Editor’s Note: This is the 5th chapter we are publishing of Valencia Land of Wine (see 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th chapter). Articles are written by Joan C. Martin, and translated by John Maher. Each story is straight from the pages of El Pais’s Valencian edition that highlights an aspect of Valencian wine history through the story of one wine. If you are enjoying the stories, you might consider buying a copy with this link:Valencia Land of Wine.
Competition: We will randomly draw at random anyone who retweets this article for a free copy of this book.
Montcabrer: The Wine from the Mountain
Vins del Comtat, Cocentaina (DO Alicante)
El Comtat, previously a wine-producing locality, lost this aspect of its identity with the arrival of the phylloxera pest in 1907. It was the last place in Europe to have its wines destroyed by the plague. The phylloxera parasite arrived from North America in 1870, coming in through Bordeaux, Malaga and Oporto with American vines.
When phylloxera arrived at Cocentaina, the solution to the epidemic had already been discovered (grafting European vines onto the parasite-resistant American rootstock). But here the arrival of phylloxera coincided with a collapse in demand from elsewhere, as their vines were restored. Here they were not replanted and you can still see the terraces where the vines were grown prior to the arrival of phylloxera.
Vins del Comtat de Cocentaina decided to change this, and although they began in 1996 as an artisanal operation, the bodega now produces 200,000 bottles a year. They make a sweet Moscatel, two dry white Moscatels – one “jovenâ€ and one barrel-aged –- from vines in the Valle del Lliber, and red wines from international varietals: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Monastrell as well as the local Giró (Garnacha). This is the local variety, just as in La Marina, a locality with which the grape is more closely associated than here in the Vinalopó. Giró is a variety that, when using old vines and mountain wine-growing methods, produces spicy, mature, rich and complex wines. It is also grown in Mallorca, Priorat and California – where it was taken from Mallorca by the Franciscan Friar Junípero de Serra when he went to found the California missions in the 1760s (see page 21) – and is known as Giró and Gironet.
Vins del Comtat use this interesting grape in their Penya Cadiella red, blending it very well with Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their best wine is Montcabrer, a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon monovarietal that is elegant in the mouth after spending ten months in French oak barrels and another four in American, a particularly effective combination for working with Cabernet Sauvignon’s astringency and longevity. Fine grained wood and slow oxigenation for the first ten months and then a short blast of powerful American wood to round things off before calming things down again in bottle. Montcabrer is a wine with 13.7% ABV and over 2.5 grams of residual sugar per litre (unfermented sugar in the grape juice or must), which gives the wine a very attractive balance and harmony. This blending skill is characteristic of fine wines and the sign of a good winemaker. Montcabrer is a fine wine, which might be even better blended with Giró, whose viscosity and heady, fruity aroma, could bring something to the party.
Since the wine would not come to the mountain, the mountain has come to the wine, because as the Koran says in Surat 93, “The Brightnessâ€:
I swear by the early hours of the day,
And the night when it covers with darkness.
Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He become displeased,
And surely what comes after is better for you than that which has gone before.
And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased.
And one is indeed well pleased with this Montcabrer come down to us from the mountain.
Type: Vino de reserva
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Approx. price: €24
Bodega: Vins del Comtat
Address: Calle de Turballos, 1-3, Polígono de l’Alcúdia, 03820 Cocentaina, Alicante