Bobal – How did this grape variety get its name?


You’ll remember the classic Monty Pythons sketch, I’m sure, though you might not have realised at the time that there is an oblique reference to the subject of today’s Cork Talk.


The Romans also came to Spain, bringing with them their aqueducts, sanitation etc and, unknowingly, would ultimately leave the enduring legacy of the Bobal grape variety! The story, in fact, isn’t so well documented – Wikipedia, will give you the vaguest reference to the Romans, without at all capturing the romance of the true story. For this, please visit, where you can scroll down a little and see it as I wrote it a few years ago!


Recently a select group of wine cognoscenti on the Costa Blanca attended a wine Masterclass whose somewhat grandiose title, ‘All You Need To Know About Bobal’, may, I admit, have been something of an exaggeration! But then, as a features journalist of 20+ years standing you might expect a little overstatement from me!

Not many people realise the versatility of this variety, indigenous to the Valencia region, where it is the darling grape of DO Utiel-Requena and DO Manchuela as well as being grown in DOs Valencia and Alicante too. Historically, Bobal had been used in blends. Prized for its deep colours and ripening certainty, in such areas, it has been exported to add a Spanish dimension to wines of Northern Europe.


But it is only in, perhaps the last decade, that Bobal has been recognised as a stand-alone variety with the necessary characteristics to make fine, red wine. And, there are a large number of producers who are using it for their flagship wines, often mono-varietals, as well as giving Bobal the lion’s share in their blends.

So, you might think it a bit odd to start this Masterclass, in fact, with a Sparkling Wine, made, like all the rest of the wines tasted, from 100% Bobal! Well, you might – if you hadn’t tasted Pago de Tharsys ( Único Blanc de Negro Vino Espumso – which is excellent!


Blanc de Negro, of course, refers to a white wine made from black grapes. The Bobal skins are extracted from the juice before releasing their colour. The second fermentation, which produces the bubbles, occurs by virtue of the Traditional Method, and after some 36 months ‘en rima’ (which easily would place this fizz into the Gran Reserva category, were it Cava [it’s not Cava because it uses Bobal which is not permitted for Cava production]) this 2014 wine is perfectly ready to meet its public!


There are some patisserie notes on the nose as well as some forest fruits. On the palate the wine has presence and a long finish with a fruit reference of both dark and lighter cherries. Its weight, mature notes and depth make it a sparkler for all occasions and many different dishes – try this with your turkey!

Also, this black grape of note can make some splendid rosado wines. Bodegas Sierre Norte ( goes for the crowd pleasing, Provencal-esque pale shade of rosé, like a maiden’s blush whilst imagining moments of passion! It certainly looks pretty, but this isn’t the only attribute that Pasión de Bobal Rosado 2016 wine enjoys.


There’s a lovely raspberry first, then ripe strawberry fruit nose, coming from the 900 metres above seal level where this Bobal is grown. The fruit combination is amplified in the flavour of the wine, which also maintains elegance and a very slight earthiness. For a rosado it’s quite substantial on the palate, credited, no doubt, to the 40 year old vines.

Juan Antonio Ponce’s P.F Bobal 2016 is made from 88 years old Pie Franco vines grown, organically, and indeed biodynamically, at altitude in DO Manchuela. Whole bunches are foot trodden in large oak vats, as indeed they would have been centuries ago! Fermentation also takes place in oak, but, in a very successful attempt to retain this integrity of the fruit, the whole time in oak for this classic, highest Peñin Guide scoring Bobal wine, is just 8 months!


Rayuelo 2014 is also from DO Manchuelo, but this time from Bodegas Altolandon ( , about whose wines I’ve written, in glowing terms, before. This, their flagship wine, is made with 100% Bobal whose vines are clearly loving the microclimate at their altitude of around 1,100 metres above sea level!

This wine has a subtle oak nose blending, in the background, with the classic black cherry fruit notes, so typical of the variety. There is also a mineral quality to the wine which leads me to believe that the roots go well down into stony soil. It’s intense in colour and flavour too with a long finish.


Well, not quite ‘All You Need To Know About Bobal’, so I recommend  some more research! Enjoy!


NB Two excellent wine related events have some places left: Sat. 25th Nov at Moraira´s Club Nautico, Four-Course Dinner with paired wines and music from Claire-Marie, 40€ ; and Friday 1st December at Bodegas Blasco, Teulada – five wines being tasted with nibbles too, just 10€! Please call me to reserve 629 388 159!