The wine buff: València's lost vines
If you've never been to València, add it to your bucket list. It's a beautiful city, the third biggest in Spain, with traditional tapas bars and a vibrant, younger food scene. It is the home of paella, with rice and vegetables grown abundantly in its fertile valleys, but what I didn't know is that it also has a cool wine scene.
Typically known for unremarkable, easy drinking wines, a small number of producers are focusing on the indigenous varieties of València, with grape names you are not likely to have heard of.
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Javi Revert has been the winemaker at the renowned Celler del Roure winery for the last 10 years, and, with the owner Pablo Calatayud, has put considerable time into recovering old indigenous vines. In 2014, Javi's grandfather mentioned that his great grandfather had helped plant vines in a special plot 800 metres above sea level, about 15 kilometres from their village, Font de la Figuera. "To me, the most beautiful thing about this area is the soil," he says. "It's very chalky soil like Champagne or Jerez. And I love wines from white soils. So I thought about doing wine from this special vineyard and using only the ancient local grapes. They are grapes that people from my area hardly know now, because they removed them 40 years ago to plant international grape varieties."
Pla del Micalet was an abandoned, terraced vineyard with bush vines when Javi took it over. The vines are 70 years old, and ungrafted, meaning they are on their own rootstock. This is unusual, because since the outbreak of phylloxera in the late 1880s, when a louse destroyed vineyards across Europe, newly planted vines have been grafted onto phylloxera resistant rootstock to ensure their survival. They are a mixture of Tortosí, Trepadell, Malvasía, Merseguera and Verdil, ancient white grape varieties that are indigenous to València. To assess the potential of the vineyard, Javi made wine from the harvest in 2015, but not commercially. It was for tasting throughout the year. In 2016, he decided to go ahead with the project, and launched his first vintage of Micalet.
"It's a very special plot, there are six different grapes, totally mixed and I don't know how much of each variety there is," he says. "They're all ungrafted and the soil is very fresh. Each grape has a different cycle; in normal conditions they ripen at different times. But there, I harvested them altogether and there was not too much difference in the ripeness, which is quite unusual. In the valley, the difference between the ripening times is around one month, between Verdil which is early ripening and Tortosí, but on this plot, they ripen at almost the same time."
It's a 2.5 hectare plot, but because the vines are old and ungrafted, they don't produce much fruit. Javi makes between 2,000 and 2,500 bottles each year, so the quantities that are exported are limited. But the good news is, the 2018 vintage has just landed in Ireland.
Head to Dublin's Iveagh Gardens today and tomorrow for The Wine & Cheese Festival. There's a serious line-up of organic, natural and biodynamic wines to try, with wine experts from Green Man Wine, Cork's L'Atitude 51, Wines Direct, Quintessential Wines, The Winehouse, and wine-on-tap from Wine Lab, as well as Kinsale Mead. There are also amazing cheeses from Sheridan's and dozens of others. Tickets (from €16 + booking fee), wine-n-cheese.com
€30, 12.5pc, from Blackrock Cellar, Ely 64 Wine, Dublin
Hand-harvested and fermented using wild yeast, this blend of Tortosí, Trepadell, Malvasía, Merseguera and Verdil is textured with layered flavours of white peach and an almost mineral note of fennel.
Celler del Roure Vermell 2017
€16, 13pc, from Green Man Wine, Blackrock Cellar, Ely 64 Wine, First Draft, Baggot Street Wines, Searson's, D-Six Harold's Cross, Clontarf Wines and Martin's, Dublin
Made by Javi Revert, this wild fermented blend of Garnacha, Monastrell and Mandó is aged in terracotta amphorae, bringing flavours of red cherry, blackberries and plums.
M&S Cava Brut
€10.50, 11.5pc, from Marks & Spencer
Further up the coast from València, is Penedès, the home of Cava. Perfect for summer, this easy-drinking Cava has 60pc Xarel·lo in the blend, adding an earthy note of fennel to the green apple and citrus flavours.