I’m writing this on the final day of the debate in the Cataluñian Parliament which will determine if the autonomous regional government goes ahead and declares independence from Spain. This is also the day that the Spanish Senate meets to discuss a plan by the Madrid government to take away some of that autonomy, thereby quashing any such move.
Unlike me, now writing this article, you are reading it several days later, therefore, with the knowledge of what transpired. Taking no side, I can only hope that a peaceful solution is found.
This hope for calm also applies to those involved in today’s article. It’s not of such a serious nature, but nevertheless there are those becomin g a little hot under the collar!
And, yes, you may be wondering if you are reading ‘Cork Talk’, the Costa News’ dedicated wine column, considering such a politically charged opening. Well, it seems that politics have also entered the realm (no pun intended!) of Spanish wine.
In what seems to be a proposed colonial style move, the reverse of the separatist intentions of the Government of Cataluña, DO Valencia has laid claims to the vineyards of DO Alicante and of DO Utiel Requena! At first glance, I find it as ridiculous as it is outrageous.
In order for a wine producing area to gain recognition as a Denominación de Origen it has to satisfy many requirements and then present its case to the Spanish Government’s Ministry of Agriculture for a decision. It’s the same for all other food products – there are DOs for Cheese, Oils, Hams, Sausages etc.
Regarding wine, one of the requirements is that there must be proof that the wines of the area in question are distinct from others in the same zone, with different soils, climates and more. In 1957 wine makers, independently and coincidentally, in Valencia, Utiel-Requena and Alicante convinced the Government that they should all be granted DO status. Therefore, in that year three different entities were created: DO Valencia; DO Utiel-Requena; and DO Alicante.
That’s sixty years of coexistence and as far as I’m aware, having lived here for twenty – that’s three score years of harmony! Each DO has, of course, promoted itself, but this has never, to my knowledge, been to the deliberate detriment of the others. I’ve never heard any ‘bad-mouthing’ and don’t expect to either. Wine-makers the world over are aware of the many difficulties they each have to surmount in order to perfect their craft – the weather, of course, and also, tragically recently, the dreadful fires, for example!
So why has DO Valencia seemingly put a pair of secateurs in the works?
For clarification and to canvas opinion I contacted representatives of DO Utiel-Requena and also of DO Alicante, whose beliefs, of course, must be considered to be subjective. For an independent assessment I also had some excellent feedback from one of the two new Spanish Masters of Wine, Fernando Mora MW, who was kind enough to give his valuable time.
Clearly, in the interest of balance, I needed to seek the views (also, subjective) of those in DO Valencia – you’ll remember my comment above, ‘at first glance’!
DO Alicante confirmed that they are fighting vigorously, through the courts and the Government, against what they consider to be a potential violation of their independence. They also said that they had had some good news, but were hoping for more, of course. In August they received notification from the Agriculture Conselleria advising that the new ‘articles’ for DO Valencia did not include any reference to the production area of DO Alicante.
A spokesperson from DO Utiel-Requena said that they too are fighting this intrusion adding that in his view DO Valencia are trying to take over their lands in order to satisfy the demand for DO Valencia wines, a demand that cannot be met by their current vineyards. A remark which again made me think of the concept of colonialism!
TWO SIDES TO A STORY!
Señor Fernando Mora MW (http://bodegasfrontonio.com/en/the-team/) was most helpful when I asked him his opinion about the apparent attempt by DO Valencia to list the vineyards of DOs Alicante and Utiel-Requena as theirs. He also explains that, if this were to go ahead, it would be similar to the generic AOC Bordeaux, a large area where wines can be labelled ‘Bordeaux’ but are considered lesser wines than those from the famous areas within, such as AOC Pomerol et al.
He goes on to say that in this case DO Valencia would also be like DO Catalunya, which is a large area that takes in all of the current DOs
(Penedés, Tarragona, Montsant, Cava etc), which continue to work independently, as well as some smaller municipalities that make wine as well.
Señor Mora MW ends by noting that for every bottle of wine that has a DO name on the label, the DO receives 1€!
So, over to DO Valencia!
Apparently, it was in fact DO Utiel-Requena in 1995 and DO Alicante in 2001 who asked if their vineyards could be listed under DO Valencia. This, I am told, is because, at that time, they were not able to fullfil the requirement that in order to be a DO, 50% of production has to be ‘commercialised’. I am also told that this is still the case today. The figures I have been quoted, if accurate, do confirm this.
DO Valencia advised that these other two DOs within the geographical area of Valencia in 2011 petitioned the courts against something that they had earlier sought, and been given (in 1995 & 2001 respectively), and denounced DO Valencia at the same time! The courts decided in favour of DO Valencia.
Recently the two DOs Alicante and Utiel-Requena, working in tandem, have appealed to the Tribunal. We are all awaiting the outcome – the case continues!
Confused? So am I, and I’m left wondering if it is really Much Ado About Nothing!
Essentially, DO Valencia insists that it is not they who wish to change things. Since 1995 and 2001 respectively the vineyard areas of DOs Utiel-Requena and Alicante have officially been part of DO Valencia.
Also as mentioned last week, it is not unusual for a larger geographical area to have an overall DO, but include within it, other smaller DOs. There is ‘previous’:
Bordeaux is mentioned above, but also there is generic Burgundy wine, as well as the famous smaller AOCs within. DO Vinho do Porto and DO Vinho do Douro share exactly the same geographical area in Portugal. In Spain, DO Uclés shares its whole territory with DO La Mancha. The similar situation in Cataluña was mentioned last week and, much nearer to home, Requena, the village, is included in DO Utiel-Requena as well as in DO Cava and DO Valencia!
Well, for me, the importance is that each area of production is allowed to keep its own wine identity, no matter what it is actually called. I’ve written admiringly many times about wines from all three DOs, for example:
The wonderful whites only of Clos Cor Vi, and the super reds and whites, with the occasional rosado thrown in, of all 12 or 13 bodegas within the Terres dels Alforins group – to name but a few, all DO Valencia!
The outstanding wines of my friend Felix at Bodegas Vera de Estenas; also those making all the headlines at the moment from Bodegas Hispano Suizas; and the Dominio de la Vega portfolio – again, but a few, this time from DO Utiel-Requena!
And who can forget any of the wines made by Pepe Mendoza at the winery his father Enrique started; also, at 95 Peñin points El Sequé (soon to be the subject of Cork Talk!); plus Bodegas Casa Sicilia, Sierra Norte, Nodus et al – from DO Alicante.
My advice to the three DOs in this present conflict is that they read my archived article ‘DO’s Demise In Spain’ – and then please stop bickering and get on with what you all do so very well!
PS We have a few seats left for our 2017’s final Musical Dinner with Paired Wines, Saturday 25th November at Moraira’s Bella Dama Restaurant, Club Nautico. Four courses each paired with a different, fine wine, plus the beautiful music of Claire-Marie (www.clairemarie.es) – all for just 40€! Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 629 388 159 to reserve your places!