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An ‘en primeur’ plus tasting at Finca Collado

14 octubre, 2020

Colin Harkness / Twitter: @colinonwine / Instagram: colinharkness53

Versión en español disponible aquí!

My visit recently to Bodegas Finca Collado began with a surprise and continued in the same vein!

It was something of a sea of tranquillity as I arrived at the apparently deserted bodega buildings on a gloriously sunny day which boasted also a balmy breeze as well as the recent fall in temperatures. Perfect weather. Driving from the castled city of Sax the soils had changed colour from a chalky white to a light terracotta, with occasional badger-like wisps of chalk again, indicating an interesting mix of types of earth.

The land supported olive groves, almond trees, some fruit trees and, as I’d neared my destination, vineyards mostly deplete of their fruit as the grape harvest here was nearing its end. Although palm trees were in short supply, Neil Diamond would certainly have agreed with me that the feeling was ‘laid-back’.

Well, behind the scenes and certainly for my friend and contact Samuel, there must have been something rather less than a calm, sleepy and tranquil atmosphere. You see, Samuel in fact wasn’t going to be present for my visit, tour, chat, tasting and lunch after all. Why? Well he was still at the hospital after witnessing the birth of his first child, a healthy boy born over night, Samuel’s wife having been rushed to hospital in the very early hours! Enhorabuena all round!

I was prepared to travel back home, visiting again in the near future, provided Samuel was able to find some sleep in the coming days and perhaps weeks! No pasa nada. However, Samuel’s sister, the charming Candela, was having none of that – I was to stay, and with the help of the oh-so enthusiastic and excitingly innovative Head Winemaker, Joan, the tour would place as if nothing major had happened – well, almost!

Joan had been out in the fields supervising the continuing collection of the last remaining Finca Collado grapes, Monastrell, as it happens. He arrived a few minutes after Candela had told me a little about how the business had started, how things were at the moment, with obvious concerns about the pandemic, from both the health and the business view points, as well as their plans for the future.

Finca Collado was founded in 2003 taking over a winery that had been used for bulk wines. My hunch about the soil make up had been correct, but fell short of realising what can’t really be seen when driving. There is also a certain salinity to the soils of the vineyards, with some near the small now dry lagoon being even more concentrated – all on account of the whole area at one time, millions of years ago, being un the sea.

Such diversity of soils makes for a unique style of wine, fruit concentrated yes, but also wrapped in a subtle minerality – but hey, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Tasting hadn’t started yet!

Finca Collado totals 100 hectares, though only 15 of which are vineyards. Production is limited. Vineyards are from 60 years old for their super Delit Monastrell based wine; to 50 Years old Monastrell planted nearest to the lagoon area used for their celebrated Ví de Sal; with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being 30 years of age. They also grow Garnacha and Cariñena for reds, as well as Chardonnay, Moscatel, Malvasia and Merseguera for white wines.

Despite the pandemic, Candela told me that they were pleased with their wine tourism still, albeit with reduced numbers. I’m not surprised – the setting is beautiful and the wines sublime. We sat with a cooling water under the trees where tasting tables and barrels are laid out for visitors to taste at the end of the tour, hopefully to buy at the small shop before they leave!

Local trade is still good, with neighbours and clients from further afield coming regularly to collect their cases of wine. However, as with all wine businesses (and so many others too) Covid 19 has certainly detrimentally affected national and export sales. The wine sector needs our help!

When Joan arrived we went first to the cellars. In fact this is where we stayed – and what an amazing tasting experience it was! I’m a naturally enthusiastic wine journalist – I love wine and I want to taste as many different styles as I can whilst learning as much about grape varieties, wine making et al as is possible at my great age nowadays!

I think Joan was able to read this about my personality, offering, if I wanted, the opportunity to taste a nascent wine or two from the tank or barrel. I accepted with alacrity, of course.

Well, this ‘one or two’ wines translated, an hour and a half later, to fourteen different wines in varying stages of their development – from wines whose fermentation had started not long ago, to those just finishing theirs, as well as fully fermented, nearly complete wines that had already been resting in their barrels for several months – en primeur! At lunch we also tasted Finca Collado’s first 100% Merseguera white wine, wholly finished, bottled, but not yet labelled – Flor Malves, excellent!

Joan likes to use French oak, but judicially, ensuring that the wood is subtle back-up, adding longevity, some flavour and aroma nuances, rounding out the wine, though always allowing the vineyard and, of course, the fruit to be up-front. To achieve this he uses only a few 225 litre barricas, preferring 300, 500 and 700, as well as larger capacity foudres. Toasting is mostly low with a few of medium toast.

It was also fascinating for me to learn, for the first time, about ‘toasting’ with steam! Joan is experimenting with a couple of barrels that have been ‘vapoured’ to an equivalent of light or medium traditional fire toasting. Vapour, he explained, at high temperatures also caramelises the oak but not as much as when set to the naked flame. The barrel’s influence on the wine is therefore lessened adding an extra level of subtlety to the already subtle French oak.

There is not enough space for me to detail all of the wines we tasted at their various different stages. However what I can tell you is that Finca Collado, a leading light in the DOP Alicante, will certainly build on its enviable success judging by the samples I enjoyed, as well of course, as the wines on the market already.

Put simply, I strongly advise that readers look out for Finca Collado wines and buy with confidence. You will not be disappointed!

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