A few days ago the air was fragranced with the smell of blossom originating from two of the Mediterranean’s coastlines. Orange, mandarin, lemon, citron, bergamot and grapefruit trees were in flower and the fresh air overwhelmed your senses with the unmistakable fragrance. Since time immemorial, the gardens in Seville, Malaga, Alicante and Valencia have sprung spring with an outbreak of millions of these small citrus aurantium. Curiously this floral aroma, like jasmine and blossom, is also found in Mare Nostrum’s (Our Mother) Alexandria Muscat, one of the eldest grape varieties. This variety has important terpenoid content, a blend of aromatic compounds which defines some grapes and that gives the Muscat grape its unmistakable perfume.
In 1962, a group of grape and wine farmers decided to unite and founded the Cooperativa Valenciana Virgen Pobre de Xaló (The Valenican Co-operative Virgin Mary of Xalo). There were more than 400 members and more than 400 hectares of harvest primary located in Xaló, Llíber and Alcanalí. Their production was basically red wine from the giro variety also known as garnacha and granel wine.
The Muscat grape is cultivated throughout the Mediterranean's shoreline for its sweet taste and unmistakable floral fragrance, which are two of the reasons it's preferred by bees. The grape can be eaten fresh and raisin production has become one of the most important industries in the Marina Alta region, on the Alicante coast, an activity that peaked in the XVIII and XIX centuries when the produce was exported to Europe and America. In many of the traditional countryside houses are the Riu Rau terraces, an arched terrace that was designed to store cane screens during the night, whilst during the day bunches of the Alexandria muscatel grapes or Roman muscatel grapes are left out to dry in the sun on them. Since ancient times the soil from this area has produced the highest quality raisins, until other varieties started arriving, with better production costs, with new technological advances which artificially drain the grapes as well as the creation of seedless varieties. With these grapes they started to produce legendary sweet wines that now have international fame and that carry the varieties name, like the muscatels of Malaga, Alicante, Valencia, Navarra, Setúbal or Frontignan.
Hernandez discovers the best Valencian wine in a blind tasting at the Expo
She began somewhat nervously, because that business of being the Councilor for Agriculture and having to face a blind tasting of wines, during which it is supposed that her appreciation of the best one will coincide with the Valencian product, is frightening. To be patriotic is all very well, but with your eyes blindfolded and among the people… And if this doesn’t turn out right? But it did, and the nerves turned into great satisfaction and a standing ovation from the people.
The winery continues its modernization and innovation. We are now thinking about a renovation of the premises, in particular in the winery shop, to modernize it and satisfy the half a million clients that visit this space each year.
Vall de Xaló, the black Mistela
Neither are all muscatels mistelas, nor are all mistelas muscatel. The technique of adding alcohol to an unfermented grape juice to stop its fermentation is so ancient that it has been tried with all wines. What is aimed at with the misteization is to create a long lasting wine, sweet and enologically inalterable (by the presence of added alcohol). But it has been done with Malvasia, White Grenache or Peluda, Merlot, red Grenache, yes a red mistela! And even with the german Gewurztraminer, which if you think about it, being an aromatic variety is not so surprising. The professor and alma mater of the School of Enology from Requena, Felix Quartero, a good man and an extraordinary enologist, elaborated a mistela from Gerwurztraminer at the school’s winery which is the best I ever tasted.