Vera De Estenas, A Very Special Vertical Tasting, Bobal Casa Don Angel 1998-2009.

Vera de Estenas, Oak Barrel from the Bodega.

   There is a saying in England that you never see a London Bus and then suddenly three come along at once! I am beginning to think the same can be said of vertical tastings in Valencia….none in  seven years then two in a month!

Vera de Estenas is a bodega I visited in late summer after trying several wines over the nearly seven years I have lived here and have been consistently impressed. The Bodega was specifically created to produce wine to be aged and set up in the Riojan ( and thus Bordeaux Chateau) style. Yes, it has its commercial everyday drinking wines as well but its reputation as a successful bodega is based on its quality wines for ageing.

Nor should we forget that when the Bodega was set up and the first Bobal wines for long ageing were being created the wine station in Requena and all the viticultural text books rubbished the grape as of use only for good rosados ( they got that correct) and for blending with other wines . Bobal is a grape with huge fruit and colour which oxidises slowly and was ideal for blending with varieties elsewhere in Spain and Europe to bolster their wines. ( Probably still is!)

Francisco Martinez Bermell, father of current owner and winemaker Félix Martinez, bought the bodega and at the beginning of the 80´s planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc…..all with this plan to follow the Riojan/French style.

Javi Prats, fellow wine blogger.

 Javi Prats is a fellow wine blogger, employed by a technology company but just as passionate about the gastronomy of Valencia and the wines of the community. He is one of a growing group who believe Bobal is hugely under-rated and has created a blog and a group to promote it further. When Félix,( or Fali to his friends ) invited Javi to taste the results of the first 10 years of the fruits of his labour he immediately saw the opportunity to invite the  group to a rare and truly historic event.

Vera de Estenas is one of the first to go down the route of bottling its own wines and there is little opportunity because of the lack of tradition in this respect to match the opportunity…(the recent vertical tasting of Hispano-Suizas Sauvignon Blanc over five vintages being the only other one) and compare the progress bodegas in this area have made.

Casa Don Angel was already a bodega with its own vineyards when Félix´s father bought it and some of the Bobal for the premium wine comes from vines with over 100 years of age. And it was in these vineyards on a chilly Saturday March morning, with snow on the hills above Utiel in the distance, where we started our visit.

Félix Martinez and some old Bobal Vines!


  The vines are old and gnarled, many of them with hollow centres and are allowed to produce no more than a kilo and a half of tightly packed but concentrated small grapes each year. This ensures in optimum conditions, absolute quality and concentration.

When ripe the grapes are picked by hand moved by stainless steel trailer to the reception area and passed into the destalking machine.

Following this they undergo  maceration for 7-10 days with 4-6 pump overs a day to extract colour and flavour before a gentle pressing. Alcoholic first fermentation is in Stainless steel.

Malolactic fermentation then takes place in cement deposits before the final wine is put into French and American oak barrels of 250 or 300 litres and the ageing process begins.

10 Years of Casa Don Angel Bobal 1998-2009


  First wine was the 2009 , (2010 not having been made in what was a difficult year for both weather and mildew.)

14% ABV the wine came from a vintage with hail in the late winter and a summer which was long hot and had little if any rain. From cask and with a year in wood, the wine is deep cherry red, with the characteristic violet-blue edge of Bobal. It had long slow legs colouring the glass. On the nose, initially oaky, quite closed but as it opened out coffee, green hay, violets and in the mouth hard tannins and chocolate and vanilla. This is not a wine which will  see the market for a while to come but which is a wine of power and great ageing potential. One very much to look forward to.

Preparing for the Tasting, Miguel Angel Martin of .

 2007 followed, again 2008 was not a good enough year. This wine is also not bottled yet and the sample came from cask. Although labelled at 14% the wine is closer to 14.5% ABV. Very similar in colour, maybe a little less intense, it too has long legs. On the nose much more of the crianza, elegant, with a creaminess, touches of fennel, star anise, and apple, vanilla.  On the palate elegant and soft with smooth tannins, mature fruit, elegant, very nice!

The 2006 is the current vintage in the market place, released just before last Xmas.

Also a bit above the 14%ABV on the label this comes from the year with the least rainfall. Very similar in colour to the previous wines quite dense, and again with long legs. On the nose much more mature red and black fruit, elegant and smooth with balsamic notes from the crianza. The second half of the bottle was decanted and vigorously aerated and then poured. Suddenly the wine was so much more open with huge notes of liquorice and coffee and much rounder in the mouth!

A wine which needs decanting for some time before drinking, but a wine of incredible depth and power. One to lay down for a long time!

Félix and Karolleta Ballestar tasting the 2006.

  Next we turned to the 2005 which proved to be most popular of the tasting with about half the group. This wine was double decanted before serving and immediately benefited from the aeration.  For Félix the nose reminded him of the grapes in the trailer after the harvest, full of scents and concentrated. Still no loss of colour or depth from the previous vintage and still with long legs. On the nose mature black fruit, but for all that you felt there was more to come. Damsons and minerals emerged. In the mouth the wine was more open, smooth, smooth tannins, elegant with tobacco, leather, much more complex. Suddenly it opened further and the nose revealed dried grapes, raisins, vanilla, orange peel, dried figs and spice….nutmeg! In the mouth some of this was converted to sweetness at the end. A positive Xmas cake on the nose and a truly great wine from a truly wonderful vintage………one to buy and lay down for a very long time!!!!!

At this point, and with six wines to go Félix sensibly suggested a tour around the bodega!

In the bottle `Library´.

 Félix took us through the bodega from reception area to barrel park, deposits, bottling area and the cellars. Before we returned to the tasting he showed us the impressive collection of wines, one of which is kept from bottlings of each vintage as a sort of reference library!

In the cellars we saw the impressive collection of old bottles going back to 1985 , a rare find in a Valencian cellar and which are kept for reference purposes.

Back in the tasting room we returned to the serious work of the 2004 vintage.

This had been a year with a very wet spring. At last the intensity of the colour was beginning to decrease and  the colour was more garnet. The nose was very much more open minerally and with a touch of astringency, but nonetheless mature fruit, a product of pasification just before the harvest. On the nose also were herbs, particularly mint and a hint of green grass. In the mouth liquorice, jam, full, balanced, round, very well-integrated alcohol, elegant!

With Pere Mercado.


 Félix had also invited Pere Mercado, a sumiller with thirty years experience, former Nariz D´Oro, ( Spain’s highest wine tasting honour) and professor at the Valencian Governments Centre of Tourism college and he had led us through the wines. Pere is also a leading light behind the Asociación Primum Bobal, a group set up specifically to promote the grape!

Next wine was the 2002, there being no 2003.

The colour on this was still high despite it being a very wet year with later maturity than normal. On the nose the toastiness and milkiness from the crianza was more evident as was  soft fruit.  In the mouth it was quite round, fruity, well-integrated but less concentrated. Nonetheless smooth and elegant. Of the wines so far this was the most open and developed.

With Félix, (from left) members of the group Vincent Pétré, ( Champagne Daniel Pétré) Dora Birindelli ( Director Vino-Valencia) and Laura Weatherston.

Next was the 2001, interesting in that the colour was now beginning to show an ageing . 2001 and the three other remaining wines going back in time were 90% Bobal with about 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the blend.

On the nose this was very elegant, spicy with red pepper, creaminess and eucalyptus notes. It is much more developed than the 2002 a better wine, more open and with less acidity, more fruit, fresher in the mouth and well-integrated tannins. Still well alive and a great wine for food!

Next up was the 2000, again no perceptible change of colour from the previous wine but a little less intense or deep.  Straight away on the nose was chocolate, minerals, terroir, and the hints of maturity expected in a ten year old wine! In the mouth it is elegant, fruity, meaty and well-balanced.

Old lable 1998 and new lable 2000/1.

  Finally we turned to the old millenium wines starting with the 1999. This was the first year with a hint of brown in the colour and from a very wet year. On the nose lacteos, cheese, even a hint of yeasty marmite. In the mouth, well to be honest on the way down but a wine which would still be good with game birds….not dead yet!

The last wine was the 1998 with its old label, resplendantly retaining its colours!

This, not surprisingly had the palest colour and the least intensity and depth….but then it is nearly 13 years old! (From a grape with no ageing ability!!!!!) On the nose slightly farmyardy, sweet but with a bitter cherry finish and quite short in the mouth…..over the hill!

So what did we learn from this comparative tasting. Quite a lot!

Firstly and most importantly the text books were wrong. Bobal is a grape with good ageing potential with even the 1999 from not a brilliant year and blended with a small percentage of other varieties still alive after 11 years and still good with food.

Secondly and interestingly there was a change of emphasis from 2005 when Spain in general and Requena in particular realised the future lay not in Rioja style wines but in maximising the quality and concentration of  the  grape (and not in copying someone elses style) as they had been doing in Priorat. The world and Robert Parker in  particular who was influencing it was looking more for power and concentration. For this reason as well as their youth the wines from 2005-2011 have a different style to those from 1998 to 2004. Moreover these younger wines in my view have much more ageing potential than those from the later group…which means we will have to get together in 20 years time and taste all the wines from 2005 onwards!

Thirdly, the decision to make quality wine with an ageing potential from Bobal and other varieties by Vera de Estenas was and is a huge success and fully justified as well as being a great example to the rest of Utiel-Requena of what can be done when quality is the key and not production for quantities sake!  

The group enjoys lunch after a hard morning´s tasting!

  Needless to say after a hard mornings work we sat down as a group to enjoy a lunch of locally produced food starting with `bollo´the Requena olive oil bread topped with bacon and sausage,  a vegetable pizza, bread with smoked salmon or tuna slices, and other delicacies.

To cleanse the palate Félix opened the Viña Lidon, barrel fermented chardonnay from 2010 and the Vera de Estenas cava.

Finally to accompany bitter chocolate with almonds Félix found some `port´from the cellar…actually 2000 bobal from a cask stopped before fermentation with pure alcohol in the style of port….and a perfect match and perfect end to an incredible and unforgettable tasting of phenomenal wines!

Thank you Félix, Pere and Javi!

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  • Vincent  On March 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Very nice summary for a great wine tasting.
    Thank you Riki for the car, Felix for all the wines and Javi for the invitation.
    It was a very nice day.

  • Carolina  On May 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Hola Riki. deseamos contactar contigo para invitarte a la DOP Utiel-Requena los días 25 y 26 de junio al I encuentro de bloguers de gastronomía y vino que celebraremos para dar a conocer la bobal y los vinos y bodegas de nuestra zona productora.


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