Tag Archives: Bobal Blanca

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.

 

 

 

 

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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