Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd chapter we are publishing of Valencia Land of Wine (see 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 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.
“Classic adj. 1. Of the first class, of the highest rank or importance; approved as a model; standard, leading (Oxford English Dictionary). This definition is appropriate for the great Alicante red wine, Raspay from Bodegas Primitivo Quiles (see page 62) in Monover, made from Monastrell. Grown for 700 years in the Alicante “huerta”, from where it spread to the Vinalopó hinterland, the Monastrell grape has always been notable for its colour, strength and stability.
This red varietal is the standard-bearer for Alicante wines, much criticized when the preferred Spanish taste was for anorexic and ovely acidic Rioja. Although other wines from the country’s peripheral wine regions had a lot going for them, it made no difference, they were roundly criticized, ignored or systematically snubbed. Rioja and Spain were one and the same. But things change, and in the late 1980s a new style of wine began to hold sway, one in which the Mediterranean Monastrell stood out. The qualities of body, spicy fruit, low acidity, roundness and sweet tannins were now perceived by consumers as virtues of the best wines, and so again their worth was justly proclaimed. From Priorat to Corsica, New Zealand to Alicante, Languedoc to California, “alta expresión” wines are the wines of the twenty-first century, and so the wheel turns, and those red wines of the Mediterranean that ruled the roost from the Renaissance to the neoclassical era, and were looked on askance from the time of the Industrial Revolution, emerge again – the most natural wines of all.
The red generosity of the Monastrell and the dry climate of Alicante’s Vinalopó valley are at the root of the great qualities of this red Raspay that Primitivo Quiles makes with patience and precision. He makes a few thousand bottles when he chooses a vintage, since Raspay Tinto Brut is not made year in year out. It is aged in American and French oak, and the end result is a mature, rounded, spicy red, ideal for partnering meat and rice dishes (the magnificent Valle del Carxe paella is the perfect dish to enjoy it with – see page 41). Raspay comes in at 14% ABV but you would never know, as the great wines, even at this level of alcohol by volume, offer an agreeably clean alcoholic punch, the result of a slow and controlled production process. Bodegas Primitivo Quiles make other interesting wines, the white Cono 4 is quite some wine, and a Fondillón that retains in the swollen bellies of its casks the maternal memory of a time when no one made it. There is also one of the best dessert wines in the world, up there with the great Ports and the all but lost wines from the Malaga mountains: Gran Imperial (see page 62). Primitivo Quiles is not only a great wine man who has maintained the Alicante tradition against all comers, he is also a good man. When you drink his wines and visit his bodega, remember what the Roman said: “Vinum animi speculum (“Wine is the mirror of the soul”). Here we see this winemaker’s reflected.
Label: Raspay Brut
Type: Tinto crianza
Approx. price: €8–9
Bodega: Primitivo Quiles
Address: calle Major 4-6, 03640 Monover, Alicante
Tel: 9659470 099
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