Making Fondillón in an old XIX century wine press.
The 2020 vintage has been a historic vintage for the production of "suitable for Fondillón" wine. As we saw in our previous post, an exceptionally dry autumn and a subsoil laden with humidity produced grapes of high graduation, without any type of rot. The truth is that conditions like the ones we had this year are repeated very few times in the life of a winemaker ... it was time to take advantage of it.
THE OLD WINERY "EL PINARET".
From the beginning, the “Collection of Centennial Toneles” project has been supported by the “El Pinaret” winery in Cañada. Its owners, Regino and Nawal, are our partners and a fundamental part of the project, thanks to the enormous legacy of old vines, wines and ancient recipes that their ancestors provided them. In this vintage, an exceptional and unusual event also took place: we have had the disinterested participation of another “black leg winemaker” of Alicante winemaking: Joan Guia, from Finca Collado. And we emphasize how rare it is because it is unusual as well as necessary that it is to support the Wines of Alicante, above personal interests. We all know that Alicante is not in the place it deserves due to tradition, climatic conditions, native varieties… Between all of us, we have created an alliance for the traditional production of Fondillón de Alicante wine.
And talking about projects that transcend the economic and move into the field of history and culture, the recovery of the old winery of the El Pinaret Winery seemed the most appropriate for the production of wines "in the ancestral way" that we are promoting. Fondillón is a historical, rare and specific wine due to the special conditions that are needed for its elaboration. Each drop of Fondillón has been made by people who had an oenological thinking that went beyond fashions and short-termism. What better way to make Fondillón than by hiding it in the same press that our ancestors used?
The fact that Fondillón is the only non-fortified fortified wine in the world, marks its very difficult elaboration. The vast majority of rancid wines in the world are based on the stability provided by the alcohol added to the base wine, protecting the wine from attacks by acetic bacteria and extending its life. However, the Fondillón is made without adding alcohol, from overripe grapes capable of producing alcohol levels likely to exceed 16 degrees. And this already extraordinary fact is joined by the legendary alcohol-generating capacity of the autochthonous yeasts present in the clusters of Monastrell grapes, the only one currently admitted for the production of Fondillón. We are talking about a titanic enological mission, complex and full of dangers. A tortuous path that the old generations accessed through old teachings and the hard manual work in the vineyard and in the winery that was necessary to achieve that high graduation.
THE 2020 HARVEST.
The harvest of our Fondillón was late, it was carried out on November 4, collecting grapes with a probable alcohol of 17.5 degrees of alcohol. The chosen vineyard belongs to the Regino family, the same vineyards with which the Luis XIV Fondillón was made, which is currently bottled. It is a historic vineyard, very special for its age (close to 100 years) and for the special genetics of its clone and rootstock. It is located near the town of Biar, on sandy soils with a small proportion of clay and very little organic matter.
WINEMAKING IN THE LAGAR
The treading of the grapes was carried out mainly on foot, on the new pine planks set up above the press. Despite the fact that some of the Monastrell grains were already raisined, the sensation on our feet was soft, pleasant. It was like connecting with a part of our childhood, in which the desire to crush and pop the thousands of grains filled us with happiness. And meanwhile, the must slid smoothly between the tables until the darkness of the bottom of the press. Pom-pom-pom! Our feet marked the rhythm on the great resonance box that the tank becomes. The aromas of noble woods transmitted by the very ripe stalks were mixed with those of ripe fruit from the old vineyard monastrell.
THE CENTENARY WINERY
The underground press of the El Pinaret winery cubes about 7000 liters and is built with clay bricks and a thin cement lining. It is 1.45 meters high and has a sloping bottom that facilitates the extraction of the wines that are made there. It is connected to another wine press, with a capacity of about 3000 liters, through a conduit located at the bottom and which is blocked by an old bronze plug. The communication of the two presses is especially useful to uncover (extract the liquid while leaving the paste) the main press, since after opening the stopper the liquid is transferred to the small press by the principle of communicating vessels.
From the small press this wine or must came, without the paste, was taken to the rest of the underground cement tanks of the winery, which had a capacity of close to 150,000 liters. One of the most interesting discoveries was a small “garba de sarments” (bunch of branches) in this canal, which prevented the logical jamming of skins that would occur when the plug was opened.
LOTS OF SUN, MONASTRELL AND A BURIED WINERY
Would this rudimentary system be able to give us a wine suitable for Fondillón? It is not easy to get wines with more than 16 degrees of natural alcohol without resorting to the easy resource of adding alcohol. But if it is fortified, it is not Fondillón. The Alicante tradition wanted to differentiate itself from the rest of the producing areas of the new "Greek Wines" (Marsala, Jerez, Madeira, Porto). Alicante preferred the difficult way, that of achieving a high alcohol content only with natural grape sugars. To achieve this we have special resources: lots of sun and Monastrell.
Once the first mission was completed, that of obtaining grapes with probable high alcohol (17.5%), the second remained: ensuring that the yeasts did not die when it reached 15 degrees and obtaining a wine with at least 16% natural alcohol . The old wine press is a suitable tool to achieve this. The large open surface of the press allowed us to hit hard in a comfortable position, being able to use all the weight of our body to sink the hat.
Despite not having a temperature control system, we found that the great thermal inertia of a 7000-liter buried press made the temperature perfect during fermentation. On the one hand, the porous cement walls encouraged the yeasts with the necessary micro-oxygenation. During the first days of fermentation, the cold of the subsoil and the cement managed to maintain a low fermentation temperature, between 15º and 21º. The tumultuous fermentation took place between 23º and 26º and those 26º were maintained until almost the end of the fermentation, thanks to the heat accumulated between the walls. A very important contribution of heat to help the yeasts at the crucial moment achieved in a natural and traditional way.
THE RESULT: A MONASTRELL THAT SMELLS OF HISTORY
The result has been a wine suitable for Fondillón, with a deep purple color. The nose is surprisingly clean, with medium-high aromatic intensity and exuberant aromas of plum jams, very sweet and powerful. In the mouth, it is almost dry (residual sugar of 8 grams), with medium acidity and medium-high tannin with a very fine texture. A very mature and concentrated old Monastrell that seeks a balance between finesse and power. The fineness of the texture provided by sandy soils and the power of over-ripening. The porous walls of the winery have helped to smooth out the tannins, leaving a deep, concentrated and velvety sensation of prunes and blueberry jam. A tall body with a pronounced flavor intensity that future years of oxidative aging will shape on the basis of old mothers and ancient woods. A wine that smells of history from its birth and that will be completed with the ancient aromas of the 19th century oak trees from our Collection of Centennial Barrels.