Two days ago we boarded a train to the wine village of Requena for the Feria Requenense del Vino – the Requena Wine Fair. Requena is part of the Utiel-Requena D.O. (Denomination of Origin), the most extensive wine producing region of the Valencian community. The native red grape Bobal makes up 75% of the grapes grown in this area. Recent generations of wine makers have begun producing high quality wines from Bobal and our goal was to discover more of them.
The Feria Requenense del Vino (also called Ferevin) is a separate event that takes place during the Requena Harvest Festival held at the end of August, just around the time the first grape harvests begin. Ferevin is also an organization that promotes the wines of the region of Valencia. This is their most important wine event of the year in Requena, displaying wines from D.O. Utiel-Requena. This year the wine fair ran from August 24 – 27th.
The Feria y Fiesta de la Vendima (Requena Harvest Festival) is held every year at the end of August. Celebrated since 1947, it is considered the oldest harvest festival in Spain. Over the course of two weeks of partying there will be parades, grape stomping, music, bullfights, and offerings of flowers and fruits to the Virgin of the Dolores – the town’s patron saint.
Certainly there will be fireworks and in true Valencian fashion, something will burn at end the festival. Something big. This year, on Sept 3rd at half past midnight (00:30) the festival will end with the Burning of the Wine Fountains (La Quema de las Fuentes del Vino). Basically, a giant wine-themed structure goes up in a burst of firecrackers and flames. This video shows the Quema from 2016. We were disappointed to see that most of the events occur after 10pm making it impossible to attend and catch the last train home to Valencia.
The wine fair is held on the outskirts of town at the fairgrounds. The tasting takes place indoors in a large event space with about twenty wineries displaying their wines. It was the standard Valencian wine festival format, where €8 gets you a wine glass and 8 tickets for tastings, plus a bottle of water. With vendors selling artisan cheeses, bread, and hearty local specialties, there was enough food available to absorb the wine.
This is the first year that the wine fair was open all day. It was very quiet on Friday afternoon but that was okay with us because we were most interested in discovering new wines. We had plenty of space and opportunity to talk with the wine makers about their best wines. We focused on trying wines made from the local grape Bobal and found some very tasty examples.
The Bobal grape produces very intense red wines. They are rich and fruity but with good acidity making them accessible at a young age yet suitable for aging. Since Bobal has been planted in this area for over 500 years, there are some vineyards that have some very old vines making spectacular wines. The wine makers here are producing many styles of wine from Bobal: light and fruity red wines that can be drunk young, rosados (rosés) that are fruity and yet dry and light, as well as Bobal wines aged for 2, 3, and 5 years in advance of being released.
Our first wine stop was at the stand for a cooperative of wines called Vinicola Requenense. They had more than 10 wines to try including Cava, Macabeo, Rosado, and numerous Vino Tintos using Bobal grapes. (Uff, its going to be a long day of drinking!) The most outstanding of the group was Palacio Imperial Gran Reserva 2009, a blend of Bobal, Tempranillo, and Garnacha. It was drinking fantastically for a 8 year old.
We also enjoyed meeting Santiago Garcia, one of Utiel-Requena’s newest winemakers. This year he has made his dream of producing his own wine a reality with the Santiago Garcia Wine Company. His excitement in presenting his first bottles was infectious, and now we are excited for him too! He has released a white wine made from Merseguera and Macabeo grapes, a big red Bobal, and a delicious Bobal rosado called Wander Lust that won a Gold Medal in the Cata de Ferevin wine competition. The Wander Lust is rich in color for a rosado, thanks to the Bobal grapes, with bright cranberry flavor.
Another new favorite from the festival was the Solo Bobal from Duque de Arcas. It is made from 100% Bobal grapes from 45 year old vines, aged in French and American oak for 12 months. This smooth drinking wine had deep color and dark fruits. We were pleased to find that we can easily find this bottle in Valencia at El Corte Ingles.
One last wine worth mentioning was from Bodegas Carlos Carcel. Bodegas Carlos Carcel was the first winery registered in the Utiel-Requena D.O. and owns the oldest vineyards in the region dating to 1907. After tasting and talking to the purveyor, he pulled out a bottle from under the table. They had a 1998 vintage Gran Reserva Bobal labeled Valle del Tejo. He was proud to show just how well these wines aged. It still had plenty of fruit left, if not acidity. Rust colored due to its nearly 20 years in the cellar, it was still quite enjoyable.
The tasting was held in an unremarkable building at the fairgrounds and while this was not a “wine tasting in the park” kind of experience, it was a great opportunity to taste wines from Utiel-Requena. By the time most of you read this, the wine fair will be over – unless you get up and hop on a train right now – but maybe this post will be of use to someone next year. Accurate information was painfully difficult to find. During their biggest event of the year, the Ferevin Facebook page hadn’t been updated since June and the program schedule on their website was still from 2016. Thank goodness for the Love Valencia website for providing the most accurate information.
The Harvest Festival is still going on through September 3rd, and there are many more reasons to visit Requena. It is a beautiful wine village rich with history. When we first arrived in Requena, we walked to the center of town to visit the Cuevas de la Villa, a labyrinth of caves that lies beneath the town.
Dug out by the Moors in the 12th century AD, these caves were used for storage of food and wine, as hideouts during invasions, and cool places to escape from the heat. The guided tour costs €4 euros and includes a headset for the audio tour. The caves are open to the public for tours from 12 – 2pm and 5 – 7pm. I recommend visiting the caves before you’ve had much wine to drink. The floors are very uneven and tricky even for the sober.
There were also many sights that we didn’t get to see. In the center of town there are several museums, including the Harvest Festival Museum and the Wine Museum in the Palacio de Cid. There is even a castle to tour. I’m marking my calendar now for the Requena Feria de Embutidos (Requena Sausage Fair) which takes place in the same location at the fairgrounds every February. I can already taste those sausages!