Posted by: tomciocco | August 12, 2012


The world is full of grapes still waiting for their respective close ups, and like anyplace, Spain has got it’s fair share, and one of them is southern La Mancha’s Bobal. The last vine to break through from this part of the world was Carignan. Not even 20 years ago, Carignan, especially in France, but in Spain as well, was at best considered to be a minor if not essential blending grape. Flashing forward those same twenty years, and this once scorned variety is being made into some truly fine old vines, single vineyard wines that command $50+ per bottle.

It doesn’t come out this way for every underachieving grape variety, but it did for Carignan (admittedly helped along by the bazillion acres already under Carignan vines [and OLD vines in so many cases] in Spain, France, Sardinia, etc. – so many potential diamonds to mine…) But while Bobal can’t boast Carignan’s vast land coverage (though there’s LOTS of it planted in La Mancha), it has much in common with its countryman, and more than a little something extra…

For one, the area of La Mancha , near the border with neighboring Murcia which is Bobal’s heartland, is absolutely beautiful: sunny, unspoiled, dry mountain forests, wild rivers…The nearby city of Albacete is a true and untrammelled ancient jewel of a city (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site) whose high elevation make it quite cool in the Summers, unlike so much of sweltering Spain. And the Bobal grape itself has a decidedly “modern” natural profile: deep and dark, with big tannins, as well as lots of acids to keep it all fresh, and a particular sort of velvety, sexy rusticity that the more agressive and angular Carignan lacks. An overall deeper understanding of Bobal, as well as the right technology applied to it, has turned this once hapless understudy of a vine into a budding star, but everybody needs a break or two here or there to really make it, and Bobal is still out there…seeking representation…

I served this stalwart wine with a classic first course dish from the table of La Mancha: Pisto Manchego – a stew of green Italian frying peppers, tomatoes, onions, and zucchini, served warm, and then grilled steaks with a light mushroom/leek/herb sauce with boiled potatoes on the side.

Vega Tolosa old vines Manchuela Bobal “11 pinos” 2010

Very deep and saturated crimson/purple color. Gripping pungent nose of dark spices, wood smoke,  stewed plum, boysenberry, dark flowers, eucalyptus, and wet clay pots. The wine is full-bodied, fairly rich, chewy, and quite velvety in texture full-bodied, but with stiff, grippy tannins, and flavors of cracked black pepper, juniper berries, blueberry, tomato paste, black licorice, and balsamic vinegar. Austere dry finish of sap and bitter chocolate.


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