Alicante wine region
Alicante wine region
Alicante was once famous due to the dessert wines produced in the region. What was once a strength does not however serve to describe what this wine region offers today. Wines from Alicante have evolved through history and today, thanks to new winemaking technologies, they are reaching new heights. Fondillon is a classical wine from Alicante and one of the most respected and highly reputed wines in the world: one of the wine styles that should be tried at least once in a lifetime. The Alicante wine region attracts many visitors due to its proximity to the seaside and tourist resorts that enjoy the Mediterranean beaches and also, every now and then, a bit of wine tasting joining one of the wine tours in Alicante that are run by local guides.
History of the Alicante wine region and its wines
With the Mediterranean sea so close to the wine region of Alicante, it is no surprise that it was the Phoenicians who first cultivated vines in this area. The Romans followed and archeological discoveries have found large roman wine estates and the use of amphorae for the transport of wines in the Mediterranean sea.
By the XVI century, the wine from Alicante was famous in some parts of Europe (mainly England) and legal regulation was put in place to protect it. Many writers mentioned Alicante wines in their novels and the rancio wines produced in the region rivalled with sherries or port.
A golden age for the wine region took place during the XIXth century when Filoxera destroyed a large part of the European vineyards… Alicante was not impacted in the early stages and this implied lots of opportunities for local winemakers. But when France and its vineyards recovered from the negative impacts of the phylloxera Alicante, like other wine regions in Spain, suffered and initiated a period of crisis.
The Alicante wine appellation and its subzones
The DO was created in 1932 and the regulatory body was set in 1957. The Subzona de la Marina was added ten years after the foundation of the DO.
The wine region in Alicante is composed of two subzonas: Alicante or subzona clasica and the Subzona of la Marina.
La Marina covers the area next to the coast and goes from Miraflor on the north to Calpe on the south. Lower vineyards, warmer temperatures, and the influence of the sea make this wine suitable for sweet wine production.
The Alicante subzone mingles with other Dos: Valencia in the north, Almansa in the northwest (Almansa is one of the wine apellations in Castilla la Mancha), and Yecla and Jumilla wine region in the west. Some of the vineyards in the DO Alicante are actually located in Murcia province (this is not the only such case in Spain and vineyards from Navarre, for instance, are located in the Rioja DO).
Alicante wine region terroir
Beings to close to the Mediterranean and with no remarkable mountain range in the area, the highest vineyards inland are located at some 400 meters high (some 1,300 feet). Further from the coast, the weather gets more continental and the difference between day and night increases, which is good for winemaking (the best example of such reality is seen in Spain with the wines from Ribera del Duero). But temperatures in Alicante are warm even inland and even vines in the highland areas need to seek water as deep as seven meters, which is also good for winemaking.
Grape growers plant and train the views low to reduce sun exposure and also to ensure the plant protects the fruit with its leaves.
The main red grape in the area is Monastrell (this grape is known in France as Mourvedre). Monastrell did not bright moments some decades ago, but skilful winemakers and new technologies have made a wide difference and today its can produce fascinating wines. Other red grape varietals include bobal, garnacha and tempranillo.
The main white grape is merseguera (like in the case of the Valencia appellation), followed by muscatel. There are also vineyards with viura, airen and also some wine makers have ventured themselves with Riesling and chardonnay.
Types of wines in Alicante wine region
Alicante is above all known for being a low cost, great value wine region. Most wines produced are young wines, made up of mersegurea for the whites, garnacha for the rose wines, and monastrell for red wines. But there is also space for top quality wines and wineries like Enrique Mendoza, El Seque (from Artadi in Rioja) or Telmo Rodriguez, who has also ventured in the region, have taken wines from Alicante to a different level.
Alicante is also well-known for its muscatel wines, with its best-known example in the wines of the winery Gutierrez de la Vega. Casta Diva, one of the wines from this winery, was served at the banquet of Spain´s King Felive VI.
Last but for sure not least we find fondillon. This is a unique dessert wine that can be made either sweet or in rancio styles.It is made with monastrell and it gets fortified to sixteen percent of alcohol. Fondillon needs at least eight years of oak aging to be considered as such.
At its best, fondillon yields the best nutty character we can find in a tawny port, but also the delicate sweetness of fine cakes. Fondillon is a wine to taste at least once!