DISCRETION AND HARD WORK, KEY TO WINEGROWING IN VALENCIA

The vineyards at Bodegas Bocopa in Marina Alta

 

 

Although you may not think so, the Community of Valencia also produces wine.  With the Mediterranean Sea exerting the greatest climatic influence in the region, the wineries scattered throughout this Spanish province fall under the umbrella of three different designations of origin:  Valencia D.O., Utiel-Requena D.O. and Alicante D.O.

 

Along with Catalonia, the Community of Valencia is one of the major ports on the Mediterranean. This has made maritime commerce with other countries more spontaneous, so to speak, and in the case of wine, has encouraged exports. Perhaps this tendency to export is why this particular wine region is virtually unknown inside the country.

Although the export trend seems set to continue in general, or so winery staff believe, there are always exceptions.  Some examples include Bodega Nodus (50% national sales, 50% export), Bocopa (65%-35%), Coviñas (20%-80%), and Bodegas Francisco Gómez (20%-80%).  In every case, the general intention of the wineries is to boost national sales, although this is a difficult challenge because consumption in the Spanish market has been dropping significantly in recent years.

The Community of Valencia represents some 5% of the total amount of wine produced in Spain, with 2,234,194 hectolitres out of a domestic total of 44,406,173 hectolitres in 2018. (1)

In each designation of origin, some varieties take precedence over others.  The Valencia D. O. grows mainly White Merseguera and Muscat.  In Utiel-Requena, one of the varieties has in recent times become arguably one of the most fashionable grapes in the Spanish market, namely Bobal. In the Alicante D. O., Mourvedre (Monastrell) and Muscat of Alexandria take pride of place.

In addition to these prominent varieties, other more ‘common’ cultivars are grown across the region. They include Grenache, Tempranillo, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, to name the most well-known.

Wines produced here are generally still wines, and run the gamut in terms of style: white, red, rosé and sparkling wines, often with very affordable average prices per bottle. As mentioned above, their producers generally have the international marketplace in their sights.

 

BODEGA NODUS: Thinking outside the country

 

This winery produces wines labelled with two designations of origin: Utiel-Requena D.O. and Valencia D.O. It produces organic wine and points out that “by 2020 all wines will be organic”.

The wines are young still wines which undergo a short stint in the barrel and wines with 12 or more months in casks. The range embraces varietal wines, native varieties (Bobal) and also signature blends.  In addition to Bobal, red varieties also include Tempranillo and Grenache, and to a lesser extent Syrah, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Merlot.  White varieties planted include Macabeo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc.

The main destination for the wines are Europe, Asia and the United States.  Exports account for 50% of sales, and the winery continues to “invest in order to increase exports, to work on branding and securing recognition for its wines”.  For the growth of this winery, “recognition and awards from competitions of renowned prestige” are important.

As a region that is not particularly well-known in Spain, Valencia has had to work hard and make wines of high quality” for the international arena. “But its focus is on doing things well so that they will bear fruit in the medium term”, according to Bodega Nodus.

 

BOCOPA: Mediterranean Wines

 

With 1,000 hectares of vineyards lining the Mediterranean Sea, all of them within the Alicante D. O. and producing “wines that are totally Mediterranean”, this winery makes all types of wines under the guidance of winemaker and winery director, Gaspar Tomás who, according to the winery, “has always had an extraordinary vision of what the wines of Alicante could be”.

Monastrell and Muscat of Alexandria, two indigenous Alicante varieties, form the basis of its red and white wines respectively. Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Merseguera and Macabeo also play an important part in the wines produced at this Alicante winery.

Since 1996, the majority of BOCOPA’s vineyards have been certified organically and their wines feature this certification on the labels.

It produces some 4.5 million bottles annually which, for the most part, are kept back for the Spanish market (65%), while the rest are distributed to a range of markets such as China, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Ukraine and the U.S. A, with an “average sales price of 3 euros a bottle”. The focus here is on quality and a lot of work is devoted to marketing and promotion”, with special emphasis on packaging.

The winery’s ethos remains unchanged: “we aim to strengthen our position in Valencia and in Spain, which is where we have our largest market”. And it will continue to work hard to secure its best markets and seek out new business opportunities in the rest of the world.

It strives to continually improve the quality of the grapes and winemaking, as it believes all wineries in Valencia are doing, but it thinks that “more needs to be done to strengthen our image and the quality of our wines in distribution channels”.  Specifically, producing premium wines is one of its objectives. It already has some in its portfolio and they are being served in well-known restaurants within the Community.

 

The COVIÑAS GROUP: Popular wines

 

This is one of the region’s main wine groups.  With around 10,000 hectares under vine, it accounts for 40% of total vineyard area in the DO Utiel-Requena. Its wines “are designed for all those who simply want to enjoy a good glass of wine”. The aim here is not to make complicated wines or wines that are difficult to understand but rather “popular wines” to be enjoyed on their own and with food. The group does not seek recognition from critics (although it has achieved this), but rather recognition from the everyday consumer.

The Bobal variety is the Alma Mater of the red and rosé wines produced by Coviñas. The winery combines young and old vines, some of which are very old. Given the large area of land and various kinds of soil, it also grows Tempranillo, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, for blended and varietal wines, though production is very limited.

Macabeo is the most important grape for making still white wines and cava, to which Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes are added, but in smaller proportions.

The main market is overseas, with a little more than three-quarters of production earmarked for export, and although the national market “is solid and loyal”, the winery continues to place greater emphasis on foreign trade.  Although the main outlets are the United Kingdom, Holland, Brazil and Japan, Coviñas wines are currently marketed in over 35 countries worldwide.

According to the winery, the sale prices of the wines “are average, although depending on taxes applied to the sale of alcohol in each country, these prices vary significantly. However, the majority of wines are available at very reasonable prices, making them a regular addition to the daily shopping basket”.

Like the other wineries interviewed, the aim is to “grow in all regions, but it is true that internal consumption is dropping significantly and it is difficult to maintain an upward trend at the same rate as export markets. It is clearly easier to develop exports, and this is where the Coviñas Group focuses its efforts. The production capacity from 10,000 hectares of vineyards means that we have to find new channels in new markets”.

Valencia is a little like “the great unknown” in the Spanish wine arena and “it has extraordinary potential, both in terms of production capacity and diversity.  We have the land, the sun and the influence of the sea.  It is perfect for making quality wine and has been so since time immemorial. The Iberians were not only making wines for their own consumption, but were also marketing our wines across the Mediterranean Sea, as evidenced by remains founds in Las Pilillas in Utiel-Requena”.

“Utiel-Requena, in particular, has the capacity for incredible growth because of its size, in addition to the authenticity and individuality of the native Bobal variety.  It also has tradition and the wisdom of generations dedicated to wine, who have struggled and striven to produce quality wines.  Our responsibility, now, is to bring these wines to the table so that they can be enjoyed both in Spain and in other countries.  We feel good about the future.  Sales are growing steadily, as is our customer base through the marketing of our products.  So, we hope to maintain our strong current growth rate for some time to come.  There is a lot of room for growth left at Coviñas”.

 

 

 

Pebbles is one of the vineyards at Bodegas Coviñas

 

Bodegas Francisco Gómez: defending indigenous varieties

 

This winery is one of the few wineries authorised by the Alicante D. O. P. to make Fondillón, an ancient wine made from the native Monastrell variety using the Solera system of ageing.  It is an exclusive wine with a history: it was considered in times gone by as the “wine of Kings”, and it was enjoyed by famous people such as Louis XIV and Russian Tsars.

As a winery that started making Crianza (aged) and Reserva wines, “owing to growing demand for young wines, we are also producing young, sweet and sparkling wines, the latter of which uses the traditional method”.

The main varieties here are Monastrell and Muscat, both of them native, which are blended with varieties that are perfectly suited to the Mediterranean climate:  Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet-Sauvignon.

The winery sells a large percentage of its wines outside Spain (80%).  Its main markets are the Nordic countries (Finland and Sweden) and the rest of Europe, although its wines are being introduced to other markets such as Russia, Japan and North America.  Although it intends to “have greater presence on the Iberian peninsula and in the Spanish islands,” it is also working on expanding sales in markets where it already has a foothold and broadening its geographical distribution.

As the bulk of the wines are sold in export markets, prices fluctuate in line with the taxes imposed in different countries where the wines are sold.

Regarding the future of Valencian wines, the winery believes, “we have to raise awareness of wines made from native grapes, unlike those used in Rioja or grown in other key Designations of Origin in Spain.  In this respect, we are opening up a new niche market for Spanish wines that are totally different from those that have been well-known until now.  This is the strategy we are following quite successfully”.

 

HAMMEKEN CELLARS:  applying knowledge and experience to wines

 

“Fresh wines, with more prominent fruit to give them a modern touch, that differ from traditional wines in Spain” – this is how the wines made at this winery in Valencia could be described. As we learnt at the winery, “our team of winemakers have experience both in Europe and the New World, and have applied their knowledge to our wines.  For that reason, they are so different from others in the region”.

 

Hammeken makes wines in 14 different designations of origin in Spain, but regarding those it produces in Valencia, Tempranillo is one of the main varieties used. It goes to produce their oldest and most iconic brand, Radio Boka.  Muscat, which is native to this region, is another very important variety for the winery and is used to produce an enjoyable semi-sparkling wine.  The third outstanding bottling is made from Alicante Monastrell and is labelled with the winery’s leading wine brand sold in Spain: Gran Allegranza.

 

This is a winery that has traditionally been geared to exports.  Proof of this is that “we have only been selling in Spain for a couple of years.  Although our growth is increasing at a good rate, it still represents only a small portion of our volume”.

 

Hammeken Cellars wines are marketed in a wide range of markets including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Switzerland, Russia, Germany, U.S.A., Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil and Spain.  Obviously, once again, the price depends on the market and the kind of wine.

 

Despite its strong export focus, one of the objectives is to increase growth in Spain: “We have to be prophets in our own country”.

 

 

  

The entire team at Hammeken Cellars in the recently opened offices in Denia

 

According to Hammeken, “we are witnessing very interesting development in the world of Spanish wine and, of course, in Valencia. On the one hand, traditional wineries are in transition, constantly reinventing themselves to adapt to present-day needs. At the same time, new brands are emerging. They are bolder and target a young age-group with excellent, affordable wines. These are attracting the attention of an audience that has lacked engagement with wine for some time.  We think this is a very positive step”.

 

Among the salient issues for this winery is packaging, which it feels will be important in the future and is already starting to be, and also the growth of screw caps. Screw caps are gradually being introduced in the New World countries and “we foresee that they will overcome resistance to them”. The winery also feels that bag-in-boxes are showing great promise. Although they have had legendary success in countries like New Zealand and in the Nordic countries, they have yet to take off in Spain. “The consumer needs to understand that they do not necessarily imply poor quality wine – in fact, quite the opposite.  This is an ideal format for fresh young wines, keeping the wine in perfect condition for weeks after opening in the refrigerator, easy to transport and usable for places such as the beach”.

 

By Santiago Jiménez – Photographs: Courtesy of the estates