Bobal grape, the emerging star
Only Tempranillo grape overcomes Bobal as the red varietal with the largest surface of vineyards in Spain – more than 200,000 hectares –. It is the ‘queen’ of the DO Utiel-Requena , in the interior plateau of Valencia’s province, with an average of 700m of altitude and 70km from the Mediterranean.
There, the 75% of the total vineyard plantation belongs to Bobal, and it’s perfectly adapted to the soil and climate. But it’s also the local varietal of the DO Manchuela, DO Ribera del Júca, and it is also allowed in Aragon, Navarra, Extremadura or Castilla-La Mancha, in addition of other territories in East Spain.
‘The first news written about the Bobal are given us by the valencian writer Jaume Roig, in his book ‘L’Spill o Llibre de les Dones’ (1457-1462), where he mentions and praises the Bobal varietal, among others‘ as it says the initiative ‘Territorio Bobal’, which supports the candidature of DO Utiquel-Requena area as a UNESCO Cultural Landscape of the Vineyard and Wine
Its thick skin, big and compact bunches, late sprouting and drought resistant have converted the Bobal in a varietal typical from mediterranean climate soils with continental features. Out of Spain, Bobal grows in small productions in Languedoc-Roussillon (France), and in Sardinia, where it is known as Bovale o Nieddera, according to the international Wine-Searcher.
Bobal name comes from the latin word bovale (which means ox) apparently because of the similarity of the bunch shape with the ox’s head. It is known also as Requenera, Requení, Provechón, Carignan d’Espagne, Red Valenciana or Tonto de Zurra.
The vigorous Bobal is one of the best wine examples of how the value of the autochthonous have contributed to dignify a variety that was used widely for the bulk wine production owing to its productivity and color, among other factors.
Bobal has started new life in recent years in the hands of wine growers and wineries who have taken advantage of their attributes thanks to quality viticulture – also with mass selection of the best old strains available to reproduce them -, predominantly low yields, and leading to a preparation that extols its oenological potential, so that its acidity, its fruit load, its high tannin content, its structure and volume and its moderate alcoholic strength are used.
The Bobal gives birth to appreciated rosés, for being fresh and aromatic, and noble reds, of intense dark cherry color with violet tones, of powerful aroma of red fruits and for which its color, acidity and tannins predict its proper passage through the barrel and good evolution
Its health benefits have also been studied by the Polytechnic University of Valencia, in collaboration with the DO Utiquel Requena. “It is one of the grape varieties with the highest resveratrol content, which is the heart-healthy and anti-cancer substance attributed to wine,” underlines this denomination.
From Cinderella to princess
Taking the words of winemaker Rafael Orozco in the documentary ‘La Bobal y otras historias del vino español, filmed by Canadian Zev Robinson with production by Albertina Torres, “La Bobal was Cinderella and became the princess.” It is the trajectory of the Bobal, therefore, an example of the growing triumph of the recovery of the viticultural personality of territories in the hands of the enhancement of its historical varieties.
A step forward to alleviate the loss of varietal wealth that the vineyard starts of past decades took ahead with the argument of productivity.