A Visit to Chozas Carrascal

A Visit to Chozas Carrascal.
Chozas Carrascal is the dream come true for the Lopez Peidro family, father Julian and mother and daughter ( both Maria Jose ), a dream that commenced with the purchase of an old family home, itself a former bodega, its  restoration and creation of a new modern bodega and associated equipment. This phase began in 2003 but the replanting of the vineyard with noble and local varieties had begun in 1992 under the control of French winemaker, Michel Poudou.
Chozas Carrascal
The bodega itself sits on the meseta of Utiel-Requena, half way between the two towns and close to the new high speed rail station and town of San Antonio. The bodegas vineyards surround the property and the 40 hectares of vines are joined with olives and almonds. Most of the vines date to 1992 and are planted `en espalda´ but there are also two parcels of Bobal, the regions  own grape variety, which are planted `en vaso´and which are  respectively 30 and 60 years old.
The vineyards soils vary between clay, lime and sand and are generally more fertile the closer you get to the railway line rather than the higher points nearer to the bodega itself where the soil is thin, with little fertility and has a depth of no more than 40 centimetres. Here the vines struggle more and produce less but the quality is higher as a result. As a result the vines are planted within the fourteen plots which currently make up the property, with a mixture of varieties so that all share the different soils and variations in their fertility.
In the vineyard.
The vines are predominantly `Noble´ varieties, that is to say Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc with Macabeo for cava in white and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah with Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell and Bobal in red. Indeed the young plants were also imported from France but have generally adapted well to the continental climate which prevails in the region. The vineyards are entirely ecologically farmed with waste vegetal material being chopped and put back into the soil. Available space is filled with plants or the  nut producing pines.  
Harvesting of the Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc had taken place the previous day, using the automatic machine which passes easily between the vines. However even this is put back into the garage if temperatures rise too much to achieve the harvest without unwanted oxidisation before the grapes reach the bodega. This means tirage is practiced in the bodega after the grapes arrive and have passed through the hopper.
Grapes are passed up the machine after tirage, stripped from the stalks and passed to the tanks.
The timing for the picking of both the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is critical to ensure maximum ripeness and good concentration of sugar but low in acid. The macabeo is less critical as its acidity will balance the wines into which it is subsequently blended.
In red the harvest will commence with the merlot, whilst Bobal and Monastrell will be the last to be picked. This process can start in mid-August and last until mid-October. This year for example the harvest is around 10 days later than last year due to the weather. This weather has generally caused problems in the region and the harvest generally is expected to be 40% down on last year.
The grapes for the white wines are pumped from the machine in the picture above to one of the many stainless steel tanks except for the chardonnay which will ferment in oak barrels whilst the reds go into concrete tanks to ferment. Thereafter the wine destined for cava goes into bottle and reposes en rima for 15 months upwards in the modern bodega´s storage facility underground.
Just some of the bottles resting in the Bodega´s undergound cellar.
Chozas Carrascal only produced their first wines  in 2003, just a year before I arrived in Valencia. Their range of wines, with the exception of the top wine, a pure Cabernet Franc are blends of different varieties with names which reflect this.
Las Dosces is a blend of 89% Sauvignon Blanc and 11% Macabeo and is 12%ABV. The wine is a pale yellow in colour with green flashes, clean and bright with long legs. On the nose the Sauvignon predominates with lovely floral and tropical fruit scents and a little fennel from the Macabeo. In the mouth the fruit is balanced beautifully with a dry steely, minerally even flinty long dry finish. This wine invites you back for a second mouthful.
Las  Dosces.
Las Tres is not surprisingly a blend of the Sauvignon Blanc and Macabeo with Chardonnay and is yellow with gold flashes, clean and bright. On the nose the wood in which the chardonnay has rested is apparent with nice toasty notes. These are balanced with fruity floral tones with orange, green apple, peach and citrus notes. In the mouth the first sensation is a nich fresh acidity then a rich full smooth long dry finish. This is a wine recommended for fish dishes of all varieties.
Chozas Carrascal Cava Brut Nature Reserva was last tasted the previous weekend at Ferevin 2010. From Macabeo and Chardonnay it is a pale straw yellow colour with  fine persistent bubbles and a good crown. On the nose the predominant notes are yeasty and toasty with floral notes. In the mouth a full cava well structured, nicely balanced with a long finish. This wine is undoubtedly a cava to drink with food.
Also produced are the dulces, a white Muscat from a parcel of vines in St Jean de Minervois which produces some of the best Muscat in the world and which was covered in my last blog and a dulce from Garnacha. Some 2000 kilos of grapes from the different parcels of vines are left to ripen in the vineyard until they reach a must with 15-16% Alcohol and 250 grams of sugar per litre. The wine is eventually vinified until it reaches a deeper colour than the rosado. This is a wine, violet in colour sweet and with a full rich ripe grapey flavour.
Las Quatro is a rosado, a blend of Merlot, Tempranillo, Garnacha and Syrah and is 13.5%ABV. Rose coloured, with long legs, clean and bright, On the nose lots of red fruits black fruits and floral notes. This a wine which is steely and fruity in beautiful balance. I subsequently tried this with a ripe Coulommiers cheese and found it a perfect match.
The range of wines.
In red Las Ocho 2007 is a blend of Bobal, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Monastrell, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and was reviewed in full in my last blog.
The Cabernet Franc from a very small production is the  signature wine of the bodega and each bottle is signed by  Julian and Maria Jose. The 2007 is a wine which displays the varietal characteristics very well, and could be a French wine if it were not for the mediterranean influence. Violet in colour. deep with bucketfuls of red and black fruit, green pepper and tannin. This a lovely wine now but is definitely one to keep an eye on and save for the future.
The shop at Chozas Carrascal.
The tour which was extensive and very detailed lasted nearly two hours and ended with an extensive tasting  next to the shop where wines can be brought at special offer prices. The staff were incredibly helpful and generous with their knowledge and time and were happy to talk to us about all aspects of the process in some depth. This is a bodega visit I would recommend and hope to take groups there in the future where a generous welcome is guaranteed.
Las Quatro, (Rosado) in the background and signature wine the Cabernet Franc.
This is a bodega with a distinct style of winemaking, where huge attention to detail  and cleanliness is paid and where blends of varietals produce wines of quality distinct to those of other vineyards surrounding them. A bodega to watch and taste the wines from regularly! 
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