varieties of the region. The most important of these is Monastrell, a red grape used to produce predominantly rosados (rosé wines) and fresh Jovenes (young wines).

Monastrell covers most of the vineyard area in the Vinalopó region, about 20 kilometres to the north-west of Alicante city in the Alicante Clásico sub-zone. Vinalopó has a dry climate, with average temperatures between 13 and 18 degrees Celsius. The temperature can climb to between 30 and 40 degrees in summer, while temperatures in winter can fall as low as minus ten degrees. Vines here are accustomed to drought and heat. Their ability to adapt to extreme climatic conditions is of interest to scientists studying the effects of climate change.

Specialities: Fondillón and Moscatel

Monastrell is suitable for the production of dry red wines in the Joven, Crianza and Reserva categories, as well as for sweet wines, which are, however, rarely produced. Other red grape varieties in the DO Alicante include Garnacha, Alicante Bouschet (Tintorera), Bobal, Tempranillo, with increasing attention being paid to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. A speciality of the region is the Fondillón fortified red wine, made from overripe, sound Monastrell grapes, in either a sweet or a rancio version. It is produced partly using the solera method, matures in oak for a minimum of eight years, and has an alcohol content of 16 to 18 per cent. There are currently only ten producers of Fondillón worldwide, all of them located in the DO Alicante.

White grapes grown in Alicante include Merseguera, Moscatel Romano (Moscatel de Alejandría), Macabeo, Airén as well as small amounts of Chardonnay and Riesling. The Muscat is used to produce both dry wines and sweet liqueur wines. They come mainly from the La Marina Alta sub-zone, which has higher precipitation, as well as soils with a lower clay content, providing good growing conditions the Muscat grapes. In La Marina Alta, red wines are also produced from Garnacha grapes, and sparkling wines are produced as well. In addition, a varietal white wine is produced from extremely sweet, overripe Moscatel Romano grapes, this is fortified to an alcohol content of 15 per cent by volume.

Current vintages

The DO Alicante refers to itself as the “Home of Spring”. The many bodegas who have submitted their wines to Wein-Plus for tasting bear ample testimony to the quality and diversity of the wines of Alicante:

Heretat de Cesilia / Casa Sicilia
The Casa Sicilia estate is located in Novelda, around 30 kilometres from Alicante, founded by the first Marquis of La Romana in the early 18th century. Here the Heretat de Cesilia wine estate resides amidst extensive vineyards, with 30 of the 80 hectares belonging to the property planted with vines. Soils are clay and loess, with a high proportion of limestone and iron oxide. In the northern part of the property, soils are rich in gypsum and clay, this is where the red varieties such as Monastrell, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah as well as small amounts of Petit Verdot are cultivated. In the southern part, the soil consists predominantly of chalky and stony alluvial soil, providing the basis for white varieties such as Macabeo, Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as Albariño and Loureira. The climate is Mediterranean with continental influences. The humidity is quite low the whole year round, allowing grapes to ripen easily. Heretat de Cesilia implements organic vineyard practices, using no chemicals other than sulphur and copper, and then only when absolutely necessary.

Bodegas Bocopa
The Bodegas Bocopa are located in Petrer, 50 kilometres from Alicante in the Vinalopó Medio region. The winery was founded in 1987 by eight cooperatives with a total of 2,000 members. Bocopa is responsible for the cultivation of around 60 per cent of the total vineyard area in the DO Alicante appellation. Red varieties planted are Monastrell, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, the white varieties are Macabeo, Merseguera and Moscatel de Alejandría. The signature wines of the Bodegas are the “Marina Alta”, a dry Muscat, and the red “Laudum”. A recent introduction is the “Marina Espumante” sparkling wine.

Sierra de Cabreras
Sierra de Cabreras is located in the Alto Vinalopó region. The vineyard area totals six hectares, planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Monastrell, the vines have an average age of 15 years. The soils are predominantly chalky, with little topsoil, with good water permeability. Day and night temperatures show large differences. The yields in the vineyard are severely restricted, and gravity is used in the winery.

With its modern, young team and a cosmopolitan, dynamic philosophy, Vinessens is considered to be a garagiste winery. It is located in Villena in the Alicante Clásico region, and produces only small quantities. Vinessens produces two wines showing a Mediterranean character, intended to highlight both the grape varieties and the origin. The “Sein” red wine is produced from Monastrell, the “Vinessens” white wine is a barrel-fermented Chardonnay.

Bodegas Hacienda la Serrata / Francisco Gomez
The Francisco Gomez estate is located in an idyllic valley close to Villena in the Alicante Clásico sub-zone. Wine and olives were cultivated here during Celtic, Roman and Moorish times, at an altitude of 700 metres. The property surrounding the Hacienda la Serrata runs to 3,500 hectares, of which 1,000 hectares are planted with vines, including some very old Monastrell vines, and with olive trees. In addition, grape varieties planted include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel de Alejandría. Francisco Gomez implements organic vineyard practices, placing great store by environmental protection and sustainability.

Vins del Comtat
The Vins del Comtat estate is located 40 kilometres to the north of Alicante, in Cocentaina. It was founded in 1997 by two families who planned to produce wine as a hobby. In the meantime, Vins del Comtat has developed from being a hobby winery to a highly respected bodega. The vineyards are located at the foot of the Montcabrer, a peak in the Montaña Alicantina mountain range. Varieties planted are Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Giró and Pinot Noir, as well as Moscatel de Alejandría, Viognier, Macabeo and Chardonnay. The most important wines produced by Vins del Comtat are "", “Pena Cadiella”, “Montcabrer” and “Serrella”.

Celler la Muntanya
Celler la Muntanya was founded in 2004, and is located in Muro de Alcoy, 25 kilometres to the west of Dénia. The company produces both wine and olive oil, but does not have any own vineyards. An initiative known as “Microviña” sees Celler la Muntanya buying grapes from part-time grape growers with small parcels of land, and providing vineyard management expertise, including organic principles, as well as an economic and social framework. The vineyards are worked organically, with support from “Microviña”. Red grape varieties used are Monastrell, Giró, Tintorera, Garnacha, Bobal and Bonicaire, the white varieties used in winemaking are Meseguera, Malvasia and Macabeo.

The Bodegas Murviedro were founded in 1927 as the Spanish subsidiary of the Schenk group, and are one of the largest producers in the Valencia region. The company produces wines from the Alicante, Valencia and Utiel-Requena growing regions, as well as Cava. Three wines are from the DO Alicante, they are “Travitana”, “Cueva del Perdón” and “Dulce de Murviedro”, these are made from Monastrell resp. Moscatel grapes. Murviedro took into operation a new wine cellar compley in Requena, around 40 kilometres to the west of Valencia, in 1997, a water recycling plant was installed here in 2007 as part of the environmentally conscious policy of the company.

A y M Navarro
The wine tradition of the Navarro family stretches back for more than 50 years. The winery is located in Villena, around 50 kilometres to the north-west of Alicante. The climate here is continental, with hot summers and cold winters, while damp nights, morning frosts and warm days all create very special growing conditions. The soils are rich in limestone, a little clay, and very little topsoil. Navarro makes wines from grapes grown by the company, as well as from grapes purchased by other suppliers, some of whom work in accordance with technical guidelines laid down for them by Navarro. The following grape varieties are grown: white - Airén, Macabeo and Moscatel, and red - Monastrell, Bobal, Garnacha, Tintorera, Tempranillo and Merlot. The most important wine ranges are “Miguel Navarro”, “Terra Natura” and “Terra Natura Clásico”.

Carsten M. Stammen

Copyright by Wein-Plus; photos: CRDO Alicante.



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