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Bodegas Vegalfaro, “La Grava” TintoUtiel-Requena, Valencia, Spain 2019 (750mL)

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Bodegas Vegalfaro, “La Grava” Tinto Utiel-Requena, Valencia, Spain 2019 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

There are wines that are archetypal representations of grape and place, then there are those that challenge preconceived notions. “La Grava” Tinto manages both by giving us what we expect from a plush, sunny Spanish red while also showing us a markedly brighter, buoyant side to the wines of Valencia.


Today marks the second time in as many weeks that we’ve ventured into $20 wine territory, which, as our subscribers know, is not typically where anything truly special is found. But it does happen from time to time, and this is one of those times: Given Valencia’s location along the sun-drenched Mediterranean coast of Spain, and its past reputation as a bulk-wine pumping station, you’ll be pleasantly surprised (maybe even shocked) when you take your first sip of this taut, juicy, nuanced expression of the Bobal grape. This is the signature red variety of the Utiel-Requena DO, a high plateau west of the city of Valencia, and those in the know would be correct to expect an ink-dark, rustic, tannic red—but, as I said above, “La Grava” (“the gravel”) defies expectations. For one thing, it is brightened/softened with the addition of 15% Macabeo, the textured, aromatic white sometimes found in Rioja Blanco. So, in addition to tasting like a Mediterranean take on Cru Beaujolais, the wine draws some inspiration from Côte-Rôtie as well—and to top it all off, it’s from Certified Organic fruit! For $21! Rarely is there so much to say (and so much to like) about a wine at this price point: I think we have a winner here!



There’s a pronounced “somewhere-ness” to this wine, although the somewhere in question is not well-known even to Spanish wine connoisseurs. La Grava is produced by Bodegas Vegalfaro, which was founded in 1999 by Andrés Valiente and his son, Rodolfo. They are headquartered in the Utiel-Requena growing zone, a region only now becoming known for more serious wine despite a history going back to the 7th Century B.C. Driven by their passion for organic farming and indigenous grape varieties—in addition to the dark, thick-skinned Bobal, they craft reds from Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and Garnacha Tintorera. The Utiel-Requena plateau sits at around 700 meters in elevation, with soils of “alluvial” (i.e. river-deposited) gravel and iron-rich red clay with limestone. It has a kind of “high desert” feel, not unlike that of the Ribera del Duero, with both “continental” and “Mediterranean” climate influences: Winters are cold, summers are hot, and day-night temperature variations during the growing season can be extreme.


The Bobal grape has become the headliner in this arid, wind-swept region, known for its thick skins and high concentration of anthocyanins—the phenolic compounds that impart color to wine. Historically, wines from Bobal have been ink-dark and quite tannic, with high acidity to boot; Andrés and Rodolfo, following tradition, have always co-planted, and blended, white and “black” grapes, to lend freshness and aromatic lift to their wines. They meld this traditional practice with modern winemaking techniques like cool fermentations in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, gentle pump-overs, and delicate pressings, all to keep the wine light and fresh.


After harvest, the Bobal and Macabeo are completely de-stemmed and vinified separately using indigenous yeasts. The Bobal spends only a few additional days on its skins in order to extract aromas and flavors but minimize tannin. The final blend (85% Bobal and 15% Macabeo) is then transferred via gravity into neutral oak barriques where it rests for a short three months before being bottled. Every one of the Valiente family’s decisions favors moderation instead of excess; nuance instead of brute force.


In the glass, “La Grava Tinto” shows the deep and intense purple core typical of Bobal. Though it is initially a bit reticent, a 30-minute decant coaxes out beautifully ripe aromas of black cherries, blueberries, crushed rocks, and black tea. Luxuriously silky on the palate, the deep color belies the medium body and lifted acidity. Flavors of lush and juicy black raspberries, blackberries, and pomegranate intermingle with subtle hints of hazelnut and tarragon from the Macabeo. Pour into Burgundy stems and keep it on the cooler side around 55-60°F and you will experience an intensified but uniquely Spanish rendition of Beaujolais. As juicy and delicious as this wine is on its own, it will shine alongside a heartier take on arroz con pollo—one that adds in some spicy chorizo. Enjoy!




Bodegas Vegalfaro, “La Grava” Tinto Utiel-Requena, Valencia, Spain 2019 - SommSelect

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionValencia
  • Sub-RegionUtiel-Requena
  • SoilGravel & Iron-rich Red Clay w/ Limestone
  • FarmingCertified Organic
  • BlendBobal 85%, Macabeo 15%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • OakNeutral Barrels
  • Service Temp.55-60° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stem
  • DrinkNow-2028
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingSpanish Chicken & Rice

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionValencia
  • Sub-RegionUtiel-Requena
  • SoilGravel & Iron-rich Red Clay w/ Limestone
  • FarmingCertified Organic
  • BlendBobal 85%, Macabeo 15%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • OakNeutral Barrels
  • Temp.Serve at 55-60° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2028
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingSpanish Chicken & Rice