The wine-growing region of Utiel-Requena produces a variety of wines renowned and revered across the world. Patricia McCrossan recently combined a stay in the vibrant city of Valencia with a four day tour of the “route de Vin”, a cultural gem in the region of Valencia.
Located just 68km west of Valencia city, the Utiel-Requena wine appellation is the largest in the Valencia region. The vineyard surface is approximately 35,000 hectares with approx 20 wineries. The name for the wine appellation was borrowed from two neighbouring towns of Utiel and Requena. This large region has been almost exclusively dedicated to the cultivation of vineyards for over 2,500 years, during which time its unique climate and geographical landscape paved the way for uninterrupted winemaking.The most dominant grape variety is Bobal.
To fully understand the historical, cultural and ethnological heritage of winemaking in the area, a visit to the underground cellars in Utiel and Requena is a must. Both have hundreds of underground cellars that come, to a large extent, from the reuse of old medieval passageways. In Requena we visited Cuevas de la Villa, and in Utiel, Bodegas Subterraneas. A few hours spent in these stunning caves excavated under very modest homes give a sense of how valuable wine was for the local economy. bodegassubterraneas.com cuevasdelavilla.com
With a quick visit to the local wine cooperative in Utiel, Bodegas Utelianas, you get a sense of the deep-rooted, intense and extensive wine tradition in Utiel. Utiel Agricultural Cooperative was created in 1927 and still continues to be one of the main economic activities in Utiel and its region. The construction of the current 17,000 m2 facilities began in 1945. With a capacity of more than 30 million litres, it was the largest in the Valencian community and the second largest in Europe. bodegasutelianas.com
Casa Rural La Parra 1923
If you want to immerse yourself in rural Valencia, then staying at the newly renovated farmhouse, Casa Rural La Parra 1923 is highly recommended. The structure of wooden beams, hurdle roofs, stone walls, mud floors and exterior wooden enclosures have been retained. The outbuildings are now luxury self-contained accommodation and the stunning courtyard with its large barbecue and outdoor dining area make for a very pleasant afternoon of paella cooked and wine from the nearby family run winery. laparra1923.com
Rodolfo Valiente of Bodega Vegalfaro has strived to develop a distinctively personal wine style at Vegalfaro, always built around organic practices and the willingness to combine tradition with innovation. The name Vegalfaro comes from a combination of the word “vega,” meaning a lowland meadow or stretch of alluvial soil, with the historic name of their winery property, Casa Alfaro. Bodegavegalfaro.com
Pago de Tharsys
Built on an old flour mill, Pago de Tharsys, is a winery offering guests both the wine experience and accommodation. Pago de Tharsys stands out for introducing unique and innovative products to the market including Night Harvest of Albariño, the blanc de noir “Tharsys Único”: a sparkling wine made from bobal, a sweet wine made from a rare grape called Bronx produced by the ancient technique of over-ripening the grapes in the sun. Pago de Tharsys is also widely recognized as one of the very top producers of Cava. In fact, owner Vicente Garcia, is considered “the Godfather of Valencian Cava”. pagodetharsys.com
If there is one connection that the wineries have it’s that the vast majority of them are family run. Bodegas Chozas Carrascal is perhaps the one that stands out for their strong family tradition.
The Chozas Carrascal core emanates from the family, permeating all of the work carried out in the winery. Although the project emerged through the joint passion for wine of husband and wife María José Peidro and Julián López, the origin goes further back in time. A strong relationship between Julián López’s grandfather with the surrounding vineyard and the close relationship between grandfather and grandson was the seed and the idea of creating Chozas Carrascal. The name of the winery bears the affectionate nickname by which their fellow countrymen knew the area, ‘Chozas’. Today it is their children Mariá José and Julián who have taken over the family estate and to whom the future of the bodega falls.
The vineyards are characterised by offering small but very select productions, giving rise to the best wines. chozascarrascal.com
Our last visit was to Bodegas Neleman, an exclusively organic wine producer. Neleman’s mature vineyards are in the hills to the east of Valencia at Casas del Rey. They are on small land terraces surrounded by olive and almond trees and the Parque Natural de las Hoces del Cabriel. It’s where Dutch wine lover Derrick Neleman brings a modern approach to the craft of winemaking whilst honouring the spirit of the old vineyards in the region. Neleman mainly farms indigenous varieties like Verdil, Tardana, Bobal, Monastrell, Marselan, Tempranillo, or Garnacha, varieties which hark back to the origin of Spanish wine. neleman.wine