Sopla Levante a perfect local vineyard

You might think of Torrevieja as being a busy cosmopolitan town. But between the town centre and the outskirts of La Mata there lies an area of incredible, preserved beauty that surprisingly boasts its very own vineyards.

You may have driven past them many times and not even noticed that they are there. Between the Mediterranean sea and the salt lakes of la Mata and Torrevieja, there exist vineyards that have stood against the test of time for many hundreds of years. They have seen the coming and going of tourists and residents as the area has changed across much of the coastline, but not in this special plot of land that dates back to the first century.

Researchers at the University of Alicante discovered seeds belonging to the grape vine vitis vinifera in a ceramic bowl dated between 725 and 580 AD. This find wasn’t just of local significance but is considered to be one of the most significant period markers across the Iberian Peninsula. Even during these very early times, it’s believed that this vineyard was exporting wine to countries across Europe, including Italy, France, Portugal and Germany.

Behind the wine that ended up on such international tables, there lies a whole micro industry. What is particularly interesting is that the vineyards are a mixture of state and private management. The vineyard managers are called ‘colonos’ because they cultivate ground that is Spanish property.

The position of the vineyards, to the south of Alicante, has always been a challenge for the vines and their farmers. This area is one of the driest in the Valencian community and the soil that the plants depend on is based upon the dry residue from fossilised beaches. Not the most lush source of nutrition that you would imagine. However, the harsh conditions in fact saved these vineyards from the ravages of ‘phylloxera’ – an aphid that decimated many vineyards in Europe. The sandy ground was not the ideal environment for the life cycle of this pest that led to the destruction of vineyards throughout France and many parts of Spain.

The La Mata vineyards snuggle next to the landscape of the natural park. The proximity of this protected land area means that chemicals cannot be used in the production of the grapes. To do so would risk potentially toxic substances entering the earth and finding their way into the lake itself. Therefore, the cultivation of the vineyards has always been an ecological one. This is just one of the reasons why the grapes are of such a high quality. The vineyards are protected by the Denominación de Origen Protegida Alicante because of their exceptional nature and environmentally-friendly nurture.

So what grapes are actually grown here? The main variety is the green grape and includes la Moscatel and la Merseguera. Although there are others, including some varieties of red, it is their white wine for which the vineyards are best known.

The farming of the vineyards has remained a traditional process but is constantly threatened by increased building and industry expansion in prime locations. The vineyards of La Mata Natural Park are set in just such a place where agricultural land is in danger of being lost to other purposes.

However, the arrival of ‘Sopla Levante’ has helped secure the wine-making industry here. In the year 2020 four friends set out to help preserve the traditional winemaking of the Valencian Community in this idyllic spot. Originally 250 hectares of vineyards, only 35 remain today and the Sopla Levante crew aim to rectify this to include new plots.

In conjunction with the University of Valencia, Sopla Levante has dedicated itself to not only preserving some established, rare types of wine but also discovering and developing varieties that don’t even have a name yet. Their approach is to use the least intervention necessary to produce the finest wines. For example, they use local yeasts within the vineyard itself, making a vat integral to where the grapes are grown.

The wine that is made here reflects the local countryside and the Mediterranean tradition. The American critic, James Suckling, has recently commended the Sopla Levante on its wines, including that of Pinomar. This is a lemon-tinted wine which is becoming increasingly popular amongst those wishing to experiment a little.

Come and try it

But why only read about these remarkable vineyards? Come and try the wine for yourself. You can enjoy wine tasting and a guided visit hosted by Sopla Levante. The tour takes approximately two hours and includes the history of the vineyards and its unique features. Perhaps best of all it concludes with opportunity to taste the wines produced by Sopla Levante from the grapes grown here and in other parts of Alicante.

Tags: , , , , ,