The recovery of four hundred years barrels
The origin of the 4 barrels: The Golden Age of Alicante wine
Starting in 1870, a great plague destroyed almost the entire world vineyard: phylloxera. A small beetle was able to move the maps of vine growing and the global wine trade.
The Alicante vineyard was one of the last to be affected by the disease. This led to a time of great splendor, since its wineries were among the few capable of continuing to quench the thirst for wines of consuming countries. At this time, important export agreements were signed, such as the one that was agreed with France and of which when it ended it was said: "Ten more years of treaty with France and Alicante could have paved the magnificent Paseo de la Explanada with Luises de Oro"
It was at this time that most of the great Alicante barrels were built, the so-called "Monoveros Toneles". These giants of 150 Valencian jugs (1725 liters approx.) Were the method by which Alicante wines were transported, in cars to the port of Alicante, and by boat to the different markets. Sometimes crossing the Strait of Gibraltar and sometimes reaching the Atlantic through the Canal du Midi through the port of Sète, next to Montpellier. (France)
"Péniche "loaded with large wine casks passing through a lock on the Canal du Midi, in Bèziers, France.
Unfortunately, the phylloxera also reached Alicante and, of course, devastated the vineyards. The efforts of Alicante farmers were useless, who tried to stop it through institutions created specifically for it, such as the Cocentaina Oenological Station. But that's another interesting story ...
The one that concerns us today talks about four large barrels from that time, which ended up in a small winery in the town of L'Alguenya, next to Monòver, in the interior of Alicante.
Their owner inherited them from their parents, and this in turn from his.
When we first saw these barrels, we were impressed by the thick layer of dust that covered them, but above all, by the intoxicating aroma of Fondillón that was emitted inside.
Their owner informed us that they had been completely empty for more than 50 years, but that despite this, he had cared for and preserved them, moving them from their original location in the L'Alguenya countryside to a small traditional winery in the center. from town. Thanks to the work of all these heroes who have cared for wines and barrels for years, today we can continue to enjoy a unique product, such as the Fondillón.
The transport of the barrels to our winery "Colección de Toneles Centenarios" was going to be a major challenge. The old staves were parched and the iron rings no longer held them firmly. They were in danger of falling apart like a house of cards.
The rings had to be adjusted again, with the hammer and a special chisel that all the wineries had for this purpose.
And with all the woods adjusted, it was time to wet them. The wood would absorb part of this water swelling to give stability to the whole. All with the utmost care to wet the interior of the barrels as little as possible, which house the remains of the valuable dry "mother" of the fondillón: the set of dead yeasts, coloring matter, acids, sugars and other wine grounds. The germ that helps to reproduce the characteristics of the original wines, as if it were the "sourdough" of a baker.
The whole space was filled with a beautiful sweet aroma, of antique oak and old wine ... of noble furniture and tradition.
Subsequently, the barrels were loaded onto a truck and transported to our winery in La Canyada, where they will soon be filled with the 2020 vintage "suitable for Fondillón" wines, fermented in the old stone press of the historic El Pinaret winery. ..As you can see is this post: https://en.fondillonluisxiv.com/post/making-fondillón-in-an-old-xix-century-wine-press
And in one of the barrels, among annotations made with chalk and as a seal of authenticity, remained the old paper label of the "Collegiate Commercial Agent Silvestre Albert Pérez, from Culebrón, Pinoso, (Alicante)". Past and small sample of the wine trade that for many centuries gave life to the Alicante vineyard and filled the glasses of the best European tables.
"Esplanada de España", in the Port of Alicante, full of large barrels ready to be shipped. Early 20th century.