Widely planted in its homeland, Spain's Utiel-Requena, west of the port city of Valencia, and in neighbouring Manchuela, Bobal is far from rare: it is estimated that there are around 100,000ha of this variety in Castilla-La Mancha.
Although it is little known and rarely mentioned outside Spain, Bobal is gradually gaining respect as it is rescued from the once inevitable bulk-wine tanks and appears on wine labels.
It is naturally vigorous and fertile so that the best wines require yields to be controlled in the vineyard and, ideally, old vines, which tend to have their own natural brake on yields.
Vineyards at higher elevations, around 700 metres above sea level, are producing fresher wines that still have the variety's firm but smooth tannins and generous, dark-red, brambly fruit. Lesser examples tend to be on the rustic side but still characterful.
There are some very good blends, for example with Tempranillo or Syrah, and there's an increasing number of well-made rosés that highlight this variety's ability to retain its acidity in the heat.
For deeply coloured, 100% Bobal reds, try Cien y Pico, Finca Sandoval, Bruno Murciano, Mustiguillo, Sierra Norte and Vega Tolosa.
Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz; www.winegrapes.org
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