Alicante is a DO (Denominación de Origen) in the southeastern autonomía of Valencia. The region has long produced wine, receiving its DO status back in 1957. However, it had a reputation for producing bulk wine, and was known more for its oranges and paella. In the last few decades, it has undergone a metamorphosis and is now producing premium wines, especially spicy reds from the Monastrell grape.
Valencians are considered a distinct ethnic group rooted in Catalán and Moorish tradition. In Alicante and the rest of Valencia, the official languages are Valencian (a dialect of Catalán) and Castilian Spanish.
Valencia is a picturesque Mediterranean community. The culture is largely grounded in the ocean: historically, Valencia was a center of trade and exploration, and today its beautiful beaches and famous seafood-based paella draw tourists from all over the world. Valencia is also known for its sunny orange groves, bustling eponymous capital city, and artisanship. It is a famous center of porcelain production, and Lladró makes its home in the town of Tavernes Blanques.
In Alicante’s cuisine, rice is king, often paired with meat, seafood and vegetables. The most famous dish here is paella, which is often presented as saffron-colored rice cooked with fish or with chicken and rabbit. Other common dishes include arròs negre (rice with squid ink), gazpacho, cured sausage, and roasted vegetables. The climate here is perfect for growing citrus, and fresh orange juice with Cava is a popular drink.
Alicante’s soil is light, with various alluvial sections and some limestone bedrock. The DO occupies the southernmost portion of Valencia, where vineyards are planted on an elevated tableland called the meseta. Alicante is broken down into three subzones. Vinalopó is the southernmost and driest, extending along the river for which it is named. La Marina is the northernmost and wettest, running along the Mediterranean coast. El Comtat is between the two in terms of both geography and climate.
Vinalopó primarily produces red wines from the Monastrell (Mourvèdre) grape. This variety offers structure, body, acidity and flavor and can produce amazing wines, especially when yields are kept low. Monastrell also produces the iconic sweet red Fondillón wine, made from overripe grapes in the rancio style. La Marina is dedicated to sweet white wines made from Moscatel, and El Comtat makes both dry red and sweet white wines.
The climate in Alicante is sunny and warm. To keep grapes cool, the vines are bush-trained low to the ground, so that the leaf canopy protects the grapes and also shades the soil around the vine so no heat is reflected back onto the fruit. This insures a slower ripening process that leads to higher quality fruit. This emerging wine region has established a solid reputation for quality reds at good values. Despite the southerly location, the wines retain the zest and alicante (spiciness) for which the DO is named.