Uncorking a little liquid luxury is a pleasure well understood. Because wine, whether red, white, sweet or with the golden bubbles of champagne or cava, is synonymous with sharing good times. Moments that, in these post-pandemic times, have helped redefine how we enjoy the luxury of drinking well in privacy, in your own home. And no one is surprised by the growing passion of people who incorporate wine into their lives to delve into its complexities.
Alicante, as in so many other things, offers its own unique wine culture. For one thing, Dénia is home to the oldest site of wine production in the Iberian Peninsula, specifically in l'Alt de Benimaquía, dating back to the 6th century BC.
Amphorae of Phoenician origin and grape pips from the period confirm that the art of turning vines into wine was known in this location. And they were travelling wines, as there is evidence that they were exported to Rome in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.
They are two examples of how history and the area of origin are key factors, because it's not just about sipping good wine: it's about experiencing tradition and history.
Nowadays, several wineries in Alicante keep alive the production of this legacy made wine. One of them is Gutiérrez de la Vega, in Parcent, who made a splash by offering the dessert wine served at the royal wedding of Felipe VI and Letizia Ortiz in 2004. It was the Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2003 muscatel, which, by the way, was paired with the wedding cake made by the master pastry chef Francisco Torreblanca, also from Alicante.
In short, several facts starring the Alicante wine which, characterised by the native varieties Monastrell, Moscatel, Giró (Garnacha) or Merseguera, generate great products within the Denominación de Origen de Alicante, who are recently remembering how in 1510 King Ferdinand the Catholic granted the city protectionist measures for its wines.
Products that enjoyed a differentiated quality, due to the climate and the influence of the sun and the sea. These values are shared in many cultural areas of the Costa Blanca, where living here also generates a quality of life that is difficult to match. And without abandoning wine, the possible wine tourism getaways that can be made on the Alicante Wine Route are worth mentioning.
Among all the wines with Designation of Origin, Fondillón de Alicante is recognised as one of the 5 European luxury wines along with Champagne, Sherry, Port and Cava.
This is not the only milestone to be highlighted, as few wines in Spain have such a proven history as Fondillón de Alicante. Fondillón is unique, having been produced for more than five centuries. And it was also a traveller, since due to its magnificent tolerance to ageing, several chronicles of the time tell that several barrels accompanied Magellan and Elcano on their round-the-world voyage in 1522.
This is a special type of wine made from overripe Monastrell grapes, i.e. harvested after the traditional harvest, using indigenous yeasts and natural methods to achieve a high alcohol content of around 18º.
To achieve its characteristic warm touches, it is traditionally aged in old casks of up to 1,200 litres from Alicante or Monóvar using the criaderas and solera systems.
Due to its aromatic power, it is generally preferred in Spain as an after-dinner wine, although it is also consumed as an aperitif. It is usually consumed on its own or paired with pastries, blue and creamy cheeses, nuts, chocolates or raisined fruits.
If we are curious to know the origin of the name of this appreciated wine from Alicante, we should know that the name of fondillón comes from the Spanish word fondo (Spanish word for "bottom"), due to the sediment that is produced at the bottom of the barrels used to age the wine.
Alicante's fondillón formed an essential part of the banquets of European high society, intellectuals and royalty. Mentions of fondillón can be found in chronicles and literature from the 15th century onwards. Among others, in the works of Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare.
In the novel The Count of Monte Cristo, for example, reference is made to this wine from Alicante in the following conversation:
And there is more. The official chronicler of the French monarch Louis XIV, the Duke of Saint-Simon, wrote that before his death, the man known as the Sun King drank biscuits bathed in Alicante fondillón.
Characteristics of fondillón
This wine is neither dry nor sweet; it is a unique and special wine. The young fondillón (10 to 20 years old) has a ruby colour with yellowish streaks. Its flavour is strong, powerful and has a lingering aftertaste, while the aroma is surprising, with an abundance of nuances: from ripe and dry fruit to balsamic notes.
More than 20 years old, fondillón has an exceptional amber colour, with hints of mahogany and golden glints. The aroma of this aged wine has distinctive tones of walnut, tobacco and old leather. The taste of old fondillón is drier than that of a young one and the aftertaste is very persistent.
Fondillón marries well with dark chocolate, allowing it to take the lead in sweetness and gently supporting its potential. The nutty flavour of fondillón allows it to form a harmonious alliance with dairy products, fruit and desserts: creams, meringues, panettone, biscuits... Blue cheeses help to balance the powerful qualities of fondillón, while unsweetened toast with pickles or pâté contrasts perfectly with this wine.
D.O. Alicante grape varieties
In the southernmost region, the best representative of history and adaptation to the terrain is Monastrell. For the Alicante Designation of Origin, it represents 75% of its cultivation in all the main regions and is its best defined variety.
In this case, we are talking about a variety that is also closely associated with the Mediterranean and capable of transmitting its values through its wines. Wines of a strong dark violet colour, with a high robe, which have benefited from many of the hours of light that this region enjoys and which therefore have both a high phenolic load and high percentages of resveratrol, the best antioxidant for human beings.
It is medium-sized but very compact and strong, which allows it to withstand long hours of sunshine. The drought conditions of the region, so to speak, have made it strong and dense, with a great aromatic power and versatility to make single-varietal wines or in coupages, as well as liqueur wines and of course fondillón, as it can also over-ripen on the vine under the right conditions and due to its sugar content.
Muscat of Alexandria
Muscat of Alexandria is a variety used both for winemaking and for table grapes and raisins. All of them create a very personal landscape and culture in La Marina Alta, where it is a flagship of its environmental diversity.
Its organoleptic value is immense, highlighting its aromatic power, its versatility to produce wines from white and sparkling wines to a wide range of liqueur wines. The large size of the plant, especially some very old ones, and its dazzling growth in such rich soils, create a green landscape of special charm.
It is one of the earliest harvests in Spain, due to the Mediterranean summer with temperatures that make it ripen gradually and steadily. Harvesting sometimes begins in mid-August. Its healthiness is another characteristic of the variety, in an area with few threats. It is perhaps the most representative variety of the Mediterranean, due to its uses, its presence in all the great ancient civilisations, its relationship with man at all levels (from its exploitation to its use, often present in country houses together with other Mediterranean crops) and for all these reasons, it is a heritage of great value for the Denomination of Origin.
Garnacha (Alicante Bouschet)
The variety that has made Alicante most famous as an area for coloured wines is Garnacha Tintorera. Known in part of the world as Alicante Bouschet, it is a unique variety whose interior and skins are of the same colour, which makes it a variety that is used to give colour, a characteristic that differentiates all wines.
Its plant is also large and its cultivation is aimed at improving its integrity, providing an added value of terroir, of spicy components, of sobriety, highly valued by today's consumers. Although it was planted much less at this time, there is evidence of its importance and today it is used to complete the elaborations with other varieties, giving a touch of terroir and personality very much associated with the land of Alicante.
Other varieties with D.O. Alicante
- Subirat Parent (or Malvasia)
- Planta fina de Pedralba
- Sauvignon blanc
- Garnacha tinta (or Gironet)
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Petit Verdot
Enjoying the wines of Alicante is a unique experience that combines history, culture and a delicious selection of local wines. That's why we strongly recommend you to enjoy a day trip to any of the wineries in the province and enjoy the wine tastings they offer. Or simply get a bottle of Alicante D.O. wine and see for yourself the quality of the best wines of the Spanish Levante.