A Visit to Bodegas Torroja

A Visit to Bodegas Torroja.

A visit to Bodegas Torroja in  Requena´s hamlet of El Azagador had been on the cards for some time and was confirmed after tasting the Tardana Blanco twice in as many weeks. Founded in a restored bodega dating to 1910, Torroja  belongs to the Garcia family and is run by three brothers. With some 30 hectares of vines several varieties are planted including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot , Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir but chiefly Bobal and Tardana. This latter grape, dying out in Utiel-Requena has been saved by the Bodega which is the only winery to vinify it  in the world as a single varietal. The vines are either 100 years old , 30 years old or more recent depending on the parcels in which they are grown. The vines surround the bodega with the exception of those Tardana vines which are in a  nearby hamlet.
The front of the restored Bodegas Torroja and Alambique Restaurant.
The Bodega is closely associated with enotourism in the Utiel-Requena district and has both it´s own restaurant, The Alambique, and caters for large weddings etc in a grand marquee with secluded and calm gardens surrounding it. At weekends the restaurant combines visits to the Bodega with a set price themed lunch for visitors and is open Friday night, Saturday and Sunday (lunchtime).
We were met by Commercial Manager Hervé Gómez Armero who conducted the extensive and comprehensive tour starting with a walk into the vineyard to look at the vines. These had not yet flowered but the bunches were forming and a green pruning will be necessary shortly to restrict the vines to not more than 4 bunches. With the older Tardana and Bobal varieties for the top range Sybarus wines the vines are pruned in `goblet´  whilst the newer plantings for the entry standard wines for supermarkets and export are trained in `espalda´. These newer plantings are exploited for quantity as well as quality with a quite clear focus on each market.
Some of the 100 year old vines standing nearly a meter tall.
Bodegas Torroja originally exported 100% of their wines but are now promoting them more in Spain,  and particularly the `Sybarus´ range within Valencia acheiving reasonable progress ( around 15%). The wines sell in El Corte Ingles, Vidal,Al Campo, and Mas y Mas, as well as many restaurants under the Cañada Bazan marque. However the export market remains important and the entry ranges of Castillo de Rocio and Viña Requena and others are also exported to the UK selling in Sainsbury´s and Waitrose as well as to China and the USA.
After the vines we were shown the destalking and pressing machines, the temperature controlled stainless steel deposits and then taken into the bottling plant where a line was being prepared for a run of wines destined for the UK market.
Preparing a bottling run.
The Viña Requena pictured above is one of the entry level wines prepared with a high quality to low price ratio.
Following this we were taken to the small barrel park, situated behind a glass wall and overlooked by the restaurant. The park contains an old alambique or still, sadly no longer used. However this was a small room and Hervé explained that the majority of oak barrels were in fact stored in a bodega in nearby San Antonio which has rather more space.
Part of the small barrel park at Bodegas Torroja.
We then descended the stairs to the the original concrete deposits where wine was made from 1910 until modernisation in 1998. They now contain bottles holding the reservas but were suffering from damp due the excess rain over the preceding period when flash floods occurred following heavy thunderstorms.
Inside one of the old deposits.
Then were taken to see the marquee used for weddings and other events which had been prepared for two such occasions. The mature and tranquil gardens offer the possibility of aperitifs in the sun as well as holding a separate covered area for civil weddings.
Part of the large marquee and banqueting facility.
Obviously the main purpose of a visit is normally to sample the wines and in this respect a visit to Torroja does not disappoint! We  commenced with the Sybarus Tardana Blanco 2009 Unico which is 12.5%ABV. From 100 year old vines the grapes are actually vinified at the Rocio Cooperativa and only transported as a final product to the Bodega for bottling. The wine is pale lemon yellow, clear and bright with gold flashes. With apple ,melon, peaches and  white flowers on the nose the long slow maceration to extract all the possible aromas is very successful. On the palate fresh acidity and good fruit are balanced with a long dry satisfying finish. This wine was clear favourite at a Vino Valencia tasting last week. It is also sold in a slightly lesser version under the Cañada Mazan label to supermarkets at a  lower ABV ( 11.5%)
Tardana takes its name from its late picking. In Utiel-Requena picking commences with the white grapes (Macabeo) for cava in mid August. It is followed by the other grapes ( mainly reds ) throughout September and into October. Then in November the Tardana is ready as it is a variety which flowers and ripens later. Picking can go into January. Historically it was used a seasoner in blends but here produces an outsatanding white full of aromatics.
This sells for around 6€ the bottle.
Next we tried the Viña Requena 2009, 100% Bobal rosado at 12.%ABV which sells in Supermarkets at just under 2€ a bottle, competing with Coviñas Enterizo. It is also sold to restaurants under the Cañada Mazan lable. This is a darker rosado and does not have the violet blue edge associated with Bobal although Hervé felt this might show with more age.It is clear and bright. On the nose strawberries and cream predominate which are both carried into the mouth where vanilla is added to a fresh full fruity finish which is not too acidic.
Third wine was the Sybarus 100% Bobal 2006 Crianza fermented in barrel at 13%. Deep ruby red with long legs the nose is jam packed with blackberry fruit and vanilla which on the palate translate to a smooth easy drinker with a long finish. At this point it became clear the philosophy was to create elegant easy drinking wines with smooth tannins. This sells for around 7€ but in the UK would easily cost 20 pounds.
Hervé opens some bottles prior to the tasting.
First made around 12-14 years ago the Sybarus Reserva was a step up! We tasted an example from 2002, made from 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet and 5% Merlot. The first wine made in this style won medals around the world and set the benchmark for further reservas at the bodega. It spends around 16 months in barrel and 8 months in bottle and sells for about 9€. This is garnet with long slow legs, on the nose light oak, vanilla, warm sunny fruit with blackberry predominating balsamic notes and jams. It is a complex wine and in the mouth the fruit and spices produce yet another easy drinker.
Some of the prize winning certificates on the Restaurant wall.
Finally we tasted the Reserva de la Familia, a wine not available to buy. This was the Sybarus seleción, 2002 a vino de autor made from the best barrels of the vintage. This is a blend of merlot, syrah and bobal for aromatics, cabernet sauvignon for structure and Pinot Noir for seasoning. This was garnet with long slow legs and on the nose complex, spicy with balsamic notes and jam. On the palate fruit was balanced with flowers, toffee, caramel, tobacco and a little liquorice. A stunning wine and sadly only about a 1000 bottle left because this will develop well into the future.
Earlier I alluded to the themed meals in the restaurant. We stayed for lunch which was an Argentinian based meal. One in our company does not eat meat but the Restaurant adapted the menu to her needs with pleasure. We started by sharing a potato, apple tomato and celery salad, with a salad of fish in a curry  sauce. The Chicken skewers with peppers and onions from the bbq were perfectly cooked, moist and tender and the stuffed artichokes were tender and tasty. For main course a huge rib of beef was cooked beautifully and served with a carrot garnish. This was followed by a caramel ice-cream dessert and coffee. The meal was washed down ewith the remainder of the five bottles we had tasted and rounded off with an orujo de hierbas. For 22€ a head this was  wonderfully good quality and value for money and we would not hesitate to recommend the visit and the dining experience.
A very big thank you to Hervé and  the catering staff who opened the restaurant especially for us  which contributed to a wonderful time. Wines can be purchased in a shop on site.
In conclusion this was also a good example of how wine tourism can work well as the bodega makes every effort to appeal on a number of fronts..
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