Over the Border to Spain

A foray to Spain to visit Charlie Allen (see entry for Wednesday 20th January). She has bravely set up on her own in the town of Fermoselle, now part of the DO Arribes on the Spanish side of the Douro. Arribes is only two years old but Fermoselle region has a long tradition of making wine and reputedly has over 2000 small cellars hewn from the granite under the town. Charlie has restored one of these cellars (it had been used for storing scrap metal) which she reckons is around 500 years old. The temperature outside today is over 30oC but in the cellar it is just 12oC, perfect not just for storing and ageing wine but also for fermenting. She has no need for temperature control. Charlie has taken on 15 hectares of vines, split into 9 parcels around Fermoselle, at an altitude of 600 - 800 metres. We visit three of them on the windswept plateau above the town. The vines are all between 50 and 100 years old and were in need of tender loving care when she started taking them on three years ago. Planted in marco realand trained en vaso she has spent the last three years turning them both organic and bio-dynamic. Different varieties are interplanted and include Juan Garcia, Bruñel, Rufete and Tinto de Madrid, the latter a clone of the ubiquitous Tempranillo as well as white grapes. The soils are shallow, sandy and poor, over granite bedrock and yields are naturally low. We taste reds from the 2007 and 2008 vintages, the only wine bottled so far is the 2007 Pirita. All are solid and structured with wonderful minerality and the capcity to age. Look out for her 2007 ‘Reserva’, originally destined to be called Granita and now re-designated ‘Charlotte Allen’.