DO Utiel-Requena, Bumper Harvest Underway and Ferevin 2011 Memories.


Chardonnay at Vera de Estenas.

It seems as though the optimism reported a couple of weeks back about the prospects for a bumper harvest this year in Utiel-Requena are proving correct so far. Discussions with friends from several bodegas produced reports of good, healthy and large crops some of which were already being harvested. Emilio Esposito, one of the owners of  Dominio de la Vega  explained that son Daniel was overseeing the harvest of Chardonnay, Macabeo and Pinot Noir for their Cava. Pablo Ossorio of  Hispano Suizas was reportedly collecting their whites in as well ( see Pig.tv on Facebook for a film report) and this week has seen the harvest begin in Vera de Estenas of Chardonnay and at Pago de Tharsys their Bronx for the sweet wine is currently undergoing pasification in the sun whilst the Bobal for the cava Unico, a white cava from a black grape, is also underway.

With prospects of an excellent quality crop which could attract higher prices the DO has not been slow to exploit the possibilities. One of the principal duties of the controlling body is to set the limits of how much can be harvested by hectare, a means of controlling quality. Yesterday it was announced that the DO was temporarily changing these yields for this year. For the grapes grown in goblet style it will now be possible to harvest 9,900kilos per hectare as opposed to 7,500k. Bobal yields rise to 8,600k but other red varieties will be reduced from 8,000k to 7,500k per hectare.

2011 Harvest at Vera de Estenas.

For grapes grown `en espalda´ ( trained on wires) the yield rises for whites from 9,100k to 12,000k and for Bobal to 10.5K per hectare. Other reds drop from 9,700 to  9,100 kilos per hectare.

This is clearly aimed at maximizing the excellent prospects for Macabeo for cava amongst other reasons. The DO was quick to point out that this is going to be a harvest of great quality.

Ferevin 2011 was set against this background with optimism high. New markets for both quality and bulk wines were emerging, not only in China.

I spent a couple of days talking to some of the 20 or so members of the organisation and introducing a young putative wine-merchant from the UK, keen to import Mediterranean wines and particularly interested in Bobal, Tim O´Donnell , Director of soon to be Alizarin Wine Ltd, in South London.

Tim O´Donnell, Alizarin Wines with Latorre Agrovinicola.

This led to some quite detailed tastings at a number of stalls of some of the best bodegas attending. We began with Emilio Esposito at Dominio de la Vega, always one of the busier stalls at the fair. We began with the 2010 Bobal, a joven style madurado en barrica which was released in March. At the time I was quite disappointed because by comparison with 2009 it was a much less concentrated wine. However with a few months evolution in bottle the wine has settled down and I was impressed that it is now showing much more. Cherry red, with a blue edge and long legs, on the nose cherry and raspberry fruit, liquorice and eucalyptus and in the mouth nice fruit and coffee. Long concentrated finish.

Second we tried the 2009, medio crianza 2009 which won a gold medal in Brussels at the International wine challenge this year. 60% Bobal, with around 15% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 13.5%ABV, it is also cherry red, medium density with good long legs. On the nose ripe, red fruit, damsons and plums, with a hint of smoke and eucalyptus. In the mouth well-integrated good balance with a long smooth finish.

Top of the range is the Arte Mayor IV. This is the bodega´s flagship red and its representative in the Asociación Primum Bobal range. A blend of the best cuvees from three vintages ( 2005/6/7 ) of pure Bobal from the Beata parcels, all from French oak. A wine which needs decanting it is a rich cherry red,spicy (clove) with deep  concentrated fruit, perfumed and with smoke and liquorice. At around 20€ it is a fabulous wine and a real privilege to taste. ( One good lottery win and there would be a lot of this in my cellar!)

Next we turned to a couple of the cavas, starting with the Brut Joven. This is a nice blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo which shows well how good cava can be made. A good yellow colour, with white melon and green apple with a touch of citrus. In the mouth nice fresh acidity, good attack and full. Good value easy drinking cava from a quality producer.

Finally we tasted the 2008 Cava from Pinot Noir. A good raspberry colour with a persistent crown and fine bubbles. On the nose raspberry fruit, quite full and in the mouth lovely acidity and attack, balanced fruit, fresh and a quality drink. I love this with a seafood paella or arroz. See August 2010 archive, A Visit to Dominio de la Vega and  www.dominiodelavega.com

Tasting Brut Rosado from Pinot Noir at the Dom.de la Vega Stand.

In June, as part of the bob@l-bloggers weekend we had visited Latorre Agrovinicola in Venta del Moro. This is a complete contrast to the previous bodega with huge intake and bulk sales as well as retaining wine from the best parcels to make a range of quality but inexpensive wines. With Manel Guasp, Marin and Louis Rafael Latorre we looked at some of that range starting with the Viura/Verdejo a new white from 2010. Pale gold colour, dry apple nose and a long mineraly grapefruit fresh finish. This is a classy different white from the DO and the first to legally use the recently authorised Verdejo variety.

The rosado from this bodega has a lot of colour and is  deep rose with long legs. On the nose strawberry leaf, fresh and in the mouth strawberries and cream but a bit fuller than some rosados. From 60-year-old bobal vines I have had a lot of this wine from the Parreño range this summer.

Latorre´s real strength though is the range of Crianzas and Reservas. Traditional style wines with absolute adherence to the rules of the DO in ageing in both wood and bottle the wines are surprisingly inexpensive and would provide a good range for importation to the UK market.

The 2007 Crianza is an easy drinking blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bobal and is all red and black fruit on the nose with hints of wood, smooth tannins, good fruit and a solid long full finish.

The 2001 Reserva with its traditional label is full of black fruit, hints of vanilla from French oak and chocolate from the ageing process. Very smooth and at 5€ a bottle ex-cellars very good value for a 10-year-old wine. But the top of the range Gran Reserva also from Bobal is the blockbuster, with three years in wood and 5 years in bottle before release this has huge amounts of glycerine in the legs, and is full of cinnamon, clove, black fruits and at around 8€ a bottle is very good value for quality to price ratio.  See archives 2011 (July 1 ) and www.latorreagrovinicola.com .

Tracy,Nicky and Denise from the Pedralba Wine Circle with Maria José from Chozas carrascal.

Another representative bodega with a steady reputation and exciting wines is Chozas Carrascal and once again Maria José Lopez Peidro showed us the range. Originally planted by a French enologist Chozas has a lot of classic varieties as well as Bobal.

We started with the Cava 2008, a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 45% Macabeo, with 2 years in contact with the lees this has depth, yet is fresh, crisp but still full. A serious cava for food this would be excellent with paella  and some pasta dishes. Palates cleansed we tried the Las Dosces 2010 Sauvignon Blanc which I first tasted before Xmas last year. The wine won an award in a wine show in San Francisco and has now rounded out a little. Full of tropical fruits with peaches and grapefruit, the 11% Macabeo gives it a nice balancing fresh acidity…..a lovely wine!

We next tasted the Las Tres 2010, which will not be made in 2011 because of damage caused by the hailstorms which devastated the vineyards of San Antonio last month, hailstorms the size of a fist. The 2010 is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Macabeo with three months in French oak. On the nose this has something from each of the varieties, wet wool from the Chardonnay, apple, flowers ( Macabeo) , peaches  and very ripe melon from the Sauvignon. You could be forgiven for thinking there is Viognier in this blend. In the mouth this is full of ripe fruit and is rich. Roll on the 2012 vintage!

We moved to the first of the four reds, the Las Dosces tinto joven, the bodega´s contribution to the Asociación Primum Bobal range. Now 80% Bobal with the rest made up by Tempranillo and Syrah this is a really easy drinking style of wine, lots of fruit but topped off with chocolate and coffee. A modern style…lovely.

Next we compare the Las Ocho 2007 and 2008 vintages.  A blend of the 8 varieties grown at the vineyard with  Monastrell ( mourvedre) included the 2007 has a very deep colour, and good long legs. On the nose spicy but quite closed and in the mouth powerful and still quite tannic. By contrast the 2008 is more forward. It has a little less colour and on the nose a little less spice but more fruit and in the mouth soft, smooth and elegant. Quite different and shows well how difficult consistency of style in Utiel-Requena is…not that this is a big issue at Chozas where the whole family and the enologist taste from all the barricas before deciding on the final blend each year!

The Bodegas flagship wine is a pure Cabernet Franc, a classic variety from the Loire valley where it is important in Bourgueil and Chinon. The 2008 is now legal, the variety finally having been authorised in the DO. And comparisons with the Loire valley are reasonable as the wine has classic raspberry and mineral flavours with a Mediterannean flavour. I love this wine!

More info on the bodega in the September 2010 Archive and www.chozascarrascal.es. Many thanks to Maria José and Sonia Velazquez who kept a supply of fresh glasses and bottles coming and coped admirably with the Pedralba Wine Circle who descended en-masse  to taste the Cava! Best wishes for a speedy recovery also to Julian, Maria José´s father who was taken ill before the fair commenced.

Next we tasted a number of wines from Rodolfo Valiente and Bodegas Vegalfaro.

Wines from Vegalfaro.

We started with another joven style, the Barrica 3 months 2010 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot and Bobal and 13.5%ABV. Medium density, long slow legs and with a blue edge. The nose was quite closed although with a little eucalyptus, this was fresh with a huge explosion of fruit in the mouth, round , balanced and a pleasant easy drinker! Also an award-winning wine.

The 2008 Crianza 14% ABV is a blend  of Bobal, Tempranillo and Merlot and had a deep colour, again with long legs. On the nose heavy ripe fruit and in the mouth smooth with balanced tannins.

The Pasamonte Tintorera Garnacha was again quite closed on the nose whilst having a freshness in the mouth, good fruit and balanced smooth tannins. Elegant and mineral finish.

We went on to taste the Pago de Balagueses 2007 and 2008 the former from Syrah and the latter from Merlot. Both were served chilled, the heat still being high in the evening session and I felt the wines were losing a little as a result. In any case the bodega warrants a visit and I hope to do this in late September after the harvest.

We did finish with the Cava which has spent 40 months on the lees and which was fresh but full, initially appley but lovely and I look forward to trying this again shortly! www.vegalfaro.com

No visit to Ferevin is complete without tasting the wines of Vera de Estenas and Felix Martinez obliged on the Saturday lunchtime. Over a bollo we tasted almost the entire range before being invited to lunch at the bodega on the Saturday where we conducted a further tasting! www.veradeestenas.es and see Archives September 2010 and March 2011.

Lunch at Vera de Estenas.

The wines from this bodega are well documented in my blogs and truly  representative of the best that can be produced in the DO. Thank you Felix and Yolanda for your hospitality.

Whilst there were 2-3 less bodegas present this year ( Notably Cuevas) there remained a fully representative selection of wines to try and the usual excellent quality from this excellent DO. Lets hope the optimism is fully justified and 2011 is the start of a strong period for Utiel-Requenas wines!

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