Pepe Mendoza, Spain
His latest project, Casa Agrícola is a personal project, created with his wife Pepa Agulló, to make high-quality wines from Monastrell, Syrah, Macabeo, Moscatel and Giró. With plantings dating back to 1923, vineyards are organically cultivated, dry-farmed on ancient terraces, and in tune with the climate of Alicante. Pepe refers to his entry levels wines as ‘landscape wines’, the white a delicious blend of Macabeo and Airen from Vinalopó, and Moscatel from Marina Alta, whilst the red is equal parts Monastrell, Giró and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet) from Alto Vinalopó. Pureza is skin contact Moscatel fermented in amphorae. With the pinnacle of the range, two single vineyard wines, El Veneno, a stunningly fresh expression of Monastrell sourced from the highest plots in Alto Vinalopó, and Abarques, which reflects the character of Giró and the Marina Alta location.
Organically cultivated old bush vines produce wine under the DO Vinos Alicante, from two locations, Alto Vinalopó, and La Marina Alta, little more than a stone’s throw from the holiday resorts of Alicante and Benidorm. Proximity to the Mediterranean powers the wines with strong fruit expression and textural minerality. Just like all artisans, Pepe believes great wine starts in the vineyards and works organically, farming by hand, focusing on local and Mediterranean varieties and traditional styles such as ‘Brisat’, Spain’s original skin contact wine.
This is textbook, hands-off winemaking. No yeasts are added, whole bunch fermentation with around 30% stems is the norm for the reds. Oak is almost absent or comes in the form of larger 500 litre barrels, or wines are kept in amphorae. Stylistically the wines achieve Mediterranean notes of dried herbs and ripe fruit, but with none of the extraction, excess alcohol or heaviness which has been associated with the region in the past.
- Pepe Mendoza is one of the most respected winemakers in southeast Spain, focusing on Mediterranean varieties in his high altitude, ancient terraced vineyards close to Alicante.
- Organically farmed, unirrigated, mainly bush vines, preserving indigenous varieties including Giró (possibly a clone of Garnacha?)
- Referring to his Blanco and Tinto as ‘landscape wines’, they truly reflect the region, just inland from Spain’s tourist coast.
Award: Guia Penin 93 Points