Interesting things are happening at the unlikely place of the Costa Blanca, the most heavy tourism and holiday home strip along the Spanish coast. From head-quarters in Bigastro, between Oriuhela and the infamous Torrevieja, Rafa Bernabé makes wines from grapes sourced from a rather big area from the coast and towards bordering Murcia.
This week’s special wine is aged in clay jars (in Spanish called tinajas) made in La Mancha. Perhaps more sensational, it is grown within the borders of La Mata national park in the municipality of Torrevieja. Bernabé is one of the many who have left their respective DO’s lately, so the wine is classified as a table wine (Vino de Mesa). The vineyards are situated near sea level, and they are organically treated. They have a high proportion of sand, so the vines are also predominantly pre-phylloxera, ungrafted. The ageing has been carried out in jars, without stirring, no SO2 has been added, the yeast are all natural, and there has been no filtration.
The wine has an orange colour one can expect from a «white» wine that has spent a prolonged time in contact with the skins (30 days maceration), but it has also a red hue. Why is this, I first asked myself, especially when the only grapes listed are the white merseguera 60% and moscatel 35%. But then, there are also 5% «others». So I asked the producer the same question. And yes, the wine also includes five red varieties that already existed within the old vineyards, and they are esclafacherre, plantamula, forcayat, valensi and parrell. (Say them one more time, as fast as you can!) Rafa says the old folks liked the colour that red varieties in small quantities gave the white wines. But he says that he also thinks the higher proportion of polyfenols adds to the ageing potential to the wine.
Tinajas de La Mata 2013 (Bernabé Navarro)
Golden orange colour, with a light touch of red, and with «long legs». Aromas of flowers, white fruits, orange peel, and with a salty tang; some barnyard at first, but it disappears with airing. It’s quite full, with some tannin, and a mellow citric acidity. All in all a lovely, stimulating wine.
Food: Fish and shellfish, foie, a variety of cheeses, and – why not – paella