A quick and necessary reminder: the name of the family and estate is Ponce, pronounced ‘pon-thay’. I think it is definitely worth stressing that once more, but, perhaps more importantly, the fact that I think their wines are truly world-class; Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce brings out a rare distinction in Bobal, the grape variety employed, and the results are sensational.
This small estate was founded by Juan Antonio Ponce in 2005 at the age of 23. His family had been growing grapes in the region for generations but had not previously bottled their own wines. Their estate is situated in Manchuela, due west of Valencia. Bobal is the dominant grape variety in this territory and, together with Ribera del Júcar and Utiel-Requena, Manchuela completes the trio of Denominación de Origen. The Ponce family owns over 50 hectares of vineyard today in the villages of Iniesta, Villanueva de la Jara, Villamalea and Mahora, yet tends to produce small volumes of multiple wines from different parcels. Juan Antonio’s approach is to express the differences between the vineyards and today his estate is farmed according to biodynamic principles.
Bobal has been cultivated here for hundreds of years and is well-suited to these conditions; it possesses a thick skin, delivers a ripe fruit and crucially retains its acidity well even in this dry climate, producing age-worthy wines. The hillside vineyards here permit some spectacular sloping vineyards at lofty altitudes. Ponce’s vineyards are planted at an altitude of 700 metres or more and consist of vines averaging 50 years of age, with the oldest in excess of 80 years. Yield is an important consideration with Bobal and old vines with their naturally lower yield allow for a limited, yet intense crop. As I commented before, the name ‘Bobal’ is said to have come from the latin ‘bovale’ meaning shaped like the head of bull and is said to relate to the appearance of the clusters of tightly packed grapes on the vine.
The winemaking approach at Ponce is remarkably traditional, though very little sulphur dioxide is used to preserve the wines. The aim is to produce wine as naturally as makes sense. The grapes are fermented with their stems, as is an increasing trend in modern-day Burgundy. The stems, when ripe, are a valuable source of tannins and add a spicy complexity to the resultant wines. Considerable care is taken to avoid extracting harsh tannins from the skins of the fruit; after all, Bobal is rich in colouring material and tannin anyway. They are usually aged in large barrels of 600 litres for 10-12 months before being bottled. As you might expect from their approach, no fining or filtration is employed.
I commented on how impressed I was by the 2018 Pino from Ponce that we offered previously and the fact that it possessed a Burgundian/Pinot Noir-type elegance. That was easily the best example of Bobal I had tasted at that point and went some way to encourage me to explore both the Ponce range and other high-altitude Spanish regions too. Well, I have now had a chance to taste the 2020 Ponce, the flagship wine from the estate and it is in another league. A truly exceptional wine and one not to be missed, particularly as Juan Antonio Ponce regards it as the finest wine he has ever made.
Please see my note below alongside Luis Gutiérrez’s glowing endorsement, which places it within a small number of Spanish wines to receive such a high score and all at just £240 per 6 bottle case in bond. Extraordinary value in the grand scheme of things.
98 points, Luis Gutiérrez
The eponymous red 2020 Ponce is, according to Juan António Ponce, the best wine he's ever produced. 2020 was a very healthy vintage and they got very good Moravia Agria grapes that represent some 20% of the blend here complementing Bobal. It fermented with 100% full clusters in 4,500-liter oak vats and matured in 600-liter French oak barrels for 12 months. It's 13% alcohol and has a pH of 3.55 with 5.3 grams of acidity. It's a very perfect vintage; the absence of rain meant very clean and perfect Moravia grapes, and they could produce a little more of this wine than in 2019. There's more backbone here, but it's in the style of the 2018 as for the depth and complexity, than the 2019. It has finesse and amazing tastiness and is beautifully textured, with a chalky finish. This has to be one of the finest wines in central Spain. 4,300 bottles were filled in September 2021. Drink 2022-2032
If you do consider opening the 2020 Ponce early, it is worth allowing it time to breathe before serving though I see no necessity to decant, but do taking care not to serve too warm – slightly cool would be preferable.
As you may have gathered, I think this wine is rather special and if, as a colleague asked me, I was asked to score it, I would have certainly gone a touch further than Luis’ 98-point score as I really don’t know how this wine could be any better. So, there you have it, a truly great, yet unusual Spanish Bobal.
Please let us know of your interest - even if you are on holiday!
All the best,