Situated along the eastern Mediterranean coast, many wine producers in the region have swiftly begun focusing on quality and are working hard to bring back the splendour and recognition the regions wines used to be known for, based on the distinctive character of its native, traditional grapes.
During the 15th century, Valencia enjoyed prosperity due in large part to its very important maritime port. The region was famous for producing very high-quality wines. Those coming from the Alicante area were particularly prized. But then, with America’s exploration, the economic boom shifted to the Atlantic coast, and the region's economic boom slowly declined.
During the phylloxera crisis, (which hit Spain later than the rest of Europe) Valencia began supplying wine to France and other European wine regions to help fill their wine shortage. When the region was finally overrun by the louse, in 1907, vineyards were replanted with native grapes (Bobal, Monastrell and Tempranillo) but for the most part the region focussed on the production of large-scale bulk wine.
Winds of change started to blow through the region with funds coming from the EU in the 1990s, which brought investments and modernization to wineries. From there and in the last few decades, wines from Valencia began showing the world a new and impressive identity, based on the versatility and distinctive character of both the Bobal and Monastrell grapes.
Climate: some keys for high-quality grapes
Generally speaking, the climate in Valencia is Mediterranean. But there’s a marked difference between the coast, where temperatures are more uniform due to sea breezes, and the inland areas, where vineyards are subject to continental influences and wider seasonal and diurnal temperature swings. This is where the best wine producing areas are located, also benefiting from the cooling influence of considerable elevation (two mountain ranges are situated in the area).
Signature grapes: the distinctive character of Bobal and Monastrell
Traditionally Bobal was only used as a blending grape. But it has been rediscovered and it’s currently playing a main role, crafting exciting, high-quality varietal wines. The wines are deep-coloured and full-bodied with supple tannins and at times the wines are produced with carbonic maceration techniques.
Sometimes the Monastrell wines are blended with Garnacha Tintorera for improved balance and complexity. It’s made in two styles: full-bodied dry wines, and traditional late-harvest sweet wines (Fondillón). The Moscatel de Alejandría white grape is used to craft “Moscatel de Valencia”, a traditional white wine.
DOP Alicante: the multiple faces of Monastrell
Once one of the most popular wines in Spain, wines from Alicante DOP are currently being rediscovered, with are renewed focus back on terroir and the Monastrells potential. 68% of the production here is red wine, with 75% of all plantings being Monastrell. This grape is predominantly planted inland (Vinalopó area), resulting in a more concentrated, meatier character, with deep colours and high levels of alcohol.
When grown in the tempered areas near the coast, it results in fresher, fruity wines, with medium colour and softer tannins. All red wines in this DOP are required to contain a minimum of 80% Monastrell. Fondillón is a hidden gem, a traditional late-harvest, sweet, non-fortified, oxidative-style wine from this area. It’s made from over-ripe Monastrell grapes, though only in years with long, dry summers, as it must naturally reach a minimum alcohol level of 16%
It’s intentionally subject to a long oxidative ageing (minimum 10 years) in a solera system, in large old casks. The best examples are capable of ageing for more than a century. At present only eight estates are producing Fondillón. A white wine worth mentioning is the Moscatel from the La Marina coastal area, made from Moscatel de Alejandría grape.
DOP Utiel-Requena: Bobal territory
This is the largest and most inland DOP in Valencia, and takes its name from the two towns of Utiel and Requena. The climate is continental with a Mediterranean influence, with vineyards rising to between 600 and 900 metres of altitude.
More than half of the vineyard land is older than 40 years, with some plantings dating from early 1900s. This DOP is mainly about red wines (accounting for 78% of production), with indigenous Bobal as the signature grape. Typically, a varietal Bobal wine displays red berries and fresh herb aromas, with crisp acidity and moderate levels of alcohol and tannins. A lighter and slightly more refreshing wine than the Monastrell.
It is also worth mentioning the sparkling wines from the Requena town are allowed to be labelled as DOP Cava, as it’s one of the Spanish municipalities included in that multi-regional appellation.
Doble pasta: concentrating Bobal’s essence
The area is renowned for a blending technique called “doble pasta”, which helps to produce more intense wines. It involves fermenting Bobal grapes with leftover skins after the juice from a previous batch of grapes has been run off and used in the making of rosé wines. This 'double maceration' results in higher extract and so more vibrant colour and tannins.
Pure, varietal expressions of fruity Bobal (concentrated by the unique “doble pasta” method) and powerful Monastrell wines. Old vines from as late back as the 1990s being used by some producers. Exceptional value wines. And traditional “Fondillón” as the most concentrated and sweet expression of Monastrell: a hidden gem.What are the most popular grape varieties in Valencia?
The region’s signature grapes are indigenous Bobal (DO Utiel-Requena) and Monastrell (DO Alicante). Moscatel de Alejandría is used for traditional aromatic whites.What types of food works well with wines from Valencia?
Monastrell full-bodied reds pair well with grilled red meat dishes, roasted lamb, game stews, charcuterie. Bobal fruity and crisp wines: roasted chicken and vegetables. Moroccan lamb tagine. Or local traditional “paella valenciana” (rice cooked with chicken, rabbit and beans).