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.

Tinajas.

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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