Like a number of wineries in Spain, Bodegas Vera de Estenas makes wine under the auspices of two different domains. A long time member of Denominación de Origen Utiel-Requena, following owner, Felix Martinez’, application this leading winery was also elevated to Vino de Pago status.

Readers who caught last week’s article (Part One, obviously!) will know that wineries are granted Vino de Pago status by being able to prove consistently high quality wines coming from particular vineyards within their land.

When we consider that the first Vera de Estenas vineyards were planted in the second half of the 19th Century we can see that there is plenty of history on the side of the application, Plus, of course, I’m not the only one who has recognised that over the years the wines resulting from these vineyards have always been excellent. Promotion the Vino de Pago status was obvious!

Two weeks ago we stayed overnight at their atmospheric, rustic Casa Rural where we really enjoyed (along with 80+ others) a splendid dinner served with three of their flagship DO Utiel-Requena wines, following a tutored tasting of three of the Vino de Pago stars, by owner/winemaker Felix. It was quite a night!

Lidon Chardonnay Fermentado en Barrica 2019 Vino de Pago DO is as fresh as a Chardonnay can be. It’s the latest vintage, brought out specially for this event. The fact that it is fermented in oak with not so long aging in barrel means that you have a lovely combination of crisp lemon fruit with some vanilla oak overtones, plus, when leaving the wine on the palate to warm slightly the taster is rewarded with some fresh paraguyo fruit too. Spanish FB Chardonnay at just about its best! I will be very interested to se how this wine develops over the next 3 and more years.

Martínez Bermell Merlot Vino de Pago DO, is made with 100% Merlot from the 2017 harvest whose malolactic fermentation was in new French oak barrels. Figs and plums do a gentle jig on the palate as some of the toasty vanilla notes come to join the party. There’s a floral, violas, note on the palate too. It’s a balanced wine with fresh acidity making the fruit stand out nicely. On the finish there’s a pleasing note of dried dates to mix with the plum and fig blend. Lovely wine!

The final Vino de Pago DO wine, Vera de Estenas Reserva Bobal 2016 is a limited production wine with a deserved price tag of 40€. The grapes come from the Bobal vineyard first planted in 1882, with these vines being 100 years old – and the wine’s pedigree comes through on the nose and palate. It’s an elegant wine with some power and no doubt longevity too.

On the nose there are black cherries and dark forest fruits, with a little dark chocolate, as if the wrapper has just been taken off the chocolate and the first whiff floats upwards. This dark chocolate develops on the palate into a sensuous, long dark chocolate cherry liqueur note on the finish, to follow a mid palate of dark and lighter cherries. There’s a little earthiness in there too, making this wine a classic, a perfect expression of Bobal!

With dinner we moved onto the DO Utiel Wines, the fist being a little known white variety named Tardana, indigenous to Utiel-Requena. There are a few bodegas in the area giving this variety some support and this is a very good, inexpensive example. It’s been fermented in tinajas, clay amfora, and the resulting wine carries a little of this minerality, in common with all other tinaja wines I’ve tasted. Again it is properly balanced with fresh lemony, green apple acidity, a little blanched almond nuttiness and a mid length finish. Just 7€ btw!

The Casa Don Ángel Bobal DO Utiel-Requena 2016 is drinking perfectly now. The Bobal fruit, picota cherries and bright red cherries too, are really upfront, the aroma hits the nose as you bend towards the glass. As with all the wines we tasted there is always a balanced fresh acidity working perfectly with the intensity of the fruit, with elegance too. Again this wine displays some black chocolate notes to mix with the fruit and there is also a lengthy finish. Well worth its 18€ price tag!

The Estenas Crianza DO Utiel Requena wine is made with Bobal (of course!) and Cabernet Sauvignon – consequently it’s a very dark colour. On the nose there are the oak notes of toast and vanilla with a little cigar box in there too. On the palate the blackberry fruit comes through first with dark cherries following. Acidity and mature tannin give structural support and complexity and there is a good fruity medium-to-long length.

Our dinner wasn’t over yet though. Regular Cork Talk readers will know that Utiel-Requena is also one of the areas outside Cataluña where it is permitted to make cava. Yes – our final wine of the night was a super fresh, palate cleansing and refreshing young Brut Nature cava, with a slight spin! Made with the fresh apple flavoured Macabeo as well as a little slightly oak aged Chardonnay – this wine has a lot more to it than normal young cavas.  (https://veradeestenas.es/)

NB Don’t miss my next Wine Show on Valley FM www.valleyfm.es 12 – 13:00 hrs (CET), Saturday 3rd October – I’ll be tasting and chatting about great wines and playing brilliant music, as always!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine

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Vino de Pago Vera de Estenas




It’s inevitable, of course. For all of us, there are always going to be invitations to events that we’d dearly love to attend, but are unable so to do as there is a diary clash. Perhaps an invitation received only a few hours before, or maybe one, a wedding for example, that has been written in stone for a year! It’s frustrating.


We often have to juggle priorities, importance, obligations, time, even costs and ease along with what, privately, we’d actually rather do. A social minefield.


In fact there were two reasons, both wine orientated (what else?!), for my being unable to arrive at a rather special event in May of last year. An event attended by the local, regional and national press, one that I would not like to miss!


May is always busy, being right in the middle of my ‘season’, that time of the year when I am heavily involved in all manner of wine related events. Over one weekend I was judging the annual DO Yecla Wine Competition and attending the presentation evening, with an early start the final day as I was presenting a tasting in DO Bullas, a good drive further south.


Yep, you guessed it, the very weekend when I was invited to the launch of the first wine from Spain’s newly inaugurated Vino de Pago, Vera de Estenas, a triumph of toil, terroir, passion and know-how, for my friend Felix Martínez Roda! Blast! I really wanted to attend all three events, but committed myself in order of the receipt of the invitations, of course, and although, ordinarily the invitation to Felix’s prestigious event had been sent in time, the others had arrived first.

Subsequently, because of my absence from the celebration up in the 700 metres above sea level hills surrounding Requena, inland from Valencia, I have received a sample of  both the first wine to be made under the auspices of Vino de Pago Vera De Estenas and indeed the second. Both are outstanding!


Firstly though – what is a Vino de Pago? Well, for a start I haven’t tasted a Vino de Pago that wasn’t ‘exceptional’ – that’s the nature of the beast!


The comprehensive Spanish Wine guide, Guía Peñin defines VP wines as coming from “a single winery, and it is a status given to that winery on the grounds of unique micro-climate features and proven evidence of constant high quality over the years, with the goal to produce wines of sheer singularity.”


Wikipedia defines Vino de Pago as “  . . (sometimes also referred to as Denominación de Pago or DO Pago) is a classification for Spanish wine (similar to the French appellations) applied to individual vineyards or wine estates, unlike the Denominación de Origen (DO) or Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) which is applied to an entire wine region. The Vino de Pago classification was introduced in 2003 by a decision in the Cortes Generales, the Spanish parliament, to help further improve the quality of Spanish wine.”


“The quality requirements for a Vino de Pago correspond to those for a DOCa wine, and wine estates that are classified as Vino de Pago are subject to separate requirements rather than those of the wine region where they are located. One of the requirements is that the estate may only use their own grapes for their wines.”

In fact Guía Peñin defines Vinos de Pago wineries as having the same status as Denominación de Origen, whereas Wikipedia above, elevates them to the top category, DOCa, Denominación de Origen Calificada. I side with the latter.

Over the years I’ve seen what goes into the eventual acknowledgement of VP status – huge effort, tireless energy, responsible and honest self-criticism, a foundation of good quality and a striving to improve year on year. Plus an adherence to super-strict rules and regulations, with both wines and bodega subject to announced and unannounced tastings/inspections. VP status is neither lightly given, nor easily retained!

When introduced, the new regulation met with particular interest in Castilla-La Mancha, where the first Vinos de Pago were created. Although never articulated, perhaps for fear of being ostracised, the VP concept, in this area of massive production, not always quality orientated (La Mancha is the largest wine producing area in Europe), was, I think, a god-send for those bodegas thus located which wanted to escape being tarred with the same also-ran wine brush.

The twelve years between have seen the status of Vino de Pago bodegas and wines elevated even further. It is no longer true to say that VPs are the result of making wine in an area where the general level is poor, with bodegas wishing to escape the bad publicity that can arise from such a fact. Felix’s bodega is situated within DO Utiel-Requena, whose quality level is high, with some outstanding bodegas. Indeed, Felix still makes fine wines categorised as DO Utiel-Requena, and he’s proud of it too!

The second wine that Felix produced under the Vino de Pago banner is a white wine. It’s no wonder that his first VP wine is red, coming, as it does, from an area long known for the quality of its reds. It’s also no wonder that Felix’s Chardonnay is elevated to VP standard. Remember the phrase above, “ . . proven evidence of constant high quality over the years . .”!

I’ve had the pleasure of tasting his Chardonnay fermented in barrel with a short ageing in oak too, for many years now. I’ve always enjoyed it (even when bottled years ago in those, for me, wholly inappropriate, Blue Nun style bottles!). I have a glass of his VP Viña Lidón Chardonnay 2014 in front of me now. It’s delicious!


Banana skin on the nose as soon as the wine is opened, soon evolving to freshly mashed banana aromas with a refreshing citrus zing and a nutty (blanched almonds) element too. On the palate there’s a delightful balance with classic Burgundian elegance and subtlety to the fore, with understated exotic New World fruit. Lovely!

Martínez Bermell Merlot 2013 is Vino de Pago Vera de Estenas’ first wine and will, I’m sure, be seen in years to come as a flagship of the area from whence it came, and indeed of the whole concept of Vinos de Pago. A careful crafting of elegance and subtlety, full flavour and lasting power; of violet and deeply dark rose petal fragrance with juicy plum and blackberry fruit; of earthy, undergrowth minerality with layered pleasure and complexity.



Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and through his wine services website www.colinharknessonwine.com , where you can also subscribe to his newsletter (free of charge, of course) and therefore have first-hand and early news of the various wine events he organises, most of which are sold out very quickly! Plus you can also follow him on Twitter @colinonwine for the latest on the Spanish Wine scene!