At one of Alicante’s wine routes towards Vinalopó you can find a hidden gem of the wine treasures. This rare stone is Casa Sicilia – Heretat de Cecilia in Novelda (Estate of Cecilia in Novelda)The bodega is located in the most fascinating landscape. The 80 hectares estate extends over four different sectors of Novelda (Alcaydias, Leuda, La Mola, and Sicilia). The vineyards overlooking la Mola are particularly striking. “La Mola” is the word for molar tooth in the dialect of the region, perhaps due to its shape. This geological feature had strategic defence importance during the times of the Almohad Empire, in the Iberian Peninsula. The ruins of “Castillo de la Mola” tell its own story of the past invasions on this land.
The Bodega has a limited production and its wines are only found in Spain. 30 hectares are dedicated to the production of Monastrell, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Albariño, Macebeo, and Muscatel which are made into 150,000 bottles of wine per year. Since 2009, the bodega has achieved the seal of organic farming by the Valencian Agriculture Ministry. The people behind the wine truly live to the “Wine Terroir”concept. You can feel it as you walk among their vines. There is a high sense of belonging and respect for the environment.
The vineyard was property of the “Marquis de la Romana”. This title was created by King Felipe V after the expulsion of the moors. Jose Caro y Roca, a descendant of the barons of Novelda was the first to hold this title, at this time 1739 Novelda had 70 family houses and “Cortijos” or farmhouses. The Marquis had a passion for wine and he set to transform the already existing Casa Sicilia, that was previously been built as an olive farm to a vineyard. The land was later sold to the Novelda’s tenants in 1930. Although wine was continued being produced throughout these times, there are no records of the condition of the vineyard from 1930 to 1970. In 1984 Spanish entrepreneur, Don Joaquin Arias Lopez purchased the site, and began the reconstruction & restoration of the vineyards.
When you visit Casa Sicilia today, you will find well-preserved vineyards, with some pre-phylloxeras vines. The vineyards are within a landscape that transmits a sense of the wine passion from the region. The “Cortijo” still stands proud, while the modern installations offer multiple tasting and dining spaces indoor and outdoors. These spaces are decorated in the traditional Spanish farmhouse style, but with a touch of sophistication like glass floor that looks into the private tasting room.
After an informative tour with Maximun, our guide, who delivers the tour in Spanish, English and Russian if you prefer it, we decided to have diner at the vineyard. My table had a fantastic view of the vineyards and the Sanctuary of Maria Magdalena built in 1918 by Jose Sala. This architect executed a great example of the avant-garde “Catalán” style that was spreading across Spain in the early 20s. The church presents a mix of baroque and mediaeval motives that give it many similarities to “The Sagrada Familia” in Barcelona.
I was keen to meet the star of the house, “AD Gaude”, and followed the advice of their in-house sommelier that paired my wine with a simple but unforgettable meal. We were served Ibericos from Salamanca, alongside with crushed tomatoes dressed with olive oil, of course made in Casa Sicilia from their own organic olives. This full body wine had a long finish, which tempted me for the next sip, with gentle aromas cinnamon and chocolate. These aromas are the result of smoking spices inside the French oak barrels, prior to its usage. We then were served grilled fresh King Prawns from “La Lonja”, with nothing more that rock sea salt and olive oil. After my starters, I gave myself time to appreciate the garnet hue of the wine, which looked stunning at the table.
Our main course was beef, in a nest of spring onions. The full body wine held its own against the strong flavours of this succulent arrangement. AD Gaude is matured for 24th months in French barrels which have a turning mechanism that allows the viticulture’s to move the wine without the risk of oxygen contamination. This process assists the gently extraction of polyphenols, which is a natural occurring substance that controls the growing and development of the vine. The bottle shape of AD Gaude was chosen for elegant serving.A deep cavity allows positioning of the hand in a delicate manner, keeping the least number of fingers over the bottle, which, reduces the sudden changes in temperature.
All the grapes in Casa Sicilia are handpicked, and placed in boxes of 15kg. This is to reduce the risk of early decomposition of the fruit, which only have to travel a few steps before its starts its journey through the Bodega. Every year local students and the community of Novelda assist in the Harvest.
The cork of AD Gaude is produced in Portugal, and the final outer seal is only added once the wine is on its way to their new owners. The wine can be preserved up to 15 years under the correct conditions.
Finally, it was time for dessert. I decided to decline the suggestions of the house and, instead, I requested a selection of “Turrones de Jijona”. This sweet is a heritage from the moors and it is made of almonds and honey. It is something divine! It was served with “Aledua” a sweet wine slightly caramel colour.
The Aledua bottle reads “El vino es la luz de el sol cautiva en el agua” which, translated from Spanish means “the wine is the sunlight, prisoner in the water”. With that in mind, I left the empty bottle of AD Gaude on the table and walked off Casa Sicilia feeling fully satisfied after having a divine experience, where I momentary lost myself.
Do not forget to check the tasting notes for full info on AD Gaude.