These three wines are from an ambitious producers in one of Spain’s lesser known wine regions, Utiel-Requena. There is a lot of history here. Back as far ago as the fifth century BC, the locals trod grapes into basins carved into rock (this seems to have been quite common in Spain), and the juice released would then have been fermented in amphorae known as Tinajas. Located in the province of Valencia, this is a sizeable region, with 34 000 hectares of vines (shared around 6000 growers, although there are only around 100 wineries in the district). The climate is continental, with hot, dry summers during which it rains very little, and Bobal, a red grape, is the most widely planted. With interesting soils and plenty of old vineyards, this is prime territory for making interesting wines, and this is what Bodegas Vegalfaro are doing from their 60 hectares of organically farmed vines. I tried these three wines, and found plenty to like about them.
Bodegas Vegalfaro Pago de los Balagueses Las Pillas 2015 Vino de Pago Les Balagueses, Utiel-Tequena, Spain
Las Pilillas is a blend of Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera grapes grown in the highest altitude sites of the Pago de Los Balagueses vineyard, and is one of only seventeen legally certified Vino de Pago DOPs in Spain to date. The estate is situated within walking distance of the Solano de Las Pilillas, a historic site and candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status, where ancient Iberians crafted wine as early as the 7th century BC. It spends 10 months in 1000 litre French oak foudres. This is a dense, ripe, intense, sweetly fruited wine. It shows a faint hint of mint, with a little sweet, spicy, cedary oak, and lots of lush blackberry and cherry fruit. On the finish there are notes of spice and tar, with a real warmth to it, and a slight baked character. This is a rich, structured, ripe wine with potential for development. It’s made in a very rich, ripe style. 91/100
Pago de los Balagueses Garnacha Tintorera 2016 Vino de Pago Les Balagueses, Utiel-Requena, Spain
15% alcohol. Organically farmed single vineyard that has been cultivated for a long time: wine was made here more than a thousand years ago. Made from the teinturier Alicante Bouschet (known here as Garnacha Tintorera), this is ripe, dense and structured, with grippy tannins underlying sleek yet fresh blackberry and black cherry fruit. It’s modern without being over-ripe, showing good definition and structure. There’s some oak in the mix, but overall this is a well made, ageworthy wine of good intensity, and it needs a bit of time to reach a harmonious maturity. 92/100
Caprasia Bobal Ánfora 2015 Utiel-Requena, Spain
14.5% alcohol. Pre-ferment maceration and low temperature fermentation in tank, and then aged for 14 months in European oak (French-Hungarian-Romanian). Then partially aged for 5 months in 150 liter amphora. This is ripe, dense and quite grainy with nice, sweet, taut gravelly black cherry and berry fruits. It has a bit of oak, but also a nice grainy, stony quality. Would love to see this picked a bit earlier and fermented in amphora! A nice wine, but in quite a conventional, ripe style. 89/100
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