DO Alicante Enjoys a Sweet Moment in The Wake of Its Resurrection
During the past years, Alicante and its wines have made a comeback with a vengeance on the wine scene. The instigators behind this achievement are, on the one side, the vine-growers with a more studied and technical cultivation of their plots; and on the other, the bodegas with their continuous infrastructure and process renewal and improvement and their constant adaptation to modern times and consumer tastes. Their secret weapon: the Monastrell grape. All of which is driven and endorsed by DO Alicante’s Regulating Council
The 39 bodegas currently endorsed by DO Alicante have transformed, and are currently making a huge effort to adapt and renovate winemaking processes as well as to improve sales and their position on the market. This is matched by the wine’s excellent quality-price ratio.
In view of this situation, Alicante wines seem to be enjoying an excellent moment, promising magnificent perspectives for the near future. A fact confirmed by the number of awards obtained both at home and abroad as well as recognition from trade professionals.
However, it must be remembered that behind DO Alicante’s resurrection exists a wealth of history and experience that dates back to over 3000 years. Documents exist that demonstrate that vines were brought to the Iberian Peninsula by eastern and southern Mediterranean civilisations, through the ports of Torrevieja and Denia. In fact, old winepresses still exist in the region of Crevillente.
The soil is clay-based and even sandy in some districts, which prevented the phylloxera plague from affecting the region at the end of the 19th century. As a result, the region experienced a genuine economic boom exporting wines around the world, while regions in the south of France, Italy and even in Spain lost vines. In fact, there are still some ungrafted vines in the region from before the phylloxera outbreak, considered by many experts as authentic heirlooms. This was the so-called "golden age" of Alicante wines, helping the capital’s port to become an important Mediterranean business hub, and a focal point of immigration for foreign bourgeoisie who took considerable advantage of its development.
In the past, Alicante wines were already internationally well-known under their own brand name which evoked ‘hot’ wines, with a high alcohol content, intense colour, and very full-bodied. These co-existed with ‘noble’ wines, mature wines that sat on the tables of the very best royal houses in Europe due to their nobility and personality. The Fondillón de Alicante tradition is still preserved from that period today, a product jealously protected by DO Alicante.
These days, production is based on a terroir that, together with the effects from the sea and the sun, generates a ripe grape capable of transforming into the most suggestive wines: Young wines, fresh and fruity made from native varieties that offer harmony, originality, genuineness and authenticity, and modern style crianzas, a blend of traditional native and foreign varieties that denote diversity, innovation, imagination and quality.
These wines come from a geographically privileged region, located between the plateau and the Mediterranean, extending through 50 municipalities in the Alicante province, bringing together 9,166 registered hectares, in two distinct regions: inland, around the capital and the upper and middle basin of the River Vinalopó, and the Marina Alta region, to the north near the sea.
The role played by the Mediterranean climate in the development of DO Alicante vines is crucial. Factors such as the high average temperatures (between 13º and 18º, reaching summer maximums of 30º to 40º), scarce rainfall (between 300 and 500 mm/year), the high number of sunlight hours (2,500 hours per year), and a negligible altitude above sea-level determine the singularity of these wines. The Mediterranean climate of the inland region is influenced by a continental climate due to its proximity to the plateau, while the Marina Alta region is characterised by a maritime microclimate benefiting from the sea breeze.
The soils possess a high level of limestone, null or almost null amount of clay, very little organic material, and an exceptional mineral content. These pedological factors give rise to the successful growth of the vines and the making of quality wines.
As to the endorsed varieties, time as well as the experience of vine-growers and winemakers has given rise to a natural selection of the varieties that have shown the best qualities in adapting to the climate and soils of Alicante. The result of this process, which could be considered ‘historic’, is the co-existence in perfect harmony of Chardonnay, Macabeo, Merseguera, Moscatel de Alejandría, Sauvignon Blanc, Planta Fina and Verdil, in whites, and Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Tintorera, Monastrell, Tempranillo, Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah in reds, with Monastrell affording personality to the region and occupying 66 percent of the vineyard.
As a consequence, this terroir offers some very suggestive whites, rosés and reds, be they young or aged wines, which surprise and delight even the most sophisticated palates for their quality, balance and aroma as well as their intense flavour and colour. Moscatel de Alicante or Fondillón, not to be forgotten.
Thanks to the winemaking methods and the selection of the grapes, young wines are notable for their freshness, their fruity character and their floral aromas, being a true reflection of the vine’s authenticity and the grape’s flavors. The crianzas and reservas, made from traditional varieties or coupages of foreign varieties, represent the triumph of diversity and imagination, giving rise to wines with a marked Mediterranean character where their acquired wood nuances fuse in a balanced harmony with the fruit’s primary aromas.
Moscatel de Alicante, also known as mistela, is a sweet Muscat liqueur wine, made from the Moscatel de Alejandría (Muscat of Alexandria) variety grown in the Marina Alta region. Proximity to the sea and the humidity the vines obtain from the breeze give this variety its uniqueness. The traditional winemaking process affords a sweet, unctuous wine, with distinctive aromatic qualities as well as a bright and clean aspect in which a wide range of colours are present; from straw yellow to the darkest amber.
Fondillón, a name exclusive to DO Alicante and one of the five luxury wines acknowledged by the EU, is made from the Monastrell variety, over-ripened on the vine and aged for many years, (usually a minimum of 10), in oak casks according to the region’s traditional winemaking process.
Furthermore, together with the more classic-style wines, in recent decades a lot of encouragement has gone behind making single-plot, signature and high profile wines.
As to the future, DO Alicante’s Regulating Council aims to invest in strengthening its wines’ presence on the local and domestic markets as well as increasing international sales, and improving the wines’ quality and personality; a key marketing and image factor. However, investment in ecotourism as well as marketing for Fondillón on all fronts is also on the agenda.
The 39 bodegas currently endorsed by DO Alicante have transformed, and are currently making a huge effort to adapt and renovate winemaking processes as well as to improve sales and their position on the market. This is matched by the wine’s excellent quality-price ratio