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Gathering of the grapes for this vintage in the Natural Park of the Lagunas de la Mata

The size of the vineyard in the Lagunas de la Mata Natural Park has declined dramatically in the last 50 years.

At that time there were approximately 100 acres, but now, five decades later “we have less than half”, according to Simón Pérez García, longtime grower and former president of the La Mata Farmers and Winegrowers Association, a position now held by his son. "There is a danger that it might all eventually disappear, although I hope not, but there are fewer vines which we continue to slowly lose," says the winemaker. The causes: drought, the abundance of rabbits and birds, especially starlings, and in some areas the urban progress that we have seen during the last few decades.

However, as another harvest is nearing completion, the growers have harvested more than 50,000 kilos of the Merseguera variety of grape. In addition to that we have also been collecting the Muscat variety of grape since mid July, and all of that is destined for human consumption. “We have so far pulped about 25,000 liters grapes, a similar amount to that produced last year”, said Simon Perez.

Besides the Merseguera and Moscatel varieties, which produce the traditional sweet wine of La Mata, the vineyard also produces varieties of grape that were once cultivated in far greater quantities but have now largely disappeared such as Esclafacherre, Parrell, Valensí, Forcallat and Plantamula

The vineyard is managed by the Association of La Mata Farmers in collaboration with the Valencian Institute of Agrarian Research (IVIA) who’s purpose is to test new clones of traditional varieties of vines in an effort to improve production quality. The institute also conserves and studies many minority varieties which are at risk of extinction; testing new techniques of soil management and pest control to improve production and reduce costs and the environmental impact in the Natural Park.

Two weeks ago, the General Director of the Natural Environment of the Generalitat Valenciana, Salome Pradas, visited the Natural Park, where she highlighted its uniqueness to stand out from other parks with both its production of salt and its agricultural activity with the vines where cultivation is performed without the use of pesticides or fertilizers affecting the environment.

Such is the popularity of La Mata wine that it is now also being marketed in the United States by local winemaker Rafael Navarro, to which he currently exports two varieties; one called “La Viña de Simón and the other “El Carro” or "The Chariot" which are now selling for upwards of 25 euro per bottle.

And if you want to learn more about the production of wine in La Mata and Torrevieja salt lakes, then now is the time to take a traditional walking tour along a route, just less than 1.5km long, which stresses the enormous impact that La Mata vineyards have had on the Spanish wine industry. The route passes through the park’s vineyards with information boards telling the history, varieties, culture and cultivation of wine in this area of outstanding natural beauty.

It especially explains about the two main grape varieties that are grown – Moscatel and Meseguera, from which the well-known La Mata wine is largely made. The walks start at the La Mata Information Centre, a detached, stone built, white building, which you can see just off the N332 at the traffic island in La Mata.

Meanwhile, if it’s the regional history that is more to your interest, there is an exhibition on the history of winemaking in the Alicante Region taking place at the Archeological Museum in Alicante through to 11 January 2015. The exhibition explores the history and evolution of Alicante wine through the ages, one of the products that best defines the Alicante territory. More information at www.marqalicante.com

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