Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Visit to Bodegas Hispano+Suizas, Open Day During the Vendimia.

The Bodega´s Products.


Hispano+Suizas is a bodega within D.O. Utiel-Requena but also has the right to make D.O.Cava. It sits on the N322 from Requena to Albacete just outside the hamlet of El Ponton and opposite Finca Ardal.

The bodega itself appears old but the façade whilst original and originally an old local finca, is completely modern, both behind and more importantly underneath! The bodega is also sufficiently modern not to appear in either the guide by Juan Piqueras in 2000 or the Biblio Metropoli´s Guide to the Wine Routes of the Valencian Community which was published in 2004/5. The reason of course is that this is a very new project, dating back to the first wine in 2006 only!

Syrah in the Vineyard.

The project is the result of a friendship between three major protagonists all of whom had, and still have,  experience working in a big Swiss owned conglomerate Bodegas Schenk, now Murviedro.

Marc Grin, Pablo Ossorio and Rafael Navarro named the bodega after their origins. Marc is the Swiss born marketing arm of the enterprise, responsible for much of the design, who today combines his overseas marketing role for Hispano+Suizas with that of Murviedro.

Pablo is Technical Director of Murviedro and wine-maker at Hispano+Suizas, having graduated from the Requena Wine School and with International experience in Argentina and Italy. Pablo was chosen by his peers as best winemaker in the Valencian Region in 2008.

Rafa is in charge of the vineyards and is also winemaker at the bodega. His particular interests are getting the best out of some of the newer varieties in the DO such as Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc he is considered an innovative viticultor and is consultant to other bodegas in the area.

Freshly picked Cabernet Franc.

At 4000 vines to the hectare, all `en espaldera, ´ the bodega comprises some 60 hectares, most of which surround the winery itself. Apart from the newer varieties of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, the two Cabernets (Sauvignon and Franc), Merlot, Syrah and of course Bobal make up the red varieties and  Chardonnay and Verdejo the whites.

Having started in 2006 the bodega has survived on very small productions of each of its wines, initially Bassus Pinot Noir and Impromptu, a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. The cavas followed, Tantum Ergo in two versions. First was the white, a Dom Perignon style blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the rosado which is pure Pinot Noir.

Today there are eight wines in the range, all named with a musical theme reflecting what the bodega itself would describe as a slightly elitist approach to wines, nonetheless the wines are accessible ranging from 17.5€ to 38.5€ depending on the product. As the old adage goes, quality always sells, added to the rarity value of some of these wines the prices reflect the quality which is defined not just by tasting the wines but by the scores awarded by those who matter, Parker, Penin, Guia Sevi  and Gastronostrum. The rosado cava scored between 92-4/100 in these guides and has been described as the best in the world! In fact Penin has placed five of the wines in the very top range of wines from Spain, two years running.

Pinot Noir Fermenting.

The open day commenced with a quick look at the vineyard where harvesting of the Cabernet Franc was under way before moving to the reception area for the grapes where we were shown the chilling chambers where the grapes spend up to 36 hours resting before wine-making process begins. ( For more details see my archived post 11 February 2011. ) Here we also tasted the freshly harvested Cabernets.

Into the bodega you are struck first by the two rows of open-topped barrels with wine fermenting within, the cap of grapes ( whole berry fermentation) sitting thick on top and awaiting batonnage to extract maximum aroma and colour. The deposits are all small by many standards, reflecting the fact that this year may just be the first where they achieve the 85k bottle maximum production.

In the cellars.

Downstairs the small undercroft is full of oak barrels and bottles of cava in various stages of development and then the bottling area shares space next door with the wines which have been bottled, cased and which are ready for sales and distribution.

Then upstairs we visited the `hotel´, five rooms which are available for those following the Rutavino in Utiel-Requena and which are part of their contribution to wine-tourism in the area. In practice these rooms which are individually and differently decorated tend to be used more by visitors to the bodega from abroad and buyers from within Spain.

Back outside were joined by fourth member of the team, Vicente Cortes who was to introduce Rafa to us and then conduct a tasting of five of the bodegas wines accompanied by local snacks such as bollo and ajoarriero.

Vicente is head of national sales, accounting still for about 70% of the bodega´s production.

Vicente Cortes.

First wine was the Tantum Ergo Brut Nature from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. From 2009 I have found this wine to be consistent year on year ( so far) and the wine is straw yellow, clean and bright with green flashes. The bubbles are very fine and persistent. The nose demonstrates white flowers, patisserie and some citrus elements, and long-lasting. In the mouth full, good attack and nice acidity, citrus fruits and a long satisfying finish.

Second was the Tantum Ergo Pinot Noir, Brut Rosado from 2010. Pale strawberry  or rose-pink, fine persistent bubbles, good crown, clean and bright. On the nose predominantly red fruits, vanilla and a degree of toastiness. In the mouth it is soft, passes easily across the palate, good acidity and long fruity finish. A lovely wine.

Third was the 2011 vintage of the Impromptu Sauvignon Blanc. Yellow, with green flashes, clean and very bright. Good legs. On the nose fresh, intense tropical fruit notes, almost jammy. In the mouth rich ripe fruit is balanced with good acidity, the wine is satisfying and with a long finish. For me this is a wine to lay down and drink in 5 years or so when it will be better balanced and more honeyed.

Tantum Ergo Brut Nature.

Fourth was the Bassus Pinot Noir 2010. I had not tasted this wine since the DO´s bloggers tasting in 2010. Cherry red with a violet edge, long legs. On the nose cherry, blackcurrant and liquorice, whilst in the mouth full fruit, jam, concentration, caramel and a hint of coffee cream from the 10 months spent in oak. A very distinct wine from the only parcel of Pinot Noir in the DO.

Finally we tasted the 2009 Bassus Premium, a blend of Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Shiraz and Petit Verdot. Very deep black cherry, intense with long slow legs. On the nose red fruits, wood fruits, oak, vanilla and balsamic notes. In the mouth rich and very full bodied, smoky, red fruits, jam, long satisfying finish…a blockbuster!

A very interesting visit to yet another bodega which is quite different , reflecting the personalities of the owners and a very personal wine-making style. Well  worth a visit, the bodega has limited open days or  by appointment.

52nd International Paella Competition, Sueca 2012.



Paella Competition!

This is THE Paella event of the year! Sueca is the spiritual home of the paella, centre of the rice-growing district and each year hosts the International competition to declare the best paella chef of the year. Thirty professionals, from accredited restaurants are selected to cook. Any restauranter in the world can apply, but only 30 will be selected and this year saw invitations to Las Vegas, New Zealand and France as well as restaurants from Cordoba, Seville, Madrid, Jaen, in wider Spain. The remainder were local restaurants from Murcia and within the Valencian Community.

Japans Entrant.

There is no getting away from it…competition is intense but remarkably friendly, all the chefs and their teams exchange jokes and banter before it starts but once it has the only interchange is a sneaky glance at how your neighbour is doing during the two hours allowed for cooking. The rules are very tightly written, the ingredients, pans, wood, triangle supports and water are all supplied by the town hall in order to ensure a level playing field.

In line with tradition, if not the rules of the Paella D.O.  ( as I have written before they take paella very seriously, almost as a religion, here in Valencia) only the following may be used:-

Rice from Sueca, Free range chicken, rabbit, snails, garrofó, tavella and ferradura ( the three beans) olive oil, garlic, tomato, pimentón, saffron and a sprig of rosemary ( which is optional).

The town hall thoughtfully set aside the park opposite Sueca Station and fence off thirty corrals for the chefs to cook in.

Even the method of cooking and the order the ingredients are added to the paella pan are prescribed. Essentially the aim is to cook as slowly as possible to brown the meat and create a caramel in the bottom of the pan which forms the basis of the `socorrat´, the most prized element of the paella which essentially is the burn´t bit on the bottom!

Restaurant El Castillo.

By the time the tomato, pimentón and veg have been added the caramel is building nicely. Then the water and saffron are added and the meat cooks slowly for another half hour or so to tenderise it as well as cooking the vegetables properly ( no pre-soaked beans, no packets or jars or tins allowed, the veg is fresh!)

Then with around 25 minutes to go the fire is stoked up, the liquor brought to a rolling boil and the rice and snails added. After 15 minutes the heat is reduced and after it reaches the point where it is cooked, the paella pan is lifted off the supporting triangle and sat on the ashes to `reposar´or relax, as well as fixing the socorrat.

Then the chefs take their paellas to be judged by the Jury and the teams, their guests, the dignitaries and other lucky visitors go off to the local banqueting suite for a very good lunch, courtesy of the Town Hall and the sponsors!

This year I found myself amongst the fortunate guests! How so? Well, the Plataforma Información Gastronomica, dedicated defenders of Valencian gastronomy in general and defenders of paella in particular had entered local restauranter Eduardo Frechina of El Castillo, Godella and invitation had fallen through his letter box.

Supportes of PIG eat Almuerzo.

Not surprisingly therefore his `equipe´ consisted of at least 11 supporters who arrived in Sueca for almuerzo, bread, ventresca provided by Maestro Galbis from nearby  L´Alcúdia and a rabbit dish cooked previously by Eduardo taken with bread and washed down with Cava and Syrah from Daniel Belda.

Suitably fortified, attention turned to preparation, the beans podded and chopped, the chicken and rabbit cut to appropriate chunks, the tomatos grated, the garlic peeled and the rice and water collected from the organisers. Then the orange branches were broken up ready to add to the fire as needed, the sand laid out on the floor and the triangular support steadied and levelled with the appropriate pebble. All of this was done meticulously, with great attention to detail and much additional tradition ( eg the jugs of San Miguel to keep the team fresh) under a growing sun!

The start was announced but curiously no-one lit their fires for a while! Smart phones were deployed to time the different stages!  Eventually the fires were lit the pans deployed, oiled and salted and the meat began to cook.

As the stages unfolded the crowd gathered at various stalls, the TV crews ( at least five) interrupted proceedings with interminable interviews and famous chefs who were not invited this year chatted to their competing colleagues, offering unwanted advice! The previous years winner is automatically excluded from the competition and participants from the previous year may only compete if there are insufficient new applicants.


Acrid smoke wafted through the trees, the heat increased….and not just the heat of competition!

Gradually we reached the stage where the rice was added, the air now white with smoke, the San Miguel flowed faster.

Then suddenly it was all over, the paellas were being carried to the judges leaving the teams to clear up after their respective chefs and enjoy the odd bottle of cava which had been lurking in the bottom of the cold boxes.

We joined the procession to SalaCancela where the lunch was being held .

Five courses were to follow, a tartlet of seafood with wild mushroom, Valencian Salad, a cannelloni of Confit of Albufera duck, a palate cleanser of mojito, a main course consisting of paella, the thirty competition entries shared out amongst the 250 guests, then a chocolate ice cream bombe, coffees and brandy. Wines were provided by 40ºNorte, a Merseguera/Sauvingnon Blanc blend called Mar de sao and a young Syrah, So de Syrah, a top new bodega from Alforins. Cava was provided by Bodega Pago de Tharsys, the Brut Nature Carlota Suria being the perfect accompaniment to paella.

Competition Quality Paella.

The prizes were handed out, the eventual winner being declared as Restaurant Ba-Ba-Reeba from Las Vegas, USA. But it was alright, those pesky Americans hadn´t really won at all as the Chefs were Valencians who live there!

For the record, our team of Eduardo Frechina and Alfonso Martinez Serrano came ninth out of 30, just outside the awards, but rewarded by the experience of cooking with the best….make no bones about it Michelin starred chefs such as Oscar Torrijos were taking part as well and there are no losers as participation in the occasion is sufficient!

PIGs can hold their heads high and plan victory for next year!


The Winners! Ba-Ba-Reeba, Las Vegas.


A Visit to Bodega Vereda Real…In Search of Bobal Blanca.

The bodega´s banner.

One of the great pleasures of moving to a new area is to learn about local grape varieties and so far Valencia has not failed. The fabled Plantafina de Pedralba may have all but died out in DO Valencia ( a friend believes he knows where there is an abandoned parcel) but it lives on in DO Utiel-Requena as Tardana or Planta Nova.

Bobal is the great find of Utiel-Requena, the versatile variety has produced white wine, white cava ( both from red grapes) rosados, a rosado cava as well as  joven, crianza and reservas in red and sweet reds. The trouble is the whites have been from red grapes from the variety presumably using the special carbon filter to remove the colour whilst leaving the flavours intact in the wines. Covilor had a white in their Succesión range in 2007 and of course Pago de Tharsys produce their excellent Unico Blanc de Noir cava from red Bobal grapes .

Verema´s forums briefly debated the existence of the variety in 2005 without reaching a conclusion. Certainly from my research in the text books I have, ( André Simon, Jancis Robinson, Stephen Spurrier, Alexis Lichine, Jan Read, or local writers such as Joan Martin and the expert Juan Piqueras)  most acknowledge the red variety but the only reference I could find to a white variety was on Wikipedia´s site which blandly states there is a white variety, full stop.

Pedro Cárcel.

Ok, so when I recently visited the stand of Vereda Real in the recent edition of Ferevin and tasted their new range of Mediterranean varietals ( Bobal Blanca, Tardana and Moravia) my appetite was whetted to find out a little more!

Vereda Real, under technical director Pedro Cárcel Garcia, is a new bodega, experimental in nature and the only bodega actually within the city of Requena.

Pedro welcomed us to the bodega and showed us around the facility. The grapes are processed, once picked,  in other facilities, the wines themselves moving into the bodega to age in one or other of the barrels, barrel boxes or tinajas.

In the 43 hectares of vineyards they grow Bobal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Planta Nova ( Tardana) Chardonnay and Bobal Blanca. They also have Moravia, an autoctonal variety coming from Casas de Ibañez in Castillo de la Mancha and Moscatels in the Alicante region.


When the barrel box was first introduced it allowed wine-makers to combine French, American, Hungarian and Caucasian oak each of which adds separate flavours and tannins to the wines. Today Pedro is clear that he is more interested in combining French oak varieties for his wines, especially Bobal which he believes does not marry well with American oak. So for example you may find barrels in the basement which are Allier staves and Vosges ends, a variety of medium or medium+ toasting. These provide a greater element of balsamic and menthol notes and fresher wines which is what Pedro is seeking. However he has not yet decided what is the best combination and the experimentation continues. To this end the new vintage of top wine `Tesoro de Requena´ from Bobal is either in the barrel boxes or the two tinajas, new terracotta vessels which were all the rage until concrete and then stainless steel took over! Certainly terracotta amphorae have been in use for 2500 years in the area. The aim is to see what influence terracotta has on the wine. Each is 225 litres, the same size as a normal oak barrel and time will tell how the wine ages in the different vessels.

Barrel boxes.

And as with the Burgundians, Pedro has oak especially for fermenting white wine. This is used for the Bobal Blanca for example which spends two months fermenting and then under going battonage before stabilisation in stainless steel and then bottling. To aid the battonage Pedro uses acrylic ended barrels so that he can see when all the particles in the young wine have dropped to the bottom!

So, back to the Bobal Blanca…..can we see the vineyard please? Pedro was delighted we had time to go and look.

A  drive out-of-town and up into the hills beyond the motorway is all I am going to say about the whereabouts of this  parcel of rare vines. Certainly the vineyard is well above Requena at around 900m. How did Pedro find them? By chance! He was cycling ( well mountain-biking ) when he passed some locals and asked about the vines which subsequently he is now managing.

Bobal Blanca. Classic Bulls Head Bunch.

Up here there are abandoned plots of vines in the sandy soil full of river stones, arid and red. Pedro has been trying to recover some of these plots, an expensive and time-consuming exercise, the reward for which is ( or are ) old vines with superb quality production, concentration and historic interest.

Bobal is widely planted in Requena and has many clones. But little is known of these and studies need to be carried out to evaluate which clones are best for which soil, how to best exploit them etc. Currently what is known is that young vines do not necessarily produce good wines for the Utiel-Requena trade-mark. Up until  around 40 years they are good to export to bulk up and blend with  other wines ( Rioja eg) but then start to produce good rosados, until at around 80 years of age they produce reds capable of long ageing once the bunches begin to become more compact with smaller berries. Less production, better quality and concentration.

In Pedro´s parcel you can see the different clones. All are in `Vaso´ and about 85 years old. There are certainly two white varieties one with the classic bulls head bunches of compact small grapes the other with looser smaller bunches and the odd red vine mixed in. The vines are low, hugging the hill where the wind blows keeping the vines clear of disease, gnarled but healthy! The leaves are practically identical ( a small colour differential ) but the shape the same and the grapes identical in shape and size  and only different in colour.

Leaf Variety, White and Red.

Vereda Real are now selling the wine as a monovarietal, together with a Tardana and the Moravia from lamanchuela.

In the shop you can also buy the full range of wines from the white Macabeo ( around 3.50€) to the top of the range Tesoro de Requena in its heavy bottle and presentation box for 40€ . The wines ( most under 7€ are not generally available in Valencia, around 90% going abroad and to restaurants in particular. Pedro has his market but  the Mediterranean varietal range deserves a better and wider market. The Tardana and Bobal Blanca in particular are rarities, especially if rumours that Torroja are no longer producing their Sybarus  wines prove to be correct. The Moravia also is a wine worthy of further investigation with it´s Syrah like comparisons.

So how does the Bobal Blanca taste as a finished wine. For certain it needs to be served chilled. A pale yellow in colour, clean and very bright. On the nose white fruits, perfumed, medium intensity. In the mouth white fruits, pear, full with a hint of tropical fruit, but floral as well, acacia. Well balanced with a good long finish. Very distinct.

Bobal Blanca and Tinto.

I love it here….always something new to look for and sample and write about!




Part of the Parcel of Vines.


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