A few months ago just before my birthday I was given a bottle of local wine called Julia. I like, correction love, Spanish white wine and especially that from Rueda and Penedes. Or I used to because much of it is now a victim of its own success and has become quite frankly middle of the road and in some cases just about “it will do”. Not this Julia from El Maestrat. I was so taken with it that I tracked down the creator immediately and bought 3 cases (delivered in person) for my upcoming birthday do.
Domingo has a masia of 100 hectares near Albocasser. He and his neighbour Cesar started making their own wines but a few years ago. They help each other, as do their wives. Both enterprises are in the spring of their lives and Domingo’s is certainly not like any other bodega I have seen. For a start it is “real”, in every sense of the word. In addition he spent some years in France learning the trade.
Let me describe Julia, named after Domingo’s daughter. It is very slightly honeyish with a freshness and balance of flavours that are subtle yet unique. It has great character but is not overbearing or cloying and although 13 percent alcohol, you would never know it. I would not call it a quaffing wine, it is for too exquisite for that. Every sip is a marvel. That it is a mixture of Chardonnay and Muscatel is all the more astonishing. It is in a class of its own.
It so happens that a friend of mine thought the same as me and so we arranged to visit the masia last Tuesday. It is only about 25 minutes away, a beautiful drive through fertile planes and mountains, and a scattering of farm houses. You turn up a long well-kept drive to the main house that has been thoughtfully restored and extended in stone from some animal pens. Domingo’s grandfather bought the masia in 1981 and he, his son and grandson Domingo painstakingly converted it over 40 years. Anything they could keep, they did. In the old days they would source large hewn stones thrown away by the sides of roads, so little were they appreciated at that time.
Around the house are horses and a mule, geese and hens and one bossy rooster, but the star is Charlie. This bouncing enthusiastic German Shepherd scared the living daylights out of me until I got used to him. He certainly enjoyed posing in front of the breath-taking uninterrupted views, the old vines, the new vines and all the rest. Of the 100 hectares, about 40 of this masia are arable.
After walking around, looking at the ancient working well, the astonishing house with its eclectic collection of old radios and gramophones, the original pebble stone floor and the touches that singled the masia out, we tasted Domingo’s four creations along with plates of ham, cheese and plain biscuits to clear the palate.
Each wine exhibited the marks of a rare talent, though we still awarded the crown to Julia. The proof is that the Chinese had already been and gone, leaving little of anything behind except, ironically, the white that they were not interested in tasting. Their loss. Meanwhile Carol and I bickered over who would have what and we divided the remnants of Domingo’s 2017 harvest, white, red, rose and something experimental for Christmas.
After that we all went to lunch in Tirig, neighbour Cesar and his wife Laura included, and we stuffed ourselves. Carol and I went to pay, but the bill had been settled! Not much we could do, but of course vow to return when the 2018 vintage is released in a few weeks…