Some 9 years ago we attended a presentation given by Adolfo Miravet of the Espadán Cork Company at Bodega Vera de Estenas. Adolfo explained in some detail the process of harvesting the cork from the Alcornoque tree (Quercus Suber), how it was then transported to the factory, treated under heat and pressure to clean and disinfect it and then how the corks were extracted from the bark.
Horses were used on the Sierra de Espadán to move the cut cork as they caused less environmental damage in the forest and the product is entirely sustainable. Cork has been harvested for hundreds of years and apart from its use as a stopper in wine bottles it is also a natural insulator for both heat and sound.
There are several types of corks from the pure top-quality examples down to the cheaper conglomerate corks and flooring.
Cork forests are not that widely spread and are mainly found around the Mediterranean. The trees have a life span of up two hundred years but the first harvest we were told was not until the tree was about 100 years old and thereafter only every 9-15 years making their conservation a several generation issue. The trees are also fire retardant and if damaged regenerate well.
Since then we have wanted to visit to see the harvesting process and as a result of the current harvest taking place con-currently with a visit to Bodega Alcovi in Almedijar, we finally achieved our goal on 6 August.
Juan Manuel Gonzalvo Mancilla, who is the wine-maker at the bodega and wine-maker or assessor of other bodegas was our host. We climbed up the mountain road towards Aïn from Almedijar passing several trees which had been stripped recently and others showing signs of having been harvested in previous years. The trees are part of a forest with many different varieties and are randomly located on the very steep mountainside often with a floor of shale created by the weathering of the rodeno rock compacted sand, felspar and quartz) making harvesting much more difficult.
Following the sounds of an axe in the distance we came upon Manolo Fuster working on a tree and he showed us how the process is achieved with just two items, an axe and a wedge, taking the bark off in three bands starting in the centre. The lip of the bark below can then be used as a step to harvest the top part with the bottom removed last.
We then returned to Almedijar to visit the bodega and a vineyard.
The bodega sits above the town which is itself nestled in the valley between Segorbe and Aïn, below the old castle of Rodeno whose silhouette features on the label of their Señorio de Almedijar wine and which will be on the label of the special wine to celebrate the bodega´s 10th anniversary later this year. Just 1000 bottles have been filled!
The bodega has three vineyards with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell, Plantafina de Pedralba and Sauvignon Blanc. New vineyards are being planted and Viognier is one new variety. Currently the production is small, there is a capacity for around 20k kilos of grapes but only around a third of that is produced. Only 300 bottles of the rosado from Monastrell are produced for example.
The wines are gaining in popularity and are mainly sold to local restaurants. We have recently particularly liked the white, a blend of Plantafina and Sauvignon Blanc which was a warded a silver medal in the recent Concurso de Vinos Valencianos (Proava). It is pale yellow, clean and brilliant in aspect, floral with green apple notes, lowquat and mint on the nose and intense, fresh and silky in the mouth with a long finish.
The Rosado is 100% Monastrell, from free run juice, and pale rose in colour. It is perfumed on the nose with strawberry and fresh cut grass, with a big fresh satisfying pass in the mouth and a balanced long dry finish.
Juanma had organised a tasting of wines from deposit and barrel, (mainly from 2018) which will make up the elements of future vintages of the bodega´s production. Eight wines, and whilst we are not giving tasting notes for each all were expressive with good depth and the Cabernet Sauvignons full of green pepper and the Monastrells jammy with ripe fruit, chocolate and fresh acidity.
The anniversary wine is from 2015, deep garnet in colour after 2 years in oak, it is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder being Monastrell and Syrah. It has very mature fruit, chocolate and a fresh acidity, well balanced and will be a wine for keeping.
The bodegas Cabernet Sauvignons are from three separate parcels with different soils and all are quite distinct. The Finca Charculla generally produces the best wine and the 2018 from barrel (since November 2018) is still closed on the nose but well developed in the mouth.
The 2015 Rodeno, from a line of wines we have enjoyed very much (tasting both the 2012 and 2013 recently) was bottled in June last year. It is very approachable now and is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Syrah. It is very expressive and once the 2013 is all sold this will be a wine to obtain and lay down for the future!
Finally, we visited Finca Charculla, a plot of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah near to the town´s cemetery. The fruit is turning colour now ahead of the harvest, the Cabernet Sauvignon being a bit behind the Syrah.
Here in the sunset you could appreciate the micro-climate created by the mountains surrounding the vineyard.
Ecological vineyards (without chemical use) are havens for wildlife and we came across a lobed Argiope spider which was enjoying a meal as the sun went down!
Thank you Juanma for a fascinating visit to this newest member of Wines from IGP Castelló.