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Exploring Wines in Utiel-Requena With Bodegas Hispano+Suizas: Far more than Bobal and a Long Way from Bulk Wine


Hispano+Suizas winery surrounded by vineyards

Vineyards around Hispano+Suizas' winery soak up the sun, as well as the morning fogs and clouds that roll in from the sea and the diurnal temperature swings at more than 700 metres asl


‘Spanish DOP with some 34,000 ha of vines producing sturdy reds and mostly rosés, in the hills inland from Valencia in south-east Spain.’ The Oxford Companion’s opening line for Utiel-Requena, doesn’t make it sound very tantalising, does it?


Wine-Searcher is more positive, saying: ‘Utiel Requena now produces some excellent examples of young and aged [red] wines, a far cry from its bulk production status of the past.’ I can confirm that in the case of Hispano+Suizas. Not only are its reds impressive, but so is its Albariño and, above all, its Cavas.



Bodegas Hispano+Suizas, was created in 1999 by three friends, wine professionals and classical music enthusiasts, two of them Spanish and one Swiss; hence the company name. The current partners are the two Spaniards: Pablo Ossorio, the winemaker who I talked to and tasted with on zoom, who is also a consultant for other wineries in Spain; and Rafael Navarro, a grower and oenologist with wide experience of French viticulture and a pioneer of precision viticulture in Utiel-Requena. Marc Grin’s background was in international markets.


Winemaker Pablo Ossorio in the winery

Winemaker Pablo Ossorio next to the Galileo tanks in which Hispano+Suizas Albariño spends five months on lees


Pablo and Rafael’s path from the outset was quality wine driven by terroir, parcel by parcel. Studying terrain, soil, climate and the surrounding environment minutely, they matched grape variety to parcel and followed with meticulous winemaking.


The winery and surrounding vineyards are about 50km from the coast and the climate is continental with Mediterranean influences, giving a wide diurnal range as well as steep winter and summer temperature differences. In the mornings, fogs and clouds roll in from the sea. The resulting wines, says Pablo, have deep colours and high acidities across all 14 grape varieties, including a tiny trial plot of Saperavi, which is looking promising.

"A tiny trial plot of Saperavi is looking promising, but Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon have been uprooted"

Their first vintage was 2006 and today they own 86 ha of vineyards on chalky clay soils (argilo calcaire) at an average altitude of 750m. Some of their Bobal – native to the region and Spain’s third most planted variety – is more than 80 years old.


Over the years, grape varieties have come and gone. Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo have both been uprooted, while Pinot Noir and Albariño, neither of which look a natural fit at first sight, have been planted and have apparently adapted perfectly. Other new varieties include Sauvignon Blanc (for a varietal wine that I haven't tasted), Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (the latter planted at the beginning, although not officially until 2010 when the variety was allowed in Utiel Requena.

"All wines, red, white and sparkling, are fermented in 400-litre new French oak barrels using yeasts originating in the vineyards"

All grapes are hand harvested in the morning into 15kg crates and at the winery are frozen to -10ºC. Later, abrupt defrosting breaks the structure of the grapes’ cell walls to allow better extraction of aromas and flavours. All grapes are sorted on a vibrating table and pressed gently (no more than 0.5 bars pressure) in pneumatic presses and fermented in temperature-controlled 400-l new French oak barrels using yeasts developed from the vineyards.


Ageing of the still wines is in 300-l new French oak barrels, except for Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera, a red blend aged in a mix of 300-l and 400-l barrels.


Grower Rafael Navarro in the vineyards

Grower and oenologist Rafael Navarro has used his knowledge of French viticulture in Hispano+Suizas vineyards in Utiel-Requena


With Cava, the oak-fermented wines are kept on lees, with bâtonnage (stirring), until they’re bottled with a liqueur de tirage of yeast and cane sugar and aged for a minimum off 22 months (see tasting notes below for more details). Disgorgement is by hand at room temperature without freezing and the bottles are topped up with Cava. There’s no dosage.


The approach to vinification and ageing appear quite rigid. "Would you consider concrete or amphorae?" I asked Pablo. The answer was no to both, except for concrete for blending. You might well ask why, if it works, would they change anything? One reason, for me, is that I would like to see some of the reds with a little less oak. On the other hand, these are young wines and I haven’t tasted older vintages and, for many wine drinkers, Spanish red wines that don’t taste oaky aren’t properly Spanish.


The impressive Tantum Ergo Cavas: the vintage of the Chardonnay–Pinot Noir blend (left) and the Pinot Noir rosé (centre) is on the back label only


TASTING

Tantum Ergo Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Nature 2021, DO Cava

Two thirds Chardonnay, one third Pinot Noir, all organic. Fermented separately in new 400-l French oak barrels at 16ºC then kept in tank with fine lees until blending and bottling for second fermentation. On lees for 26 months. Disgorged by hand at room temperature without freezing.

Complex creamy, yeasty, lemon aromas. Subtle citrus and dried-pear fruit with salted almond, umami seaweed and just a hint of patisserie. Fine texture and lithe acidity flowing through the palate to a clean, sweet-fruited (but zero dosage) finish. 12%. 93

€27.50


Tantum Ergo Pinot Noir Rosé Brut Nature 2021, DO Cava

Organic grapes. Colour comes from direct pressing (as it has to for Cava) and only 45% of the juice is used. Fermentation as above.

Salmon pink. Aromas of summer red berries with a touch of apricot and rich vanilla biscuits. Impressive creamy texture and sleek acidity. Everything in balance and well sustained. Try with sushi and sashimi. 12%. 93

€27.50


Tantum Ergo Vintage 2019 Brut Nature, DO Cava

60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. 50 months in bottle.

A deeper, more resonant and complex nose with a roll-call of aromas spanning roasting coffee beans, jasmine, vanilla, lemon, spices, dried fruit, baked apples, almond pastries and oyster brine. The palate is full and creamy, yet elegant with beautifully integrated bubbles and acidity, and toast, citrus, sweet apple and oyster-shell complexity. 12%. 94

€46.50


Hispano+Suizas were pioneers of Albariño in Utiel-Requena


Finca Casa Julia Albariño 2022, DOP Utiel-Requena

Third vintage from vines planted in 2015. Fermented in 400-litre new French oak barrels, aged for 6 months in 400-litre new French oak barrels and then in Galileo tanks (spherical concrete), with lees, for 5 months.

Intense citrus, orchard fruit and mineral aromas. Substantial palate with mouthfilling creaminess and reverberating acidity underpinned by well-integrated toasty oak. A powerful, well-balanced, individual expression of Albariño. 14%. 91

€31.50


L to r: Pinot Noir isn't only used for sparkling wines but for a still red; Bobos is made from 80-year-old Bobal; Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera is a red blend, the best barrels of which are selected for the longer aged Superius Quod

Bassus Pinot Noir 2021, DOP Utiel-Requena

Aged for a minimum of 10 months in 300-l new French oak.

A fairly deep colour. Pure red-berry fruit aromas with spicy earth and new-oak toast. There’s no missing the oak on the palate but it’s polished and neatly integrated; the same goes for the tannin and acidity. It seems quite Burgundian in structure and savouriness but I’m also reminded of some Assmannhausen Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder). For Pablo, the aroma is Oregon Pinot Noir and the palate is Bourgogne. It's a Pinot Noir that needs food. 14%. 90

€26.50


Bobos Bobal Finca Casa la Borracha 2021, DOP Utiel-Requena

80-year-old vines. The grapes are frozen at the winery, then frozen again and macerated to avoid astringency in the wine.

A deep purply red. Plum, cherry and toasty vanilla oak on the nose. The fruit comes through brightly on the palate, together with a touch of licorice, tannic grip and sour-plum acidity, but neither the tannin nor the acidity detract from the characteristic H+S silky texture and polish. I would like to see a little less oak, but would that be at the expense of some of the silkiness? Either way, this is a sophisticated Bobal, not something you would have encountered in the past. 14%. 90

€27


Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera 2020, DOP Valencia 

30% Bobal, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Syrah and 15% each Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The blend varies each year but is always at least 50% Bobal and Petit Verdot combined, varieties that give acidity, colour and tannin. The varieties are aged separately in 300-l and 400-l new French oak barrels.

Expressive aromas of plums, cherries, cassis and violets. Full boded and generous on the palate with creamy, chocolaty oak, velvet texture and attractive acid freshness. Will become more complex over the next three to five years. 14%. 90

€29.50


Quod Superius 2018, DOP Utiel-Requena

Aged for in oak for 30 months in total, this is a selection of the best barrels of Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera. It goes into new oak and then when the barrels are selected and blended it goes into new oak again. The blend of the 2018 is 40% Bobal, 30% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. It has been made since 2006 and the bodega still has all vintages.

Blackcurrant and plum with some bay-leaf freshness and plenty of vanilla oak and spice on the nose. Concentrated, opulent and textured on the palate. There’s tannic grip but it’s largely off-set by the oak (200% new). A wine of power, drama, oak and a future. 92

€47.70

Hispano Suizas' top red wine Superius Quod


Wines available online from Bodegas Hispano+Suizas. For more stockists, see wine-searcher.com.



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