Monday, 2nd May, 2016: Bodegas Martúe
After a prompt start at 08.00hrs, and a slightly longer coffee break than planned we arrived at just before 14.00 hrs at Bodegas Martúe to be met by Manuel and later by his mother Marta (nicknamed Matuela, hence the name of the bodega) who looked more like his sister!
“Our biggest competitor in Spain is beer, so we try to focus and look at our competitors’ bottles to compare and compete”
“At Martúe, the grapes are like babies – we like to see them grow”
The Manuel’s grandfather was the local doctor; Marta came from the wine business and so, when father got the land in 1988 they started planting vines. Manuel can remember helping out when he was aged 5.
The land is a rather windy 700m above sea level and they don’t like irrigating, preferring to make the plants work harder. They harvest at night when it’s 15 – 18°C (as it’s 50 – 55 °C during the day) so that fermentation starts in the tanks. They get around 2.5 – 3kg of grapes from each vine, such as this 10 year old Petite Verdot. The vines in this area were so sturdy that they withstood the 19 Century Grape phylloxera because the insects couldn’t bore in to them.
Harvest starts with the Chardonnay in the 1st week of August, other grapes start in the 2nd week of September on vines planted in an East/West orientation.
They have around 1000 barrels costing around €800 each, last for around 4 years and sell for €50. They use 80% French Oak as they like the spices created and want fruity wines that are good with food.
They bought out more land as people moved to the cities and in 2000 they stopped selling grapes and started to bottle their own. they are justly proud of their status of ‘Vino de Pago’, which is shown on their bottles
The picture shows the wines in the sequence we tasted them.
1st wine: Martúe Chardonnay (2015 @ €6.00 bottle) This had “green apples, vanilla and minerals, designed to be easy drinking”. Grown from old vines at 900m in the mountains near Madrid. (40,000 bottles p.a.)
2nd wine: Blanco Nieva Pie Franco Verdejo (2015 @ €7.80 bottle) This was more complex, fruity and creamy having spent some time in Oak Barells. (20,000 bottles p.a.)
3rd wine: Martúe Tinto (5 varieties) (2015 @ €6.00 bottle) Designed to be an ‘agreeable’ wine. It’s their most famous wine with production of 350,000 bottles a year.
4th wine: Martúe Syrah. (2011 @ €13.00 bottle) Only produced during their best years (i.e. not 2015), can last or up to 22 years and is matured in new French Oak for 15 months. (13,000 bottles per year
They export 40 – 45% of their production, mainly to Germany as the UK is such a difficult market.
Monday, 2nd May, 2016: Hotel Hacienda del Cardenal, Toledo
We stayed here for all 3 nights and it had a great location, lots of character and relaxing side rooms, albeit with quite a few steps. After a pleasant reception drink in the hotel courtyard, the evening meal was served with Lune 2014 wines – Rueda Verdejo and Ribera del Duero Tinto Roble
Tuesday, 3rd May, 2016: Bodegas Canopy. This was a ‘boutique bodega’ but in buildings that looked more like an industrial shed from the outside and fairly basic inside. However, with the enthusiasm and skill of Belarmino & Alfonso it seemed to make it even more special (well done wine team!).
Alfonso became the focus of attention of at least 1 of our ladies and was very entertaining and informative.
“A lot of wines in Spain are boring – we try to look for different wines. We are not too concerned about the colour, so long as it looks clean and clear”
“We still tread our grapes (3 times a day) at the harvest”
“My English is bad but my wine is good. Don’t lose the illusion of drinking great wine with great food”
“We like to drink, not work. That’s why they started the bodega – and we could drink for free! However, now we work more and drink less”.
They started in 2003 and both are multi-functional, being (I think) the main workers. Their wine is highly rated by Parker and is grown over parcels of land all over the area but all vines are 50+ years old in mainly granite soil at 300 – 900m high – “the secret to the wine is the grapes”.
Their philosophy is ecological, focus on pruning & taking away the little green shoots to help create good grapes which are put in boxes and transported in refrigerated trucks.
“A hectare in Australia will produce 25,000 kg of grapes; in Spain generally it’s 12,500kg but in their bodega it’s 2,500kg.” “There’s more Garnacha in Spain than anywhere else in the world”.
The wine names reflect their sense of humour:
1st wine: Loco (= mad) with a straight jacket sleeve. (2014 @ €16 bottle) 2500 bottles per year, no oak and said to taste of fennel. Garnacha Blanca.
2nd wine tasted: Castilla de Belarfonso (remember their names) (2014 @ €5 bottle) 20,000 bottles a year with a castle (but theirs is blow up!) on the label and other similarities to a famous French wine. Old vine Garnacha.
3rd wine: Tres Patas (3 partners) (2014 @ €10 bottle) Their first wine produced, but now there are only 2 partners. Paul Nichols has noticed the 3-legged chair on the label = ‘Legless’! More complex and fermented with the stalks and will last a long time.
4th wine: Malpaso. Translation = ‘to trip when you walk’ (2014 @ €10 bottle) Just the Syrah grape and will keep for around 8 years. Will taste better when left in the glass to breathe.
5th wine tasted: Kaos. Chaos! (2010 @ €25 bottle) 1200 bottles a year. Garnacha – ‘black fruit’
Tuesday, 3rd May, 2016: Bodegas Marques de Griñón.
There was no ‘presentation’ of the wines but we had the 2010 Rueda Verdejo (€7) and Symma Varietalis (mainly Syrah @ €16) 2010 whilst having a welcome tapas outside. Then inside to a superb restaurant for a delicious meal and 2 more wines; a 2011 Syrah having 15 months in French Oak (€21) and their 2008 ‘Emeritvs’ brand having 24 months in French Oak, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon @ €44. They export to many countries, including Germany, Switzerland, UK, Japan & China.
Wednesday, 4th May 2016: Hacienda Agrovillarta
We were met by Raul (the oenologist) who had just returned from a London Wine Fair. They have 650 hectares of land – some is for cereals, their Turkish oak forest provides for hunting and 150 hectares is for wine –.mainly Garnacha. Started in 1999 with a capacity of some 2.5 million litres, they consider themselves small/medium producer compared to La Mancha bodegas who can produce 300 million kg of grapes a year!
“The UK (including its world-wide influence), USA & Australia controls the world wine market”
“We try to take the mystique out of wine so that more people feel comfortable drinking it”
“The BOTTLE is the most important as you can spend years making the wine and then people don’t buy it because of the bottle(&label)”
“We used to make strong wines but people said it was too powerful and they ran away from the wines. Now we make drinkable wine”
“Buy a bottle and drink it! – be careful about keeping/storing your wines at home”
They harvest about 1 million kg of grapes but they only bottle 150,000 per year out of the 700,000 litres of wine produced. The rest is supplied in bulk, mainly to France and elsewhere in Spain. Raul felt that the Castilians did not have a culture of ‘selling’ but were getting better – already witnessed in their Olive Oil v Italian.
Their barrel room was built by the owner, who had a ‘construction’ background as can be seen by the elaborate racks and arched ceilings. The half-barrel of water in the picture is needed to keep the humidity up at 80%, the whole room is under 2m of sand to keep the temperature at a constant 15 – 19°C and the ‘angel’s share or evaporation works out at around 5%.
Twice a year they take all the wine out of the barrels (all done in situ thanks to the wheels in each rack) to mix it up and put it back – otherwise each barrel of wine would be different. This process takes 15 days and “is much more work than is done outside on the vines”. They keep their barrels a long time as they don’t want a strong oak flavour.
A rough wine can get better in the bottle and screw-tops are now essential for the UK market. They do use cork, but these are made from small pieces, steamed and glued so they don’t breathe much.
Their main market is export to middle sized shops and restaurants in Germany, UK, USA, Poland and Finland but not to supermarkets because they are not big enough to supply their volume.
1st wine: Besanas Blanco Chardonnay (65%)/Sauvignon Blanc (35%) (2015 @ €2 bottle) They have been experimenting with this wine for 9 years and now mix and ferment together so the blend becomes more perfect.
2nd wine: Rosado (2015 @ €2 bottle) Made from Garnache and Petit Verdot red grapes with as short a time as possible in contact with the skins. Garnacha does not have much colour and white & Rosado wines take a lot of work (but no barrel work) because they are delicate. We tasted the 2014 as well, which many thought had lost its lustre.
3rd wine: Besanas Crianza Crianza (2011 @ €5.50 bottle) 50% Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah. 20 months in oak (but it’s old/used barrels) and longer in the bottle.
4th wine: Besanas Tinto Reserva (2009 @ €6 bottle) Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah. Well rated by Parker.
We found our REALLY GREAT & HELPFUL driver (Juanjo) keeping the bus clean for us and then Tim just didn’t want to (or couldn’t?) leave!
Wednesday, 4th May, 2016: Afternoon Tourist Train and evening meal at L’Azotea roof-top restaurant.
We all enjoyed the trip around Toledo, with some great views back to the Old Town.
The Tourist Train was an experience but the evening meal had FANTASTIC Spanish cuisine in a really superb roof-top setting in the old town. One of our group called it a ‘FIRST CLASS’ restaurant. Whilst in the restaurant, one of our members was heard to say: “I don’t know what the kids think we do on these wine trips, but I bet it’s not THIS!”
Thursday, 5th May 2016: Pago Finca Elez – Viñedos y Bodega Manuel Manzaneque
We were met by the Sophia, the daughter of the owner, who had travelled up from Madrid to be with us. She explained that the bodega/wine came from the love of the family and the father had been an actor and a theatre director (hence this trophy table) who had always been interested in wine and cellars, particularly because he came from the country and had worked on the land with his father.
He had looked for land that was high, and this bodega is at 1018m above sea level and is very special as it has a lot of sun, wind and poor soil so the grapes mature very slowly. Juan, the wine maker, explained that they had a Continental climate, can do everything ecologically, have 300 hectares of which 40h planted with vines in 4 separate parcels
Started in 1990, with first wines in 1992 and now produce 90,000 bottles per year. The CBWS (including Hilary, Pam & Sandy) had been here before in 2004.
They use the Phenolic Process to produce their wines, with the natural yeast requiring that each of their 8 grape varieties be treated differently. The ‘hat’ in the tank has all the colour, sugar and carbon dioxide. They have a special horizontal tank (with a membrane) for white wines which allows for the most contact of the skins with the wine to give it the best flavour. They use natural cork to allow the wine to breathe and keep developing. All barrels have a different level of ‘toasting’, modified each year to match the grapes of the land.
“We use all French Oak, as it produces more elegant wines”
We had a great meal at the bodega, including the wine tasting of the following together with a wider selection of all their wines over the meal.
1st wine: Chardonnay Joven (2015 @ €4.50 bottle) A taste of apple & white flowers & may last 2 years.
2nd wine: Chardonnay Barrica (2012 @ €10.50 bottle) As above but ‘oaked’ so we could compare. Not too much oak and should last 5 – 6 years.
3rd wine: Fina Eliz Crianza. (2009 @ €7.00 bottle) 18 months in the barrel, tasting of red fruit and the mineral from the land from Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
4th wine: Nuestra Selección (2006 @ €12.50 bottle) The older brother of the 3rd wine, more complex with tastes of fruits, chocolate, tobacco & spices.
Thursday, 5th May 2016: Journey back to Javea
We arrived at around 8.00 p.m. and it then took about ½ hour to unload all the wine & luggage.
Thanks: to Tim & Sandy Fawle + John & Shirley Sloggie for a really GREAT Wine Trip. Incredibly well organised, fantastic Bodegas/Wine and superb food. Thanks also to Peter Webb for ‘communications’ and to Ron Watson for making sure we were able to photograph all the bottles tasted.
A BRILLIANT TRIP
Text and Photographs by Paul Smithard May 2016