Other sparkling wines Aged on its lees Natural. 84 months in bottle. Winery: Bodegas Cueva. D.O. Utiel-Requena. (Valencia) Variety: Tardana
Viticulture in this area dates back over 2000 years, with archaeological findings in several Iberian settlements in the region, and wine production never really disappearing from these lands. In fact, wine even acquired a holy character with Christianisation, and although there are bans on its consumption in the Muslim religion, Hispanic Muslims produced and consumed wines.
The vineyards of Utiel-Requena escaped the devastating effects of the phylloxera virus because they were planted with the Bobal grape variety, which is more resistant to the parasite than other varieties. This gave producers the chance to gradually replace their European vines by grafting varietals onto New World rootstock. In 1847, communications with the port of Valencia were improved and in 1887 a railway line connected Utiel to Valencia. The railway led to the formation of winery neighbourhoods around the Requena, San Antonio and Uriel stations, which supplied a large volume of wines and bulk-produced reds to customers who came through the nearby port of Valencia; it was a time when the Utiel-Requena region was home to ‘doble pasta’ wines.
To produce this type of wine, grape juice (‘must’) for rosé wine is removed from the must of red grapes within a few hours. The remaining must is mixed with the must from other barrels so that they ferment together: this is what is called ‘doble pasta’ (doubling the mass). The result is a very concentrated wine with a very intense colour, which was ideal for strengthening wines from other areas. This explains why Utiel-Requena was well-known in the past for its rosé wines.
Unfortunately, this lucrative business meant that the Bobal variety’s real potential was not investigated. This handicap was not helped by the fact that early autumn frosts can occur in the plateau of Valencia, which means winegrowers who placed quantity over quality tended to harvest their grapes prematurely through fear of potential weather damage. These grapes that were harvested prematurely produced wines with few tannins and little body, which means that they did not favour ageing in barrels. Today however, there are many winegrowers who leave the crop on the vines for longer, and also blend this variety with other grapes such as Tempranillo or Cabernet Sauvignon, which produces fantastic wines since the Bobal variety develops exquisite scents of blackberries and elderberries. The truth is that today Utiel-Requena has the potential to surprise us with good quality wines every day.
The DO Utiel-Requena was officially approved in 1957 and is situated in the central eastern part of Spain, in the western end of the province of Valencia, bordering the community of Castilla-La Mancha. The area is named after two small towns which are 15km apart, Utiel and Requena, which form the centre of the DO, situated on a plateau on a hill.
The DO Utiel-Requena is home to 34,061 hectares of vineyards, 5556 winegrowers, and around 94 registered wineries, 51 of which are bottlers. The DO also spans nine municipalities: Caudete, Camporrobles, Fuenterrobles, Requena, Siete Aguas, Sinarcas, Utiel, Venta del Moro and Villargordo del Cabriel. The vineyards under the DO Utiel Requena, also known as the ‘Territorio Bobal’, is included in the list of UNESCO heritage sites, a recognition of the 27 centuries of viticulture that has taken place in the region.
The local area is home to some of the oldest archaeological evidence (such as the Yacimiento de las Pilillas from the seventh century BC) in all of Europe, where wine production has been maintained without interruption until the twenty-first century.
These two attributes: age and continuity, both confirmed by numerous studies and research, have resulted in a unique geographic, human and cultural landscape, with the native variety Bobal as the symbol and ultimate expression of its evolution, whose international recognition has intensified in recent years. In this context, the territory has an "outstanding universal character".
Climate, Soils and Varieties.
The DO Utiel-Requena has a continental climate, and is perhaps the most severe of all the Spanish grape growing regions. Very cold winters with frosts and hailstones are quite frequent, in addition to dry and hot summers.
Currently, the vineyards spanning more than 25,000 hectares are situated at an average altitude of 800 metres, between two rivers that run through the area, the Turia and Cabriel, on a fairly gentle terrain, with the majority of the vineyards located on slightly pronounced slopes. The soils are dark in colour with high calcium contents, and are healthy and permeable while poor in organic matter.
As for varieties, the region’s main variety is the red Bobal, which accounts for over 80% of the vineyards in the DO, followed by Tempranillo (12%), as well as Garnacha, Garnacha Tintorera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. As for the white grape varieties, which account for only 5.73% of the vineyards, the region is home to Tardana (also known as Planta Nova), which is native to the region, followed by Macabeo and Merseguera, as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Parellada, Verdejo and Moscatel de grano menudo.
Wines and Wineries from the DO Utiel-Requena.
Wine from the DO Utiel Requena is often associated with the Bobal variety, so much so that the Regulatory Council even has two sub classifications for wines made with the variety:
Bobal Alta Expresión. This is used for varietal Bobal wines, with or without ageing, made with grapes taken from vines that are at least 35 years old and with yields lower than 4,000kg/ha, and are not allowed to be diluted without the consent of the Regulatory Council.
Bobal with special mention. This is used for rosés and reds that are made exclusively with the Bobal variety, and can come under the following classifications: “crianza”, “reserva”, “gran reserva”, “superior”, “vendimia inicial”, “madurado en barrica”, and with the mention “Utiel-Requena”.
An important winery in the region is the Bodegas Vicente Gandia, one of the leading wineries in Spain and the first in Valencia with trade relations in 85 countries across the 5 continents. The winery is located in the Finca Hoya de Cadenas, on the slopes of the Sierra de la Bicuerca, and spans across over 200 hectares of vineyards. It produces a good collection of wines, including their red wine Generación 1 Grandes Añadas, a blend of Bobal (70%), Cabernet (15%), and Shiraz (15%), which is produced only during exceptional vintages. The wine is a homage to Vicente Gandía, founder of the winery. Another red wine worth mentioning is Ceremonia, an exquisite combination of the two grape varieties Tempranillo and Cabernet, along with the native variety Bobal. Another of their star wines is the BO “Bobal Único”, which captures the essence of their Bobal vineyards. The wine is produced from the best 125 selected barrels, commemorating the 125th anniversary of the winery.
Bodegas Emilio Clemente is owned by the Clemente Luján family, the third generation of winegrowers who are continuing their family tradition in producing quality wines from their own vineyards situated in the Finca Caballero. They span across 2000 hectares, 74 of which are vineyards, in the rolling Cabriel countryside. The winery produces the red wines Bomelot, Emilio Clemente Crianza, Peñas Negras Joven, Peñas Negras Madurado, Fussion and Excelencia. Their range of white wines includes Florante Joven, Florante Fermentado en Barrica, Fussion and Cava Regulus.
Dominio de la Vega produces its wines (DO Utiel-Requena) and quality sparkling wines (DO Cava) using traditional methods, with the aim of offering products with their own personalities that bestow the greatest expression of the terroir. Production is led by master winemaker Daniel Expósito, who was awarded Winemaker of the Year in 2010 (‘Enólogo del Año 2010’) by the Valencian Association of Winemakers. Under the label Añacal, the winery produces a white, rosé and red wine, as well as a collection of Cavas. However, the best of their repertoire focuses on their collection of special selections, with: Recuérdame, a white wine, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo and Chardonnay; El Calma, a Bobal varietal aged for 8 months in new 225 and 500 litre French and American oak barrels; Paraje Tornel, a Bobal varietal grown on bush vines with an average age of around 50 years, grown on the plot of the same name, and aged for 12 months in new French oak barrels; and the Finca La Beata, another Bobal variety from old vines of the Finca La Beata estate.
Bodegas Hispano + Suizas is a ‘vinos de autor’ winery situated in El Pontón (Requena). It is home to 61 hectares of vineyards, 46 of which are situated around the winery and the other 15 are over 500m away from the facilities, where a variety of grape varieties including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot are cultivated. The winery makes around a dozen products, including white wines, reds and sparkling wines under the DO Cava. The winery produces a Sauvignon Blanc under the Impromptu label, which undergoes fermentation in 400 litre new American oak barrels, as well as Impromtu Rosé, a Pinot Noir that also ferments in new 400 litre American oak barrels. Under the Bassus brand, the winery makes another Pinot Noir, a sweet rosé blend of Pinot Noir and Bobal; and Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera, a blend of Bobal, Petit Verdot, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, aged for a minimum of 10 months in new French oak barrels from Allier. Their other red wine is Superius Quod, a blend of Bobal, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot, aged for 20 months in 400 litre American oak barrels and 225 litre French oak barrels from Allier. All of the barrels are tasted and the best are selected for each varietal, to spend a minimum of 10 months in French oak barrels before finally being blended. Their top of the range wine is the Bobos Finca Casa La Borracha, made exclusively with the Bobal variety from low yield vines that are over 70 years old and grown on the same land as the Bodegas Hispano + Suizas, where ‘Bobos’ is a synonym of the Bobal variety. The wine is aged for a minimum of 10 months in new French oak barrels from Allier, and is a complex wine, combining aromas of fresh fruits with a toasted and balsamic background. Full, rich and majestic in the mouth, it combines a tannic balance with a good weight of fruit, and finishes with hints of lightly toasted wood and a good acidity.
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