BODEGAS VERA DE ESTANAS
The close proximity of the, originally Roman Road, along which Napoleon marched his troops until they were ultimately routed and sent packing to retrace their steps; along with the modern vestiges of the nearby Madrid/Valencia Autopista, seem to be a thousand miles or so from the Umbrian-esque Cyprus Tree surrounded ornate Villa that is Casa Don Angel in and around which is located Bodegas Vera de Estanas.
The tranquillity of the grounds and, out of wine-making season, the hushed atmosphere of the finca as well as the perfectly tended vineyards that surround the property would seduce any investor into the life of a country wine-maker.
Behind the scenes however it’s a different matter as my friend Felix Martinez will tell you – if he can find the time! The family estate and wine-making enterprise was handed to Felix some years ago, in a delightfully bucolic state. Well that’s the romantic version of the story. The fact is that Felix and those working with him have seen blood, sweat and tears equally measured with the smiles of delight and the honour and plaudits of success that have been a part of the renaissance of this top DO Utiel-Requena bodega.
The continuing hard work plus the stress of the ups and downs of such a business have paid off, however, as I’m delighted to report that from the coming August Bodegas Vera de Estanas will officially be elevated to the higher status of Vinos de Pago (D.O.P.). This is a status given to wineries “on the grounds of unique micro-climatic features and proven evidence of consistent high quality over the years, with the goal to produce wines of sheer singularity.”
I first met Felix several years ago when he invited me to his estate to taste the wines. Although I’ve not be available to visit as often as I would have liked, I’ve certainly been a consistent consumer of his wines whenever I’ve seen them. I remember, for example, the planting of the skinny fledgling vines that are now responsible for some of the best Malbec in Spain! And I’ve seen his portfolio of wines expand and gain medals in national and international wine competitions!
I’m currently researching an article (watch this space) on the fascinating native variety Bobal and needed some of the best examples for tasting. I knew that one of them would be Felix’s Casa Don Ángel 100% Bobal before I consulted Guía Proensa and Guía Peñin, so I e-mailed for a sample bottle.
In fact it came with two other wines – the super aforementioned Malbec, as well as his Martinez Bermell Merlot 2012 Fermentado en Barrica.
The latter wine is one of a style that I particularly favour. A wine that has been fermented in barrel and then left in situ to age a little longer often has flavour distinct from those that have been fermented in stainless steel and then placed in barrel. The oak influence is almost symbiotic, it’s there, but subtly so.
New oak was used for the Martinez Bermell Merlot, which adds depth and some complexity making this young lush, fruit driven, deeply coloured wine one for enjoying on its own with friends and family, as well as with a meat, light and darker meats. You’ll find a touch of stony minerality and faint earthy aroma along with herbs to complement the pronounced plum and damson fruit and a slight lick of vanilla.
Casa Don Ángel Malbec 7 – 8, has a note on the label telling us that it is a Vino de Finca, Expresión de Terruña. A brief look at the back label will reveal that this is not a DO Utiel-Requena wine, but a Vino de la Mesa, a table wine! Regular readers will not be discouraged by such information.
Once considered to be the sign of an also-ran wine, the epithet ‘Vino de la Mesa’, these days, can be an entirely different animal – as it certainly is here! A wine produced within a DO area, that does not comply with the DO rules, cannot be given the DO seal of approval, and must be called instead, a ‘table wine’. A wine-maker who wants to stamp his personality on his creation will risk his wine being ostracised as he is confident that, rules or no rules, the wine is real quality!
My guess is that it is the ‘7 – 8’ on the label here that is the sticking point; and that the 7 – 8 means that this wine is a blend of wines made from the 2007 and 2008 vintages, which will probably be contrary to the DO Rules.
Well don’t worry about it! The wine is excellent, the best Spanish Malbec I’ve tasted! It has depth and complexity, bags of fruit, power combined with elegance and is a riot of aromas and flavours. Buy it by the case (www.estenas.es), it’s drinking perfectly now and has the necessary attributes to age still!
And the 100% Bobal? Well, you’ll have to wait until the ‘Great Bobal Taste-Off’ article – coming soon!