36 Enthusiastic members joined the coach in Javea bright and early for the relatively short drive to Utiel Requena which is situated on the raised meseta to the west of Valencia. We last visited this area in 2016, and although that was quite a recent visit, we felt that the number of bodegas that are offering interesting and outstanding developments warranted another look.
Our first stop was at Viñedos y Bodegas Mustiguillo – Vino de Pago El Terrerazo, where we were greeted by Veronica. Created in 1999 by Toni Sarrión, Mustiguillo is situated in an old country house which has been refurbished to maintain the original charm and take advantage of the cellars and ageing room where the temperature is the same throughout the year.
Toni practices 100% organic viticulture, aware of the value of preserving the flora and fauna of the estate. Old Bobal vines, which are bush trained and strictly not irrigated, are combined with the most modern techniques of cultivation. Toni’s story is not the typical one of a winemaker. He graduated in Business Management and Administration and worked for over a dozen years in various different sectors before deciding one day to leave everything and return to his native Requena and study Oenology and Viticulture.
“Our family had vineyards for a long time, but no one before paid them the attention they deserved”
We were fortunate to see the grapes arriving and the best grapes being selected by hand. Lower quality grapes would be sold to other local bodegas.
We tasted 3 wines here
Mestizaje Blanco 2017 €54 per case/6
Finca Calvestra 2018 €80 per case/6
Mestizaje Tinto 2017 €54 per case/6
All of the 3 bodegas we visited have Vino de Pago (DOP) status for some of their wines, meaning that they are outside the DO of Utiel Requena and producing wines which are unique and not constrained by the limits of the DO.
Our next visit was a short drive away to Pago de Tharsys
We first visited this Bodega with Tim Ladd in 2008 and a number of advances have been made since that time. The bodega is set around an old country house nestled within 12 hectares of organic vineyards where conditions are optimal to obtain the best grapes. Their flagship cavas and nocturnal harvesting have helped to make this one of the leading bodegas in the area.
We were welcomed by Rebecca, one of the family who provided us with a delicious tapas lunch beneath a shady pergola and who also generously opened rather more bottles for our members to taste than had been agreed. The result was that sales were brisk in the “Tienda”.
The wines we tasted were the following and we were offered a free bottle for every case purchased.
Millesime Rosado Cava 2015 13.80€
Tharsys Unico Brut Nature Reserva Cava 16.70€
Vendimia Nocturna Garnacha Rosado 2018 10.80€
Carlota Suria Organic Bobal 2017 9.60€
The photograph shows Cava bottles ageing in the cellars of Pago de Tharsys. Cavas from this region are becoming widely noted for their quality and value.
It was time to take the coach to our hotel in the old centre of Requena which can only be accessed on foot. Some of the group were in the Hotel la Villa whilst others stayed in Hotel Doña Anita on the opposite side of the square. A few hardy people went off in search of historic buildings whilst the majority took the opportunity for a little rest before the group dinner in Restaurante Meson la Villa just a few steps away across the square.
We all enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared and served by the friendly staff and overseen by the owner, Roberto. This was also another opportunity to taste wines from different bodegas in the region.
On the second morning we boarded the bus for the 1 hour drive to Cofrentes where we would board a tourist boat for a 90 minute tour along the river Júcar from the picturesque town of Cofrentes with its medieval castle towering on a rocky outcrop high above the river. We arrived just in time to catch the boat after a few members found themselves on an unexpected tour of Requena!
The boat trip was calm and relaxing following the busy day yesterday.
Back on the coach for the drive through picturesque countryside to Requena. Our last bodega was Bodega Vera de Estenas – Pago Vera Estenas where we were greeted by Eduardo, also from the family who had founded the bodega following the arrival in the area of Francisco Martinez Bermell who was forced to move his bulk wine exporting business from the Valencia city to this inland area.
Bodega Vera de Estenas became the leading bodega in the Valencian region in the cultivation of varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The founder bought the Casa de Don Angel, a modernist building dating from 1919 and it was from here that his pioneering spirit took flight and he developed his wine making, moving away from exporting by bulk and concentrating on improving the range of grape varieties and re-discovering the Bobal. This challenge has been taken up by his sons, particularly Felix Martinez who continues the work of making wines with their own personality whilst remaining faithful to the concept of innovation without losing the expression of the soils and land where they are growing
The old building is still very much a work in progress, but we were treated to a short visit to see the vines and also sample some of the tiny bobal grapes which were just arriving for sorting.
We tasted the following wines with the lunch.
La Tardana de Estenas, blanco 7€
El Bobal de Estenas, aged 4 months in clay 7€
Casa Don Angel Bobal 18€
Once again sales were brisk and the coach was well loaded down as we took our final group photograph and said our thanks to Eduardo and our goodbyes to the region of Utiel Requena.
Text by Sandy Fawle/Photographs Joan Easter