Get to Know Alicante, Spain’s Hidden Gem | Wine Enthusiast
Wine bottle illustration Displaying 0 results for
Suggested Searches
Articles & Content

Get to Know Alicante, Spain’s Hidden Gem

Imagine a wine region with a history dating back 3,000 years. A territory comprised solely of small family wineries that innovate the traditions of the generations that came before. An area that few know was the first Designation of Origin in the world. Alicante, in the southeast of Spain, is all of this, and so much more.

A Place of Historical Significance

Located between Valencia and Murcia, Alicante resides on the Costa Blanca (White Coast) of the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby mountains provide air currents through the vineyards and extended hours of sunshine create ideal growing conditions for grapes. Poor calcareous soils mean vines struggle to find nutrients, and their hard work is rewarded with fruit with great complexity and concentration.

 Archeological finds uncovered winemaking equipment and remains of seeds believed to be centuries old, and further documents show the wines of the region had a presence in numerous European courts since the 15th century.

What made these wines so valued were their strict quality regulations. In 1510, an organization was created within the Alicante city government to regulate and protect winemaking traditions and exports. This consortium, overseen by King Fernando I of Aragon, is considered to be the first Designation of Origin, and a model for the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system we know today. Alicante is renowned for its commitment to quality, and for influencing winemaking all over the world.

Mindfully Made Wines

Today, winemakers put mindful practices at the forefront of their work. Organic and biodynamic farming leads the way in the vineyard, and several estates carry the Demeter certification. In the cellar, an emphasis on low-intervention winemaking results in personality-driven wines that are made without the interference of additives. Ongoing sustainability initiatives, such as reducing a winery’s carbon footprint, emphasize winemakers’ intentions to preserve their historic land for the future, and the region currently meets 13 out of the 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. The care and attention paid to viticulture and viniculture speaks to Alicante’s respect for the generations, both past and future, that make up the region’s rich heritage.

A Wealth of Varieties

Alicante also distinguishes itself from other regions with its wealth of native varieties. Monastrell, in particular, stands apart as a marquee grape. This drought-resistant variety thrives in the hot and dry climate and is capable of producing a range of styles, from bright and fresh rosés to full-bodied and structured reds. It is also the backbone of Fondillón, one of the world’s most unique and complex wines. This wine gets its character from grapes left to raisinate on the vine, followed by aging in a solera system, similar to sherry. The white variety Muscat, another specialty, serves as an aromatic counterpoint to powerful Monastrell, as well as Alicante Bouschet.

In recent years, a movement to recover ancestral grapes revived nearly extinct varieties. Winemakers take grapes like Valenci, Forcallat, and Giró and let their imaginations run wild. Amphora aging, sweet styles, long aging — there’s no shortage of creativity when it comes to understanding what these indigenous grapes can do.

Thanks to these dynamic discoveries and experiments, the area has been enjoying a quality renaissance over the last couple of decades, garnering attention and acclaim at numerous competitions and among the wine trade. For wine lovers in the know, Alicante offers exceptional value.

Family Wineries: The Heart of Alicante

It may surprise some to learn that despite these big initiatives and innovations, only 45 wineries make up the Alicante wine industry. They are all small, family-run operations who are passionate about sharing their heritage with the rest of the world. Their independence allows them to forge their own path and style. Whether building on the traditions of the generations before or bringing fresh ideas into the vineyards and cellars, Alicante producers lead the way when it comes to creativity, and dynamic winemaking.

History, tradition, and innovation: it’s what makes Alicante the world’s most exciting place for wine. To learn more about Alicante, Spain’s secret gem of a region, click here and explore the wines below.

Article published with the support of FEADER-EU funds.