The Great Bobal Taste-Off




As I explained in last week’s article (still available click Cork Talk) my inspiration for the idea of a ‘taste-off’ between the highest ranking wines made with the indigenous grape variety, Bobal, in the Valencia Community came from Bodegas Dominio de la Vega and their excellent Arte Mayor wine.


All accepted wines had to be 90+ pointers in the Peñin Guide and all must have been made either with 100% Bobal, or at least 80%. DO Utiel-Requena and DO Manchuela provided the bulk of the wines but there was also an entry from Pago el Terrerazo (and what an entry!). Plus, one of those currently under the auspices of DO Utiel-Requena is about to be elevated to Vinos de Pago status!


All the wines were soon in my Cave Vinum (specialist wine store) resting after their journey and, over a period of time, each wine was decanted and tasted. The Great Bobal Taste-Off had begun!


However it soon became apparent to me that with wines of this pedigree it wasn’t going to be fair to place one above another. This of course is almost contrary to the concept of wine competitions where wines compete against each other to be named ‘best in show’, as it were!


The way that the competitions manage to circumvent this problem is by awarding medals, Gold, Silver and Bronze so that there are many wines entered that are thus awarded and considered to be of a similarly high standard to others within the medal band. Often there will be one wine which is given the absolute top spot, the first amongst almost equals!


All wines submitted for The Great Bobal Taste-Off were excellent wines, and I believe, certain medal winners in the three top wine competitions of the world, should they be entered (one of which, the International Wine and Spirits Competition, sees me as one of their judges)!


So I’m not sitting on the fence, fudging, when I place all of the entries in that top medal bracket – Gold! They all deserve that sort of recognition.


It also became apparent that, with this selection of top Bobal wines, there are also horses for courses. One, for example, is pure pleasure in a bottle for drinking right now – I loved it; another was one whose subtlety caused it to change in the passing of a mouthful; another whose complexity and depth will best be appreciated in a few (several?) years time. And so on.


So, remembering Arte Mayor above, which certainly earns a Cork Talk Gold, the wines in The Great Bobal Taste-Off are as follows:


Casa Don Angel from Bodegas Vera de Estenas (the bodega that is about to be placed in the category, Vinos de Pago) was sent to me with a hand-written label as it was a matter of only a few days before all the limited production of this flagship wine was to be bottled and released on to the market.


It is a classic Bobal wine crafted with loving care by my friend Felix who has managed to embody not only the natural characteristics of the variety, but also a sense of place too. Made from grapes, twice selected from 100+ years old vines, the wine has been aged for a total of 18 months in American and French oak – for added depth of flavour and complexity.


Classic black cherry notes are complemented by peppery spice, a slight cinnamon nuance and a certain terroir-led minerality. In the mouth it is rich and full and yet elegant too. Its 93 Peñin points puts it firmly in Gold Medal position, which is confirmed by its listing in the Proensa Guide’s 500 Best Wines in Spain!


Another wine that features in Proensa, and that is given 91 Peñin points, is the delightful, immediately accessible extremely fruit-driven Cerrogallina from Cerrogallina, whose red and black hooped foil and emblematic label also make it stand out from the crowd.


This wine is made from 90 years old vines whose yield is a stingy half a kilo per vine! These super rich grapes undergo selection in the vineyard where only those passing muster are picked to go to the bodega for further stringent selection. Only the best are used for this lovely wine.


Black Cherry, Blackcurrant and blackberry fruit fill the mouth with flavour, which is backed up with integrated French oak following its 18 month crianza. There’s an understated earthy element to the wine, which again speaks of its terroir and the finish is long, very fruity and an absolute delight!


There’s more to come re The Great Bobal Taste-Off in next week’s Cork Talk! You must try these wines!


Contact Colin: and through his unique website and via Twitter @colinonwine





Are you sitting in comfortably? Then I’ll begin!


Now if you remember that, you must be of a certain age. I do, and I still love a good story. Hope the same applies to you, because here’s one coming up:


The Romans were in most places known to man over two thousand years ago, including Spain. The area we now call Valencia didn’t escape their attention. They came, saw, conquered – and stayed. Well why wouldn’t they? The verdant land, the rivers (there was some water in them in those days!), the natural harbour, and hey the beach as well – I’m sure bronzies were popular at their orgies too! (I’m using poetic license here to sex-up the story a bit, okay?).


Of course not all Romans were soldiers. The new lands their soldiers had expropriated were populated by all manner of regular Romans and their families who caught the next galleon-ferry. Among them were farmers, their seeds and of course their animals. One such species was called Bovis – Latin for Ox. Bou, the Valenciano word now for ‘bull’ has its roots in the Latin name.


Oxen had to be grazed and the area where the Roman Bovis grazed was called the Bovalar – figures doesn’t it? However, rain was also in short supply in those days so these pastures where the oxen grazed had to be huge in order to support the number of animals using it.


Then, guess what – the Roman Empire fell, society followed suit, population decreased, any remaining oxen were slaughtered by the people left, and vast swathes of land were left unattended. Nature took over some trees grew and, yes, so did some grapes!


Survivors went into the forests and found vitis vinifera, the common grape vine. They dug up the vines and replanted them in the areas which had previously been known as Bovalares. Over time this particular vitis vinifera developed into a variety, commonly known as Boval, which over time and with the Valenciano and Castellano ‘v/b’ confusion was corrupted into the word Bobal!


The Bobal grape is indigenous to the Valencia area – and now you know why! It’s the mainstay variety of DO Utiel-Requena and of DO Manchuela and is also used in Valencia as well as, to a lesser extent, in Alicante.


Now for an acknowledgement re the source of the above story, and the source of some of the best Bobal wine available – my philosopher/traveller/Photographer/winemaker friend Alvaro Faubel, one of the founding  Directors of Bodegas Dominio de la Vega!


Arte Mayor 111 from Bodegas Dominio de la Vega is the wine that inspired me to write this article and its sequel. If Bobal tastes this good, and it certainly does, the good readers of ARTE MAYOR BOBALCork Talk need to know about it! Thus a concept was born – a taste-off between wines made with Bobal coming from various bodegas in DO Utiel-Requena and DO Manchuela.


Only wines gaining 90+ points in Spain’s most comprehensive wine guide, Guía Peñin (available in English and really well-worth investing in, if you are at all interested in Spanish Wines). Also, only wines described as Bobal  would be included  (remember, though that the rule in Spain is that a wine that has, I think, 80%+ of one variety can call itself by that variety’s name, despite there perhaps being some other varieties in the blend).


At a very impressive 93 Peñin Points, Domino de la Vega’s unique wine certainly satisfies all the criteria. Unusually, this wine is made from three different vintages of Bobal, 2005, ’06 and ’07 – all the grapes were picked by hand, and at night, from the 80+ years old vines. The earlier vintages were kept in waiting until the final 2007 was fermented and, like the others, aged in French oak for an average of fourteen months.


The wine is sensational, in every way! On the nose there are mineral notes aiding and abetting black cherry, wild herbs and flowers, with some black pepper and smoky cinnamon spice mingling too. On the palate it has a weighty, rich presence and yet it is perfectly balanced and elegant. The black cherry is prominent amongst some notable dark, brambly fruit and there’s a final flourish of blackcurrant liqueur!


So, an excellent start for The Great Bobal Taste-Off – watch this space; and drink this wine!


PS Just a few places remaining for our Wine/Food pairing evening at , Javea’s super Monsoon Thai Restaurant. Don’t let people tell you that lager suits Thai cuisine – we’ve found some excellent Spanish wine matches for the five courses and I can’t wait! Please call me on 629 388 159 or e-mail me to reserve your places. Or call into Monsoon and book. It’s only 25€ for a super-tasty evening!



Contact Colin: and  and, via Twitter, @colinonwine