A Visit to Bodega Antonio Arraéz – Modern Philosophy and a Long Tradition of Exporting.

The Bodega.

The Bodega.

The family bodega of Antonio Arraéz in La Font de la Figuera, DO Valencia, is now in its third generation. But its history as a bodega goes back long before the 1950´s when Antonio´s grandfather, also Antonio, commenced the process of buying out his neighbours. The bodega was originally  three or four private bodegas which were situated next door to each other and which now have been combined. When Antonio ( Toni) – a graduate of the Requena wine school –  started working for the bodega his father ( also Antonio) was in charge.

Under his grandfather the bodega had offices in Xativa from which the business was run. Under his father bottling of wines started ( one of the first in Valencia to do so) and  in 1985  was actually the biggest exporter of wines in DO Valencia, dropping to  fourth after  Baronia de Turis, Gandia, and Schenck by 1998.

His grandfather was responsible for selling in bulk, and this was the hay-day of visitors turning up with their bidons to buy their daily wine. Under his father the neighbours continued to buy but the overseas marketing traversed into bottled products, which under Toni continues apace with the addition of bag-in-box wine as well. Today the bodega sells to some 25 countries in Europe, (the UK, Denmark, Germany, Russia amongst them), to Asia ( including Japan, China, the Philippines) to Africa ( including the Ivory Coast ). During my visit an order for the traditional wine `Don Leon´with its special label was being bottled for Russia.

In the New Entrance Hall.

In the New Entrance Hall.

These foreign sales underpin the expansion and modernisation of the bodega itself.

Toni is carrying on the tradition of change and up-dating. Until the last couple of years the old concrete deposits have been used but these are not suitable for Toni´s vision of the wines he wants to make. So the bodega has undergone a transformation to turn it into a modern participant in the new `Terres de Alforins´wine route as well as aiding in the education of new wine-drinkers. The bodega now enjoys a developing wine-experience for visitors. A trip down into the cellars is in fact a walk through the old deposits, knocked through, with each containing part of an exhibition which covers the history since the 1950´s with artefacts from each of the Antonio´s periods of control.

In another of the `trullos´( former deposits) visitors can take a bottle from the shop upstairs,  open it and drink it in a quiet space and there is a larger room where at the weekend when the equipment is working, bigger groups can be accommodated. There is also an art-gallery ( currently exhibiting `Palindroms´).

`Trullo´ Opened up to Enjoy Wine.

`Trullo´ Opened up to Enjoy Wine.

Art is a favourite of Toni´s being one example of culture, like wine, and he is happy to link his new wines, particularly the Mala Vida Tinto with cultural events.

Upstairs the bodega has a large warehouse where stainless steel deposits sit cheek by jowl with palettes of wines waiting to be delivered and bottles waiting to be filled! There is also a new area with deposits and separately a bottling line with the biggest selection of rolls of labels I have ever seen.

This is part of Toni´s ongoing problem, combining four bodegas into one is not easy with differing floor levels etc, and indeed the bodega is not really big enough for the production. Toni already has to borrow space for fermentation and barrels from other local bodegas.

However he is clearly not put off by the problems. The seven-year plan for the bodega has seen the target for year five reached after just three years and the whole project should be complete in another two….two years ahead of schedule! Toni´s team is also modern its outlook. Each employee now undergoes training in a specialism so that the office staff are IT literate and speak foreign languages, the warehouse-man is an expert in his field and in security issues etc. In this way everyone contributes to the development of the bodega.

Bottling for Export to Russia.

Bottling for Export to Russia.

Perhaps the biggest change however has been in the wines.

The vino de mesas are still sold, El Ramblar and Don Leon. The Casas de Herencia from the `traditional´ range was in evidence in the shop along with a Moscatel but the bodega today is best known in Valencia for the new wines.

Mala Vida, a tinto even has its own Facebook page. The wine´s label is catchy with its youthful themes of new technology, travel, music etc it appeals to younger drinkers where Toni believes the future lies. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon , Syrah and Monastrell and eight months crianza in French and American oak it is a very easy drinker, a fun wine. New wines may well join this range.

A2 is named after the two Antonio´s, father and son. The range includes four wines first of which is  a cava (made for them at UVÉ in Requena as the bodega is well outside the DO). Around 80% Macabeo  and 20% Chardonnay it is a wine for aperitifs but can be drunk  throughout the meal.

The white is a blend of 80% Verdil with the balance being a Moscatel and Malvasia. The result is a fresh wine, with hints of white flowers, acacia, lilac and orange blossom. In the mouth it is full, unctuous even,  but has a perfect balancing acidity with good fruit flavours.

A2 Range.

A2 Range.

There is also a syrah, cherry red, with thick legs. On the nose, fruity, strawberries and blackcurrant and in the mouth smooth, good body, round, well-balanced with a long jammy finish.

The second A2 red is Monastrell, the local red variety. Also a deep black cherry with long legs, on the nose black fruits, with chocolate and oak. In the mouth very full, very fruity, balanced with a full and very full finish of black fruit.

Newer is the Lagares range. Two wines currently are produced. The first is a crianza 2009, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and takes its name from the old tank in which grapes were trodden. It has had thirteen months in French and American Oak. The second is a reserva from 2007, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell and Syrah with 17 months in oak and 20 months in the bottle.

Mala Vida T-Shirt.

Mala Vida T-Shirt.

The bodega also have a pair of wines named for the painter Eduardo Bermejo, wines which are a collaboration between Toni, Eduardo and Pedro Calabuig of Pequeñas Bodegas de Levante who export it. The white is a 2011, blend of Moscatel and other varieties.  The red is a Tempranillo 2010 Barrica.

I am looking forward to tasting these four wines very soon!

Finally Toni has produced a white from Monastrell which was premiered at the Noche del Vino in mid-June in the Botanic gardens in Valencia. Not only has this wine won  the Els Bodeguers tasting but it, and most of Toni´s other wines are highly rated with points in the early nineties in the Guia Penin.

The bodega has some new lines to introduce, a new web-site is being designed and the logo is being changed. None of which I suspect will detract from this excellent bodegas progress and quality wines. Definitely one to watch!

With Toni in the Cellars.

With Toni in the Cellars.

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