Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A Tasting for Bloggers, in Utiel (Valencia)

Last Wednesday 7th April I drove 300 km for a wine tasting, and 300 km back to Madrid! It was in Utiel (Valencia) where they specialize in the Bobal grape variety.

Organized by Catavino.es and the Denominación de Origen (DO) de Utiel-Requena

I was a crazy thing to do really and if I were a ‘sensible’ person I wouldn’t have gone. Firstly, I was really tired that day as the night before I was up really late, working hard at networking in a winebar (ie, drinking wine and chatting!) in the Malasaña district of Madrid. Secondly, even though the Bobal variety is interesting, I don’t see myself growing it up here in Madrid. Thirdly, I allowed my arm to be painfully twisted by wine-blogger Ignacio Segovia (http://www.vendervino.com/) who convinced me of the utmost importance of participating in this event, and who offered to pick me up in Madrid and drop me off at home. How could I refuse?

Well, we set off in good time. We had arranged to meet in the Plaza Alonso Martínez at 4 o’clock, which would give us 3 hrs to drive the 290 km to Utiel. Even though I’ve been living in Spain for almost 20 years, I’ve been unable to integrate completely into Spanish society because I just can’t lose this British punctuality thing I have! So I duly arrive at 5 to 4, and imagine my shock/horror/surprise at seeing Ignacio already there waiting for me! It was the first time that had happened to me in 20 years of meeting Spaniards, who usually turn up 20-30 minutes late! As we were clearing this incident up (I demanded an explanation, and it turned out that he had made a mistake and had arrived early quite unintentionally!) we managed to take a wrong turning and found ourselves heading towards Burgos (north) instead of towards Valencia (south-east).

Anyway, we made up lost time and at 3 mins to 7 we were driving into Utiel (a biggish village with about 12,000 inhabitants), and with the aid of Ignacio’s ‘Navigator’ (Tom-Tom) it directed us straight to the address of the tasting. Impressive.

The tasting was at Bodega Redonda, the HQ of the DO Utiel-Requena. It’s a circular winery, built in 1891 and designed by the Valncian arquitect Demetrio Ribes – a student of Gustave Eiffel. Really nice setting for a tasting. Downstairs there’s a wine museum, but we didn’t have time to see it.

Juan Manuel Gonzalvo (right, from Catavino.es)
and the President of the DO Utiel-Rquena (left)

There were about 20 bodegas, about 16 of which had exclusively Bobal, either young or aged in oak. The remaining few had Bobal blended with another variety, and there was one white wine made with a rather uncommon variety called ‘Tardana’, an autochthonous variety from the Valencia region, and also known as ‘Planta Nova’ and ‘Tortozón’. It is a late-ripening variety, hence the name Tardana (tarde = late, in Spanish).

The tasting table (20 bodegas approx)

I’m not an experienced wine-taster so I’m not going to attempt to provide tasting notes here. I’ll just say that I was really impressed and surprised by the quality of all the wines we tried. Bobal (like Airén) has a bit of a bad reputation as far as quality is concerned because historically it was used for blending or for making table-wine, as opposed to quality wine in its own right.

The Utiel-Requena DO is working hard to promote its quality Bobal wines and I wish the all the best. It’s well worth trying this wine, if you can get your hands on it.

Here are some English language links:

1. General article, nanes of 20 bodegas and their wines, plus brief tasting notes:


2. Zev Robinson, artist, blogger and film-maker has made a documentary on the history and current situation of the Bobal grape variety:

3. And from wine-taster and connosseur, Richard Wigley:


There are many more Spanish language links, with photos, videos and detailed comments. See the Spanish verion of this blog if you are interested.

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