Tuesday, December 12, 2006

hallo dit is een test van emilio

Sunday, December 03, 2006

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

BSI, Bodegas Source of Investigation in Jumilla

BSI, the initials stand for Bodegas San Isidro, although Bodegas Source of Investigation could be applied as well. BSI, the eldest and only cooperative in Jumilla, exists since 1934. Nowadays it is a bodega for wine, an almazara for olive oil, a hardware shop and meeting point for the 800 members. The company has the capacity to produce 52.000.000 liters, but at the moment BSI uses more or less half its capacity to some 25.000.000 liters as a consequence of many new wineries in the area of Jumilla.

The huge building looks empty on the day we arrive. Many employees have taken a few days off as the week officially ends on wednesday. Estela receives us. She is the export manager. She leads us through the winery. No remarkable items here. Everything is well equiped. A couple of men and women are bottling wine. The sun light that enters the winery´s bottle installation creates a enjoyable atmosphere in the winery. The whole building is designed to receive the many grapes that enter the winery as quickly as possible.

With 3200 Barrels, BSI has the highest amount of oak barrels in Jumilla. Maybe for Jumilla it is a lot, but at the same time 3200 barrels is an indication that Jumilla in general is more an area for young wines and not for crianza wines.

The company decided to play a key role in Research & Development especially in the field of monastrell. The Technical Director Francisco Pardo is a monastrell expert. Together with BSI´s wine maker Diego Cutillas and with the help of national star wine maker Ignacio de Miguel, BSI´s success is guaranteed. The close relationship with the University of Murcia is vital for innovation in the area. BSI has been the first in applying many new viticultural techniques, grape varieties and oenological practices.

Wine Tourism
Jumilla is one of the biggest single wine areas in Spain within the boundries of one town. Other important wine towns in the D.O. of Jumilla are Ontur, Hellín, Fuente Álamo and Monte Alegre. At only 60 kilometers from the Murcian coast and more or less the same distance to the Alicante coast, BSI has an ideal position to explore the possibilities of wine tourism. Officially BSI is a member of the official wine route that the CRDO of Jumilla has created some 4 years ago. This route includes the most interesting wineries, monuments, a wine musuem, restaurants and 3 small hotels.

At this moment Jumilla has 30.000 inhabitants. However, the amount of foreigners looking for a plot of land in the interior part of Murcia is growing. Now several projects for a golf resorts around Jumilla have increased the influence of tourists and new residents. The future of wine tourism in this area is guaranteed. BSI organizes wine courses and tastings for free, and which are lead by Francisco Pardo himself. In this way BSI contributes to wine culture in a very direct and effective way. Many people in Jumilla and especially employees form restaurants already have followed the BSI tastings. No doubt that BSI creates a lot of goodwill in the area, which will be refelcted in the image of the wines.

From the total production 50% goes abroad. BSI has its main clients in Germany, where Rewe and some other small importers distribute all types of wine BSI produces, beside red, even white, rosado and ecologic reds and sweet wines. Other important markets in Europa are the Scandinavian market, Belgium, Switzerland. Outside Europe, Canada and the USA are the most important markets. In the Miami the BSI sangría was selected as Disney World´s official Sangria. For no specific reasons BSI is not exporting at this moment to the Netherlands and UK.

BSI bottles all its exports except for one country, Switzerland, that buys around 10% of the total bulk production. At this moment BSI forms part of a new consortium. The main goal of that consortium is to build a new brand with wines from Jumilla, Galicia, Penedès and other areas. The type of help BSI gets comes from INFO (Instituto de Fomento of the province of Murcia) and the Chamber of Commerce. 50% is for fairs, the rest is for commercial missions to export to countries and to invite buyers from export markets to Jumilla. Marketing is something Jumilla does well by offering great quality wines for extreme good prices. One of the best forms of marketing Jumilla has applied lately comes from the ten Robert Parker Predictions. He claims that in the near future (before 2020) Jumilla, Toro and Priorato will be the most important wine regions in Spain. That has increased inmediately the demand. The good scores in wine guides and at international competitions help Jumilla to keep pushing their image in the right direction.

San Isidro
The basic range of wines that includes almost all styles of wines made of monatrell, a medal awarded syrah as foreign varietal wine, and a barrel fermented airén, the first BF airén in Spain. The San Isidro range starts at a very competitive retail level.

This range of wines is the classical style of Jumilla wines. Estela telles us that the name comes from the time when the Spanish king Juan Carlos was based at the Marine Head Quarters in Cartagena. He used the pass word to communicate to his friends the Saturday afternoon appointment for a drink, Sabado Tarde Chateo, Saba-ta-cha. As Cartagena used to be one of the main markets for the local Jumilla wines, the place where the Juan Carlos used to go was a client of the cooperative. The king approved with pleasure the brand name for

Ecologic wines
Ecologic range: about 3.000.000 kg is produced as ecologic wine. With a young red and a crianza.

Genus is the international style, created after analysing the consumers wishes. It is a semi crianza with 80% monastrell and 20% syrah with a universal character. This wines goes mainly to Germany, USA, Japan and Switzerland.

Gemina, (the Greek word for Jumilla) is the top range. Its available in crianza, reserva and as a young red and
sweet wine.

Other brands, drinks and formats
Another brand is sold under the name Viña Celia, which is a slightly cheaper wine than the San Isidro, and also with D.O. Jumilla. The table wines, Casa Alta red, rosé and white have a outstanding quality for their price. Estela stresses the flexibililty of San Isidro to create private label wines, and own brands, all with an own design. Bag-in-box wines, sangría made of high quality wine. Normally sangría is made of an inferior wine, but at BSI the sangría is made of the same red monastrell wine that is used for selling.

The dulces, or sweet wines from BSI are like a desert wine.

After a guided tour through the winery we enter the tasting room. From the window you can see José Carrión Garcia´s trucks with Don Simon, one of the most famous Spanish wine brands for simple tabel wines in liter tetra bricks, in huge letters on the trailers passing by. We taste a large range of wines of BSI that can be divided into various types of wine. Francisco Pardo, his white laboratory coat makes him look like a real professor, guides the tasting.

Casa Alta White 2005 100% airen, very correct, neutral in the nose, fresh taste, fruity, juicy, nice aftertaste.
Sabatacha White 2005, 100% airen fresh fruity nose, nice acidity, light but sympathic wine.
Sabatacha barrel fermented 2004, 100% airen, 4 months in American oak. Closed in the nose, ripe fruit, fresh acidity, hints of caramel. Well made.

Casa Alta Rosado 2005, oxidized colour, fruity nose, bone dry.

Casa Alta Tinto 2005, fruity nose, still very hard tannic wine. Drying aftertaste.
San Isidro Tinto 2004, cooked vegetables in the nose, ripe tannins, still very strong and powerful. Balance is missing between nose and mouth.
Sabatacha tinto 2005, 100% monastrell, thick colour, fruity, medium ripe tannins, lacking balance.
Sabatacha syrah 2005: great nose, concentration of typical syrah aromas. Powerful wine, ripe tannins, good balance, well structured, 13º Vol. pleasant fruity aftertaste. Still quite young now.
Monastrell ecologico: made of monastrell vines with lower yields. Nice monastrell nose, ripe cherry fruit, good structure and balance, ripe tannins, best wine until now.
Genus 2003, 80% monastrell, 20% syrah, 4 months of oak. Fresh fruity inviting aromas. 13,5º Vol., good elegant acidity, powerful but ripe tannins. Structured and long aftertaste. Very nice glass of wine and commercial!
Gemina 2003 crianza, 6 to 7 months of oak, 30% French and 70% American. Original vines (Pie Franco) which means that the foot of the vine is not American. The soil is sandy. This avoids the risk of Philloxera. The vines are old and excellent. Concentrated wine, with loads of fruit, good balance, typical for monastrell with oak, cherry pie and cream. Long elegant aftertaste. Production only 14.000 bottles.
Gemina 1997 reserva, the premium wine of the winery. Elegant and juicy, velvetty, soft ripe taste. Ripe tannins, spicy, and good structure. Great balance. Great wine!

Lacrima Cristina, traditional wine from BSI, at least 10 years old sweet monastrell, 15,5º Vol. The bottle has a screw cap. This wine goes for at least 10 years in big oak barrels of 500 liters, the same style as in Jerez. The oxiditive character of the wine gives the Lacrima Cristina a very own taste.

Conclusion: BSI has a very good range of wines from well made low cost prices to absolute topwines in the higher ranges. This company is capable of serving almost every wine thinkable. Not only red, from what you would expect in Jumilla but also the whites, rosés and sweet wines are excellent. BSI work closely together with the University of Murcia which makes the winery one of the most important wineries in investigating the possibilities of wine making in Murcia. BSI is for Jumilla an extremely important and solid source of good, commercial and well priced wines.

Bocopa´s wines, local marketing success

Bocopa has its headquarters in Petrer at 50 kilometers from the capital of Alicante, next to the road from Alicante to Madrid. As we arrive at 9:00 AM at the parking of Bocopa, Pedro Calabuig, the young, ambititious and above all energetic export manager, smokes a morning cigarette just before he enters the office. We are invited to have an informal cup of coffee in Bocopa´s office kitchen. Gaspar Tomás, the winemaker and managing director of Bocopa, also drops in to welcome us.

A typical office morning start of the week, but Bocopa office is not just any office, it´s Alicante´s most important cooperative and biggest wine producer in volume, accounting for more than 40% of the total production. It also has created Levante´s most important white wine brand “Marina Alta”. There´s no other white wine sold more at the crowdy Costa Blanca restaurants and pubs than Marina Alta.

In 1988 Bocopa started with nothing, just a couple of cooperatives from a remote wine producing area with no clear goal but to produce bulk wines at competitive prices. Driven by the reduction of costs, the market in Spain started to consume considerably less table wine. A worse scenery for the new created Bocopa was hardly unthinkable. A tough job for Gaspar Tomas, the managing director. If keeping satisfied a few hundred members of one cooperative is difficult, just imagine what it must be like to manage several cooperatives, especially in those circumstances.

Marina Alta, marketing succes
Then the winery discovered that the Marina Alta´s young moscatel was a niche market at that time.They managed to create a brand around it. They offered a fresh and tropical fruity light white wine, with a touch of sweetness. A succes formula without forseeing its unexpected succes. Now it is the best sold white wine in the Levante coastal area. The wine is medium priced and goes perfect with all types of food of the Mediteranean. An ideal “summer costa wine”. It beats away traditional selling white wine brands like Peñascal, Castillo de San Diego (Barbadillo) and Blanc Pescador (Peralada). Not quite something you would expect from a cooperative in Alicante, better known as a red wine area. Marina Alta, supported by national broadcasted radio spots, is really taking off now, and expands to other national markets and of course international markets.

The export department of Bocopa started a massive offensive to sell their wines abroad. Pedro hops from wine fair to wine fair and visits all his new and potential clients. Just two years ago the export of the bottled wines was falling behind too much. Gaspar, decided to hire a new staff to boost the sales outside of Spain. Switzerland, Germany and Belgium are very important markets. And now also The Netherlands is catching up rappidly.

The Bocopa´s members together own about 2000 hectares of vineyard. The main grapes are moscatel and monastrell, with some foreign grapes like syrah, cabernet suavignon, merlot. The production is dominated by young wines (70%) and 30% crianzas, for which the winery has about 1200 barrels, 30% French and 70%. Another important range of wines is the ecologic range. Experimenting projects like a own sparkling wine of moscatel are carried out by Gaspar himself. As we walk through the wine shop, that lies next to the professional tasting room, I observe a broad range of labels, and ask Pedro to explain the different styles of wines Bocopa makes. “There are 4 ranges in Bocopa, and some ranges have several labels, which make it possible to serve several clients and distribution channels within the same market”, Pedro explains.

Laudum label
Laudum is Bocopa´s top quality range. Wines made of grapes that come from traditional 20 year old vineyards with very low yields. The selection of the grapes from the 2000 hectares of vineyard available garantees a high quality. The Laudum label has a chardonnay (barrel fermented). The Laudum crianza and Laudum reserva are both made of at least 70% monastrell and the rest with different amounts of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The Laudum “100 barricas” is a special selection of the best barrels. For these wines Bocopa only uses oak with a maximum age of three years. Laudum also has a high level ecological wine of 100% monastrell.

Young wines
Alacanta is a medium segment of fruity young red, white and rosé wines. But in this range Bocopa also includes the premium rosé Terreta Rosado and the white local marketing hit Marina Alta.

Ecological wines
The ecological range is called Castillo de Alicante. Bocopa makes one of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and 70% monastrell.

The special wines like Fondillon Alone 1983, Dulce Negra, made of monastrell, and a classic sweet Moscatel complete the range.

For tasting notes see www.worldwinedatabase.com

Alicante´s wine future
Bocopa is determined to play a key role in Alicante´s wine future. Gaspar´s personal goal is to provoke a change in the wine minds of the people of Alicante. “People must know that wine from Alicante is as good as any other wine and certainly as good as Rioja”. He doesn´t use the word but he surely refers to Riojitis (red. Riojitis is a kind of social and cultural “dissease“ that makes people ask for Rioja wine without even considering any other wine available). However, in Alicante the local wine sales are worse than in other places of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. At least in Catalunya everybody offers Catalan wines, Valencia is starting to offer Valencian wine and benefits from the upcoming America´s Cup in Valencia in 2007. Murcia has created a culture around their own Murcian wines, with Jumilla as world center of monastrell. But in Alicante nobody seems to care about wines from Alicante. Although Gaspar can be reasonably lucky with his Marina Alta success. He admitts that Marina Alta is an exception to the rule. In fact Marina Alta is so successful as a wine brand that many waiters offer Marina Alta without knowing this wine comes from Alicante. And as nobody asks where it comes from, Marina Alta misses hereby a huge opportunity to contribute to a positive image of Alicante as a wine region. Marina Alta is just Marina Alta, like any other brand. What only a few waiters and consumers of Marina Alta know is that the wine, in fact, is named after the northern part of the province of Alicante, where most of the best moscatel grapes come from. But who wants to complicate things as long as the wine is the most wanted white wine brand in one of the most visited touristic areas in the world?

In a certain way Marina Alta does and does not help to sell Alicante as a wine region. With the back label Marina Alta stressess its origin. But as a brand, nobody really talks about abut the wine as a Alicante wine. Gaspar comments: “All our wines are sold with the Alicante back label. Although Alicante is better known for its reds, and the white Marina Alta clearly is an exception, Bocopa underlines its continuous search for quality in all styles. Marina Alta just was the right wine at the right place. Bocopa intends to introduce similar wines successes in red and rosé. Rosé Terreta Rosado already received several medals and awards. Also the Laudums are fighting for recognition.

The Regulatory Council should do more generic promotion. Selling Alicante as a wine region was limited to some international wine fairs and local events. Wine tourism has never been a real issue in Alicante. There is still a lot to be done to make it work. Gaspar personally thinks that the sales starts at the table of millions of tourists at the coast. He says: “Just imagine a waiter offering a Alicante wine first in stead of a Rioja. This small change could provoke a radical change about how the Spansih consumer and the foreign tourists perceive the wines from Alicante. Automatically people will want to visit the local wineries and Bocopa will be one of the first to receive them with open arms”.

Wine tourism
Bocopa invested in wine tourism at a time when few wineries in the area even had heard about the concept. Gaspar Tomás is aware of the fact that a bridge between Alicante´s tourism and the world of wine is lacking. Bocopa wants to play an essential role. The professional facilities created some years ago for tastings are outstanding for organized visits. Bocopa also organizes courses and tasting for wine lovers with visits to the winery. But building on tourism is something few wineries can realise by themselves. “Wine tourism has started a few years ago in Spain. First in the most traditional wine areas as Rioja, Penedès and Jerez, but now it is growing everywhere in Spain. Millions of tourists drive from Alicante to Madrid several times a year passing our winery, which is visible from the main road. We should focus more on those passing cars and try to make Bocopa “a must see” local attraction. Now, that will be a difficult task. The winery was built a few years ago in an industrial area in Petrer as a functional office building with its bottling line, airconditioned abovegrounds cellars and warehouse. It is not really a sexy or flashy winery. Although compared to other cooperatives it stands out of the crowd. Gaspar knows that the building itself is not enough. But few wineries open their doors to show tourists around. As an anecdote I told Gaspar that indeed in 2003 I presented myself as a Dutch tourist at the official tourist office of Alicante to ask about wine touristic activities in the region. I received one brochure of a winery in Petrer that I could visit. Guess from which winery this brochure was? A poor result, from a touristic point of view, but at the same time, characteristic for how the situation is in this region. And again Bocopa stood out of the crowd, but this time not only as a cooperative, but as a winery with clear visions.

This summer 2006 I hope to be able to report on the moscatel harvest in Marina Alta, both as a wine and as a region!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Castaño (D.O. Yecla) enters Alicante and Jumilla

By Emilio Saez van Eerd

Castaño probably is the first winery that has given monastrell its deserved place in the wine world as a quality wine. They pionered in the 80´s of the past century, applying new vinification techniques in Yecla, until then a region known as a bulk wine area only. The family has a clear personal challenge: “to make monastrell one of the favourite wines in Spain and on the international market”. They started to upgrade monastell through consistency, hard work, experimentation and the peruit of quality. As they struggled to compete with the better known Spanish wines, Castaño managed to introduce the monastrell into the export markets as a varietal wine and as a basis for blended wines. Step by step their monastrell broke with the heavy oxidative bulk image, showing the world its potential of a fruity, structured and easy to drink red wine with a clear own personality. At the same time the prices are very competitive.

Castaño kept improving the quality of their wines and invested heavily in export and sales. The export department created a strong relationship with an increasing network of fine wine distributors. These clients were infected by the monastrell virus that Castaño spreaded around. At that time it took a lot of courage for the importers and resellers as well to promote Yecla´s monastrell in stead of Rioja or Ribera del Duero. Especially in Europe the image of East Spain as a bulk wine region still dominated the minds of the wine buyers. Therefore Castaño needed the right people to defend their wines. Wines like Pozuelo, Dominio Espinal, Castaño Colección, and Hécula are well positioned in the market. Outside of Europe, where nobody knew about the bulk wine history, it was a lot easier to introduce the new style Mediteranean wine as a different Spanish wine. Especially when Robert Parker started to recommend several of Castaño´s wines as best buys, like the Castaño 2002 Monastrell, for 90 points for 7 euro. Loads of fruit, structure and soft tannins became a synonime for monastrell wines from Yecla.

Sierra Salinas D.O. Alicante

Castaño understands the necessity to improve the quality continuously. No other company in the region has done that much for monastrell as the Castaño family. Although the winery has no foreign investors, it approved a joint venture with the Suisse family Niehus to create a wine called Mira, made of old monastrell vineyards in the valley of Sierra Salinas. The project started in 2000. The aim was to make a high quality wine with great potential for the international market. The synergy of the Castaño family and the two brothers Philippe and Alain, both with a broad experience in wine making and distribution of wines from all over the world, resulted in a big export succes for Mira. As the project became more serious, a new winery was built in the same valley.

The bodega is named after the mountain Sierra de Salinas that seperates D.O. Yecla´s border from the D.O. of Alicante. Oficially the area where Bodegas Sierra Salinas is located is D.O. Alicante, although the town of Yecla in the province of Murcia is the nearest town.
The Sierra Salinas estate lies at 600 to 700 meters above sea level, and has 35 hectares of vineyard and 80 hectares of almond and olive trees. The natural scenery is unique. I fact the whole bodega is built in such a way that you can enjoy the vineyards, olive and almond trees that surround the winery. The architect has intergrated glass walls and big terrasses in the modern and hyperfunctional winery. Seen from the road the winery lies several meters higher. This gives it even more importance than it already has.

The local architect Jose Maria Abellán based his construction on two concepts. Termical isolation and gravity, avoiding the pumping around of the wines in the several phases of the wine making process. The barrels are kept under the ground, protected from the huge differenes in temperature. The production zone of the winery is faced north to avoid high temperatures as much as possible. The second objective is the use of gravity. The winery is built on three levels. The first level is the vinification level. The whole winery has 14 stainless steel deposits of 80 hectoliters, equiped with German pigeage techniques for a careful maceration. The second level is used for pressing the wine, and the third and lowest level under the ground is used for ageing and bottling. All the wines from this winery undergo an ageing in Frecnh oak barrels. 50% new and 50% one year old. The wine spends 20 months in oak before the are bottles at the same level.

As Ramon Castaño shows us around in the winery he explains that he is extremely proud to have these vineyards on this spot. It was not a goal on itself to produce an Alicante wine. Can you see the path coming down from the hill just a few meters away from the winery, that´s the path that seperates the Valencian comunity from the Murcian”. But for Castaño the choice to make Sierra Salinas a Alicante wine, is a strategical decission. In that way Sierra Salinas will not compete directly with the wines from Yecla. The microclimate here is unique. Thanks to the mountains the vineyards are protected ftom the extreme climate conditions. Although the winery is already producing wine, several parts of the winery are still under construction. 90% of all monastrell in the area are old vines.

In the cellar of the winery we taste the samples of wines that in the future will compose the 2005 Sierra Salinas. The 100% garnacha tintorera is loaded with fruit. The aok is completely integrated with the wine. A very friendly sample, almost a complete wine already. The 100% cabernet sauvignon of 5 year old vines is spicy in the nose. The young tannins are still very present but not unpleasant. Elegant cabernet style. We also taste the already bottled Mira 2003, a fruity nose with some oak. The explosive taste is impressive, fruity and well structured, round tannins and 20 months of perfectly integrated oak. Casa Cisca 2004 is a 100% monastrell, thick colour, ripened fruit, balsamic, round and powerful. The acidity is elegant. This wine still requieres a few years before reaching its peak.

At this moment the winery has 30 hectares of monastrell, 5,5, hectares of cabernet sauvignon, garnacha tintorera and petit verdot. Especially the garnacha tintorera has been rediscovered in the region of Almansa as agrape with a huge potential for blending, giving the wines not only colour but also structure. Petit verdot has shown its potential to create wines with great aromas and softness on the palate. The first wines that came from the vineyards that belong to the winery of Siera Salinas were bottles under the D.O. of Yecla. These wines can be found on the market under the names Mira Salinas 2000, 2001 or 2002. A special approval was necessary to get the wine from D.O. Alicante to become a D.O. Yecla. The wines from 2003 are the first to enter the market with the D.O. Alicante seal and are called Mira Salinas (20 months aok ageing) and Casa Salinas (8 months oak ageing).

Alicante is happy with the arrival of the Castaños to the region. Yecla showed a huge growth in sales of bottled D.O. quality wines since Castaño started there bottling activities in Yecla. Although Alicante has some great wineries like Enrique Mendoza, Poveda and several other smaller ones, Castaño will contribute without any doubt a lot to the prestige of Alicante as quality wine producing area of mainly monastrell.

Altos del Cuadrado D.O. Jumilla

Another completely new project Castaño is intoducing is the Altos del Cuadrado, a Jumilla wine. After the Alicante project became a fact, Castaño did not wait for another partner to invite them to participate in a joint venture. Castaño decided to buy two vineyards in Jumilla with a total of more than 8 hectares. The old vines, most of them planted in 1955 and some in 1968, provide grapes with great potential to make big wines. Under the control of the technical team of Castaño the grapes undergo their vinification in a Jumilla based winery. The wine is bottled under the name of Bodegas y Viñedos del Mediterraneo S.L., a comercial name that Castaño uses to avoid confusion among distributors ans consumers.

In a similar way as the mira project but on a smaller scale, several other importers have started their projects with Castaño. The Dutch importer Marco Meeuwsen, on photo right together with Ramon Castaño (left) and Pedro Albaladejo (middle), has created his own wine after 7 years of colaboration with Castaño. His project is called Mmmmm! with D.O. Yecla. And some international markets, other than the Dutch already showed their interest in the red, rosé and white Mmmmm! With Eric Solomon, Castaño has created Solonera, and in Germany and Switzerland together with Mövenpick, Castaño has introduced Seleccion Especial. But also within Spain the top wine specialist in Barcelona Quim Vila decided to create a own wine called Viña al lado de la casa, literally translated as "the vineyard alongside the house".

I have no doubt that these new projects will have the same potential as the classical Castaño wines from Yecla. The question is: with whom and where will the Castaño family stop creating more interesting wines? If their ambition is to make wine in all the monastrell areas then Bullas, Valencia, Almansa, several other areas of Spain and of course South of France and Australia could expect some day the arrival of Castaño.
For more information go to Bodegas Castaño on the www.worldwinedatabase.com and Bodegas Sierra Salinas on the www.worldwinedatabase.com

and click further to the corresponding websites which are extremely complete and useful.

Salvador Poveda´s revolutionary change to wine tourism

By Emilio Saez van Eerd

Signs are not necessary to find the winery of Salvador Poveda in Monóvar. Just ask the inhabitants of the town for “la bodega de Salvador Poveda”, and if you´re lucky you will have your personal guide guiding you through the small streets of Monóvar all the way up to the entrance of the winery. Salvador Poveda´s history goes a long way back in this medium sized town in the interior part of Alicante, where once a few hundred small family wineries used to make traditional monastrell wines. Salvador Poveda, one of the wineries that survived, is now one of the most important exporting producers of the Levante.
A public street separates the old winery from the newer one. As we wait a few minuts for Rafael Poveda to pick us up at the entrance of the winery we enjoy the chaos of all the activities at a small square, a kind of public patio that even serves as an improvised company parking space that is surrounded by low buildings of Poveda´s winery. In a few minutes time we see several tourists loading up their trunks with cases of wine. Buying directly from the winery, for many tourists is the ultimate form of wine tourism. At the old winery of Salvador Poveda people buy a little bit of nostalgy and.. wine, a lot of wine!

Time does not play a role of importance at this square, accept for Rafael Poveda, who´s dying to start his brand new project. Rafael who runs the company with his brother (who happens to be the maire of the town) and two nephews, welcomes us, and leads us directly to the winery at the other side of the street. He is very direct and has no intention to waste his and our time. No small talk, he shows us inmediately the architect plans of his lastest project, a brand new winery outside of Monóvar. With Rafael talking with passionate enthousiasm about his new winery it is not difficult to picture the idea. Clearly, it is not just a new winery, it includes a complete change of strategy towards wine tourism.

Wine tourism in Alicante

He tells about a trip to California some three years ago and he was amazed about the business behind the Californian wine tourism. And as time went by, the idea of wine tourism in Alicante got a hold of Rafael. “I surprised myself, because if somebody would have asked him five years ago if I would turn this family winery in a wine touristic project, I would have turned down the idea. Even worse, I allways thought that passing tourists were a burden, that stopped me from doing my job. But when I came back from California I analized the sales figures generated by tourists. I simply could not believe that all the passing tourists that visited Salvador Poveda created enough money to pay the people working in the company. I secretly started to think: “what if Salvador Poveda creates a wine touristic project and attracts tourists from the nearby Alicante and Murcia coast to Monóvar”. Both cities lies at just 80 km from Monóvar. Geografically it could be a kind of ultimate wine touristic triangle.

From a strict business point of view, Poveda will have to leave the town of Monóvar after 85 years. The actual buildings are to small, trucks have difficulties to enter the small streets, and the winery has no more possiblities to grow in the small streets. The need for a change a simple business decision. Although many will see the sales of 6500 square meters of wine history in the old town as a lost, Rafael is glad he can leave and build a new future for the next Poveda generation. The benefits that generate the sales of that many square meters in the center of Monóvar are important to finance the new winery. The new spot was bought just outside the town. The new 30.000 square meters estate, named Finca La Rejuela, with great views on the mountains and into the valley, lies at the road from Monóvar to Novelda. Rafael says “I must have a clear view about all this, because the future success of the family business depends on this new winery. We are not a construction company that invests for fun in the wine business, we have to continue a company that has been been around with succes since 1919”.

As Rafael investigated the wine tourism future of Alicante, he came to the conclusion that if there´s any place in the Europe, were wine tourism could really have an impact, then it must be at the Costa Blanca. Millions of tourists already visit Denia, Moraira, Altea, Benidorm, Campello, Alicante, Santa Pola, Torrevieja, just to name a few hot spots at the coast of Alicante. And if there´s is one winery that has the potential to attract those tourists, it must be Salvador Poveda. Convinced of the winery´s new strategy, he asked a local architect to draw what he had designed.

The new wineryRafael suggests that we follow him to see the construction site. I have to do my best not to loose the view of his silver Golf GTI during the 10 minuts drive. “The new winery is like two minimalistic white shoe boxes, placed in a L-form”. After many years adapting his work to the winery in the narrow streets of Monóvar, Rafael this time prefers to adapt the winery to his work. “It will be very functional. Tourists who will visit the winery will have a complete tour through the company. The center of the new winery wil be an underground museum”, explains Rafael as he proudly shows us around on a windy but sunny day in March. His idea is to rebuild the winery’s historical fondillon bodega, now named “la sacristía” and to expose the old equipment, old barrels and even a ancient XVII century olive oil press that was found some years ago after rebuilding one of the old wineries in Monóvar. Of course the underground museum will be connected to the Salvador Poveda wine shop. From there, the visitors can chose to have a picknick in the garden of the winery, facing to the South, protected from the Northern winds by the winery. Because the area where the winery is being built, is slightly higher than the rest of the area, the views from there are simply astonishing.

When this project is finished Spain and Alicante will position itself at the frontline of wine tourism. In a press note of 2004 placed at the Salvador Poveda´s website I read that the winery should have been ready at the end of 2005. Finally at the end of 2006 Salvador Poveda will leave the the small streets of Monóvar. Several five star hotels at the Costa Blanca are calling Rafael on a daily basis just to ask him if they can finally send that bus full of tourists to the winery. Rafael normally tells them that the winery is not yet ready for it, although he could beter tell them is already booked until the end of the year. After “sun & beach toursim”, the traditional tourism at the Costa Blanca, wine tourism has the best potential to be the second most interesting form of tourism in Spain. Only a few areas in Spain have organized their wine route, but that in itself is no garantee that the wineries are prepared to practice wine tourism. It is not a question of opening just a few bottles, pour the wine and present a price list. Rafael is aware of that situation. He will have to attract well skilled staff, oriented to service and tourism. It is a new type of industry in Spain, with new rules, where wine and pleasure still have to get used to each other.

It´s unbelievable that the authorities in Alicante have not invested before in wine tourism. I remember entering the tourism office some years ago in Alicante. I asked the lady for wine information, which wineries I could visit as a tourist. Exactly one winery had left some brochures, the same brochures you would receive on a internacional wine fair for profesionals. A year later I went back to the same office to ask about the posibilities to visit a winery. This time I receive the same brochure again and.. a real list of 7 wineries in the area, mentioning the name and phone number of the wineries. A real improvement, though! Forgive me for my enthousiasm about the Poveda project. I hope Alicante will wake up and attract tourists to the interior of Alicante, away from the crowdy beaches.

We end the trip to Monóvar with a classic alicantino meal, arroz, a typical rice dish from the interior part of Alicante. At the table we taste the Toscar Syrah, one of the new labels Rafael has added to his range of wines. Wine, food and tourism, Alicante has it all. And I wonder: "what if a leading and innovating winery like Poveda has discovered wine toursism as a very serious business model only three years ago, than just imagine how many other wineries in the area must be like".

Poveda´s new strategy again shows this family has the vision and the guts to pave the way for many other wineries. I have no doubt that Poveda will succeed in breaking open the wine tourism industry at the Costa Blanca, where million of tourist every year spend there holidays. Rafael should not forget to place enough signs from every busy coast town to Finca La Rejuela.
For more information about Emilio Saez van Eerd´s activities in Spain, click at http://saezvaneerd.com and http://worldwinedatabase.comor contact directly emilio@saezvaneerd.com

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Casa de la Ermita creates interest for Jumilla

By Emilio Saez van Eerd

Just outside the town when you leave Jumilla you take a small road along the mountain El Carche, and after some 3 kilometers a small sign indicates at your right hand the medium sized modern winery of "Casa de la Ermita". An old olive tree characterizes the entrance. I recognize the olive tree from the label that Casa de la Ermita uses.Javier Alvarez and Ana Martinez Terol welcome us on a cold and windy day at Casa de la Ermita, one of the wineries that invested heavily in the region long before the international markets knew about the existence of the region as a producer of high quality wines.

The owner, Pedro Martinez, recently managed to attract some more investors into his company to keep up with the speed of his wine sales. In 2005 Mapfre, a Spanish insurrance company took a 10% stake in Casa de la Ermita after in 2003 Ibersuizas, a capital investor, injected € 5 million in the winery. According the company´s press release announcing the expansion palns of Casa de la Ermita “the investment was necessary to renew the production plant in the D.O. Jumilla and to expand the Valle de Salinas winery in the D.O. Yecla”, one of the latest projects of Casa de la Ermita.

Javier and Ana explain us that the region has poor quality soils that are stony and limey, which is ideal for the vineyards. The climate is extreme, the 300m³ of rain per year, with temperatures that fall below zero in the winter and easily reach 40º C in the summer. In one day the temperature can vary 20º. Of course these conditions result in very low yields. The vineyards are planted around the winery at an avarage altitude of 700 meter. Not only monastrell but Casa de la Ermita is also a promoter of some foreign varieties. Cabernet sauvignon 22 hec, merlot 10 hec, syrah 20 hec, petit verdot 21 hec and viognier 2 hec are the most succesfull foreign varieties. The Spanish grapes monastrell 47 hectares and tempranillo 17 hectares provide the rest.An experimental vineyard of three hectares provides more knowledge about the posiblities that this wine area has. Casa de la Ermita does tests varietals like malbec, touriga nacional, egiodolá, rousanne, garnacha, gewürtztraminer and many other grapes from all over the world to see how they adapt to this particular region. The harvest is done by hand, to secure the selection of the best grapes. As the winery is built at the foot of the mountain Carche, the advantage is that during the production de winemaker can use the gravity. At eight metres height the grapes enter the winery to be de-stemmed and pressed. The must is then passed along pipes to the tanks. The winery has 75 tanks of stainless steel with different capacities. Once in permanently temperature controlled tanks the vinification takes place at a temperature of between 10 and 15 degrees. Later the wines, if necesarry, pass on to the cellar where Casa de la Ermita has more than 4000 mainly American oak barrels (60%) and 40% French oak barrels. The cellar in winery we visit ahs some 1000 barrels, and in the other production plant Casa de la Ermita stores the 3000 barrels more. All the wines allways are a blend of American and French oak. The barrels are used for a maximum of 5 years. The total avarage anual production of the wines of Casa de la Ermita is: White wine 200,000 bottlesRed Organic Wines 350,000 bottlesYoung red wine 400,000 bottlesCrianza 1,000,000 bottlesSemi-Crianza 400,000 bottles.
The harvest of 2004 was lower with a total production of 1,5 million liters

En Casa de la Ermita two lines for the wines from Jumilla, Monastrerio de Santa Ana for the varietal wines and Casa de la Ermita for all other wines. Casa de la Ermita has another brand for the wines from Yecla, Valle de Salinas, and a wine called Caracol for the retail.We taste the wines ons the first floor. A natural lighted tasting room is the perfect location to taste:Casa de la Ermita Blanco Viognier 2004 Joven, colour gold yellow, hints of peach and ripened and dried fruit, spicy. Good acidity, juicy. Alcohol well integrated. I´m interested to taste the 2005 when it is ready. Casa de la Ermita Monastrell 2004 joven, 14º Vol. The typical wine that you would expect in the region. But this wine is frutier than many other monastrell wines. The aroma is spicy, with pepper and fruity in the mouth. Good balance acidity, alcohol and tannins. The winemaker has achieved to extract more fruit from the monastrell. Casa de la Ermita 2004 JovenTypical mediterranean nose, fruit, cherries, well structured wine, comercial wine, perfect for tapas of all kind.Monasterio de Santa Ana 2004, 14 º Vol. Made of monastrell. Inviting smell, some oak, fruity in the mouth, perfect for a rich meal, well structured, perfect balance. Casa de la Ermita Crianza 10 months 2002, tempranillo 20%, cabernet sauvignon 20%, monastrell 60%. 13,5ºVol. New French oak, typical cherry pie aroma (if you ever have the oportunity to eat the Dutch freshly made cherry pie “Kersenvlaai met Slagroom”, than you understand the typical aroma of a wood ripened fruity monastrell) Very good balance, mature tannins, fruity aftertaste.Casa de la Ermita Petit Verdot 2002, pago del Carche, 12 months oak. Thick inky colour, licorice, fruity, mineral taste and also floral. Fresh fruity taste, good balance in the aromas and taste, a lot of everything, acidity, tannins and alcohol.(14,5º Vol). Elegant tannins. Although the wine still has to stay in the bootle for a while, the Petit Verdot 2002 shows a great potential.Casa de la Ermita Dulce, fruity nose, creamy, fresh red fruit. Still some powerful tannins present, a good contrast for the sugar. The acidity is elegant. Pleasant closure of the tasting.The latest projects that we could not taste at that moment are Viognier Dulce, the Monastrell/Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Blend 2002 and a Rosé wine for which the laboratory is looking for authoctonous yeasts. The ecological wines are also succesfully introduced. Casa de la Ermita makes a “joven”, “crianza 10 months” and tempranillo/monastrell. Even KLM the Dutch Airline company of Air France has selected one for its wine card. Photo left first winery of Casa de la Ermita seen from the road. Photo right, second production plant seen from the roof of the first winery. For more background information about Casa de la Ermita please have a look at the information that Casa de la Ermita has added to the www.worldwinedatabase.comFor more information about Emilio Saez van Eerd´s activities in Spain, click at http://saezvaneerd.com/or contact directly emilio@saezvaneerd.com or visit http://saezvaneerd.com/