Alicante wine tour: a vine romance
Alicante is famous for its crowded beaches, but head inland and you’ll find a fantastic but largely forgotten wine region which is once again producing great wines
The Guardian, Saturday 20 July 2013
There’s something nicely sinister-looking about a really dark red wine. El Sequé, made in Spain’s Alicante province, is almost black and, holding it up to the light and swilling it around in the glass, I decide it looks like something that you would drink in front of the fire in a crumbling castle, ideally while wearing a cape and plotting to seduce the local heiress and/or heir.
I’m drinking it, however, in a tapas bar run by one of Alicante’s most acclaimed young chefs, the eponymous Gema Penalva (9 Calle Canalejas, Alicante). We’re about 10 minutes from the beach. The afternoon sun is shining in through the broad windows and the aristocratically structured El Sequé is just perfect with her slow-cooked beef, so sumptuously tender it falls apart when you so much as wave a fork at it.
According to her sommelier, Javier Fernández, though, even Alicantinos tend not to order the local wines with a meal of the wonderful local cuisine. “They prefer Ribera del Duero [from northern Spain],” he says. “Sometimes – even here – it can be a problem if wine has ‘Alicante’ on the label.”
This is a strange state of affairs when you consider that the word Alicante used to be as synonymous with wine as Rioja is now. France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, was said to have asked for a glass of Alicante on his deathbed. Shakespeare makes a pun on “alligant” and “elegant” in the Merry Wives of Windsor. Queen Elizabeth I loved Alicante wine “above any other”. Most startlingly, according to the research of Valencia-based wine writer John Maher, her successor to the throne, King James I, once went to his doctor with the complaint, “My urine is as red as Alicante wine.”
Read the complete article in the Guardian.