When you combine the wine ambition of Finca San Blas’ owners, the Spanish Zahonero family, with the vision of the innovative winemaker oenologist Nicolás Sánchez don’t be surprised when Garnacha speaks to you.
On the way to Requena, I contemplate on the subject of roots. Since I had not been west of Valencia for a long time many impressions crowed in on me as I was looking at the vines. If my remote ancestors would have stayed in Spain, would wine be part of my history? Roots imply a connection with the land, the vines, and ultimately making wine. It seemed to me that the earth here was generous and that Finca San Blas took a cue from it.
The natural wealth of Finca San Blas
Finca San Blas’ owners, the Zahonero family, have a very close connection with nature and a very special relationship with wine. The family’s feet are firmly rooted in the soil of their vast 585 hectares estate, 2 km Southwest of Requena and 80 km west of Valencia. Moreover, they strongly believe in biodiversity. Finca San Blas’ not only consists of lush forests with pines and junipers in the high lands. There are the olive and almond trees, plus cereals fields too, and aromatic herbs such as rosemary and saffron. And, vines.
The first vintage of the new Garnacha
Finca San Blas’ grows a kaleidoscope of grapes varieties, such as Bobal, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merseguera, Xarello and Chenin Blanc, yet they select the best grapes for their terroir wines. Their roots impregnated with a diverse range of local flora aromas and flavours known as matoral or tomillares, similar to the impact of garrigue, the local hillside vegetation in the Languedoc. The result, a wine full of character but still elegant. I tasted their new wine, the first vintage -2019- of Finca San Blas Garnacha, the grape called Grenache in France.
Tasting Finca San Blas Garnacha
I immediately noticed the silky texture, it is Garnacha at its young, fruity best. Finca San Blas Garnacha is the result of old bush vines, terroir and winemaking, a 100 % pure varietal wine. Fresh, juicy, medium-bodied, with lively acidity, showing a unique natural, mouth-coating varietal wealth. Generous pure ripe blackberry, red cherry, plum, black and red currant along with subtle, spicy, herbal and some mineral notes too. This is a serious, yet elegant, easy to understand Garnacha that goes extremely well with food.
The natural terroir and height are decisive for Garnacha in Utiel-Requena
To make interesting wine, Garnacha has to be ripe and is in any case late-ripening. Vines are planted on an average altitude of 700 m above sea level. Height is decisive for Utiel-Requena. The diurnal day-night differences (sometimes up to 30 ° C) allow for a slow, optimal maturation of the grapes. Garnacha is helped as well by its ability to thrive without much water. The natural conditions also protect the vines from diseases, they are less prone to vineyard plagues.
The strong link between the Zahonero family and winemaker, oenologist Prof Nicolás Sánchez
The wish to create terroir wines with character is part of the philosophy of the Zahonero family and the winemaker at Finca San Blas, Nicolás Sánchez. Both the Zahonero family as Nicolás are innovators who dare to experiment. Besides, Nicolás Sánchez is a specialist of the Bobal grape variety and one of the most veteran professors of the prestigious School of Viticulture and Enology of Requena. When there were only two wine schools in Spain, many of today’s leading winemakers received their education at Requena. Nicolás also teaches at the famed Polytechnic University of Valencia.
Pioneer in D.O. Utiel-Requena
Nicolás Sánchez makes elegant and complex wines using pioneering techniques never employed before in the area of D.O. Utiel-Requena. Never satisfied with only making the wines that the market wants, he enjoys taking the San Blas terroir to its extreme potential. In 2016, Fica San Blas’ Dulce wine, made in 2013 out of Chardonnay en Merseguera under the influence of noble rot, was awarded “Platinum Best in Show” in the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Of old vines and Garnacha
In an area where cultivating grapes started as early as 700 B.C., it took until the 19th century for the wine production to expand. Finca San Blas started first bottling wines in 1971. Notwithstanding, the region Utiel-Requena is still considered the new kid on the block. Known for its unique and long underestimated Bobal variety, Utiel-Requena started to re-evaluate dry-farmed Garnacha vines too. Instead of cutting Garnacha’s roots away, Garnacha gained permanence, making for a great mix between history and progression. When handled with care Garnacha has its roots deeply embedded in the abundant natural resources of the thriving wine region of Utiel-Requena.