BOBAL – NOT LOST IN TRANSLATION!
THE GREAT BOBAL TASTE-OFF – PART ONE!
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 Cork 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!