July is traditionally the time when we take the opportunity to increase our knowledge of the background to the vineyards and the wines of the Valencian Region. It is one of the times of the year when courses and seminars take over from events.
Behind every good vineyard are the vines which fill them. Where do they come from? Who grows them, what varieties are available, how much do they cost and how does it all work?
In June we met Vicente Cambra, from the family firm behind the Angosto Bodega and Viveros Cambra …. and much more importantly one of the premier nursery growers of vines in Valencia. We were fascinated by his stories of almost 100 varieties of vines he grows near to Villena . And, of course we wanted to know more! So, we arranged to meet with Vicente and learn as much as we could.
We met at Finca Rosa, in Ontinyent, then it was on to the hamlet of Los Almendros, near to Villena, somewhere we have passed regularly on our travels in Alicante and speculated as to whether it was the home to Angosto´s vineyards with the same name. It is….but it is so much more. Yes, from the motorway to Alicante you can see the vineyards of Los Almendros, from which the Bodegas spectacular white and red wines are named. But there is so much more that you cannot see.
Here, in a triangle between DO Valencia, DO Alicante and DO La Manchuela are 150 hectares of vineyard, producing the cuttings from which new vines grow, the grafts which allow old vines to host a new variety and the vines which are experimental to see how they perform in Valencia´s climate. Here you will find clones of Tempranillo, four different Moscatels, Garnachas, Bobales, regional varieties such as Treixadura and Albariño, visitors from Italy ( Nebbiolo, Sangiovese) France (Carmenere, Marselan, Roussane, Viognier, Gewürztraminer) clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot…..the list is too long to reproduce.
What impressed us most is the incredibly bad soils on which they grow. The profile by a railway cutting showed there was no soil! Here we saw vines thriving with healthy bunches of grapes being grown in the regions different strata of stones! Yes, of course watering is necessary every 2-3 days for a couple of hours but what we saw was the contrast between the clones of the varieties. The lower the code number for the variety the lower, but better was the production.
And here we saw how Bobal and Mandó over produce when they are young, huge bunches of tightly packed grapes, something which changes with age. But also different clones of the varieties we saw produced smaller , looser bunches with much better potential for quality production.
We saw the mother plants, vines which for all the world look like abandoned vineyards, hugging the ground, but which produce the cuttings for grafting new varieties to old rootstock. And we learnt about the economics. There must be thousands upon thousands of kilos of grapes produced in the nursery vineyards. Exotic varieties. But…the rights to produce the vines for cuttings or experimentation do not allow you to make wine from them!
It brings the right to sell the cuttings, the rootstock, the spurs (Pulgares in Spanish), about 4cm of green vine which he sells, but wine, no chance! Rules! Nor can you plant just any variety you want to. Noble varieties are acceptable but you cannot import some obscure Greek variety and grow that.
Now we look back we must have spent more than 2 hours driving and walking through this vineyard heaven, the longest visit we have made except when picking!
While we returned to the Bodega, Vicente explained that he visited France in 1998 when there were only 2 hectares of Marselan left. He subsequently planted five more in his vineyards. As we travelled, we passed through the vineyards of Fontanars and witnessed the plague called yesca, a fungus which affects the vines and which is prevalent this year. But that is on tomorrows educational agenda for VÍ vid
At the bodega we visited the winery and then tasted four wines, the new Angosto Blanco and Soldadito Marinero, a blend of Moscatel de Alejandria and Moscatel de Grano Menudo and two reds, La Tribu 2015 and El Angosto 2014, with Vicente and his winemaker Juanjo Díaz.
This was a very pleasant end to finish a very special and educational day. We learnt so much about varieties, their clones, different levels of production from them and now have an additional understanding that with climate change some varieties can still produce and there are those that can replace traditional varieties to ensure production into the future.
Vicente has a sense of humour and style which conveys more than he actually tells you! And this was a visit which ensured we learnt a lot!