A Visit to Finca San Blas……Oasis of Peace!


Finca San Blas

Finca San Blas

 

As you skirt around the edge of Requena on the old N322, the City to your right, you pass some old warehouses, a couple of restaurants and a log and coal yard to your left. The service road beside you could easily be ignored but this is the entrance to an earthly paradise!

This is the way out-of-town on a country road, past a now disused medieval stone bridge over the River Magro ( or Oleana), an old rural road that takes you over the Collado de la Calera and on to the hamlet of El Ponton.

Blink and you could easily miss the entrance to the private drive which runs out towards Finca San Blas, past fields with neat hay bales in manicured fields one side and neatly trained vines on the other down the `vega´  of the river. Then a sharp turn in the track leads across the river to a steep rising slope where atop the bodega can just be seen. The city of Requena can be seen perched on its hill-top in the background.

Nestled in a natural valley between bands of pines  the bodega looks old but is in fact very modern and benefits from natural shade and breezes blowing through between the trees.

Finca San Blas.

Finca San Blas.

 

Historically the property has been in the hands of various noble families, notably the Plegamans and the Marques de Caro but in-between it was the hermitage of San Blas, still there today, and the site of the first Carmelite convent in Spain. In those days it was known as the Labor del Almadeque. Today it is under the technical directorship of Nicolas Sanchéz and managed by Antonio Zahonero and son Toni.

Computer Control!

Computer Control!

The bodega is not open other than by private appointment, nor is it a bodega whose wines are generally known either in the area or in Valencia. It was Antonio senior who met me and gave me a tour of the facility, a comprehensive tasting and then a tour of the extensive finca, its vineyards, cereal fields and olive grove. You enter through a big door into a cool reception vestibule which could be the entrance hall of any local house with several un-prepossessing doors leading off. One takes you through straight into the fermentation hall with huge tanks filling the space from floor to ceiling, a reception area for the grapes where hand selection is the order of the day. Here long slow maceration is the bodega´s  practice. Interestingly these large tanks contain other clients wines, notably for the Ribero del Duero.  The bodega only uses small 10k litre tanks for its own limited production.

In white they produce wines from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merseguera, Viognier and Pinot Noir. In red Syrah, Merlot, Bobal, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon go into the four wines. But the vineyard also contains other varieties for experimental purposes and for example they also have a small parcel of Bobal Blanca.

Another door leads into an office where a computer controls the temperature of each of the tanks.  In fact this facility dates back only to 2000 and it is little wonder the bodega is not covered by guides to the area!

At the other end of the fermentation area another door gives access to a corridor with large cone deposits and barrels, all French oak and then on to the barrel park and the room where the crianza and reserva ageing process takes place. Upstairs from here is the bottling line and store-room from which, once the ageing process is completed, the bottles are despatched. However, some of the bottles will wait at least five years whilst the wine rounds off before exportation to the UK and other parts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia where mature wine is much more appreciated!

The Lawn.

The Lawn.

At the other end of this top floor is the `sala de catas´ overlooking the manicured lawn with its copper beeches. Here we sat down to taste four of the six wines the bodega produces.

First was a white, Conveniencia 2012, 70% Chardonnay with 30% Chenin Blanc and 12.5%ABV. The grapes for this wine grow closest to the `rambla´ which the riverbed is today. During the morning they receive full sun but the shade from the trees takes over in the afternoon allowing for slower ripening and less stressed vines. Nicolas Sanchéz believes that Chardonnay lacks a bit of acidity and the addition of Chenin Blanc deals with this. The wine is a very pale lemon, clean and very bright. On the nose it is floral, creamy almost with fresh tropical fruit. In the mouth the combination of varieties gives a fresh fruity wine, pineapples, very smooth, with a wonderful dry long finish with hints of almonds. This is undoubtedly one of the best white wines I have tasted from the region….sadly production is limited to about 3000 bottles a year.

With Antonio Zahonero.

With Antonio Zahonero.

The second white still needs more time in bottle so we moved directly to the first red, Lomalta 2011, an equal blend of Merlot and Syrah with 14%ABV. This has had just three months in oak which is three years old, and is a good, cherry red, with good long legs. On the nose it is peppery with the spiky fruit of Syrah dominating whilst in the mouth there is a very easy pass across the palate, plenty of fruit, jam and a long fruity finish. This is a very easy drinker, a wine for sharing with friends and chatting over!

The Finca San Blas, Parcela las Hormas 2005 Crianza is a blend of 60% Tempranillo with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14%ABV. Its ageing has reduced the intensity of the colour from deep plum red to red with hints of a terracotta edge. Again it has long slow legs and on the nose is concentrated, blackcurrant, jam, hints of spice. In the mouth it too enjoys an easy pass across the palate, plenty of ripe fruit, silky tannins, very round and with a long full and creamy finish. This is a wine which shows that ageing is not something that detracts from a wine. Superb now it has a long life and at least there are about 20k bottles!

Wines at Finca San Blas.

Wines at Finca San Blas.

The Labor del Almadeque 2007, Reserva de la Familia is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance being Tempranillo, 14.5% ABV. From the Duende parcel of vines, the wine has had a 14 month crianza. A more youthful red with a carmine edge, very long legs. On the nose, green pepper, mature red fruits and balsamic and toasty notes from the oak. In the mouth very full, meaty, a round, long, fruity finish with very smooth tannins.  A big mouthful, this wine is phenomenal!

The care which goes into each wine is very evident in the tasting. Each comes from a single small parcel, allowing wine to be made which is consistent and without variation from plot to plot. The soil is generally very poor with lots of stone ( if parcels are over-productive they are grubbed up and something else planted there) and the wines all have one very light filtration. Each is very distinctive. All the wines are DO Utiel-Requena.

Following the tasting we toured the Finca and I could see how the vines were interspersed with parcels of cereals, often in valleys with bands of pine trees providing shade, the undulating countryside reminiscent of the Alpilles in Provence, with wild herbs very prevalent in the margins, thyme, rosemary, camomile and wild fennel all adding their scents to the air.

The bodega claims that they produce  `some of the best reds in the zone´. Clearly they are very highly prized in the Asian and Northern European markets. I can only agree and look forward to sharing some of these gems with a tasting group in September!

Oak Deposit at San Blas.

Oak Deposit at San Blas.

 

 

 

 

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