Without doubt, one of the most captivating, fascinating, unusual wines I tasted last year was the 2020 Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce. And it seems the style chimed with our clients too given the feedback we received.
This is the sort of wine that keeps me wanting to explore Spain more and more – there is still so much to discover.
First things first :
- A quick and necessary reminder: the name of the family and estate is Ponce, pronounced ‘pon-thay’.
- These are truly world-class wines from a grape variety than is not often championed; 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 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. The wines 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.
There aren’t any reviews of the 2021 vintage, but I include my note for you below from a bottle tasted last week. Antonio Ponce called it a ‘busy vintage’ but given the Covid situation they were able to spend plenty of time in the vineyards! The vintage was characterised by a heatwave in August and some hail and storms in September. He cites the fact that his vineyards our spread out across different areas as key to the success. He believes that despite the trials and tribulations, 2021 is a great vintage for his single vineyard reds, notably those produced from old vines. The Ponce itself, offered here, is the flagship wine for his estate and in any one vintage no more than 4,500 bottles are made. The 2021 came in at just 12.5% alcohol.
Luis Gutiérrez gave the 2020 a glowing 98-point endorsement, which placed it within a small number of Spanish wines to receive such a high score. He also stated that it had to be one of the finest wines made in Central Spain – this vintage is unlikely to do anything to dissuade him from that conviction!
2021 Ponce, Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce
£240 per 6 bottle case in bond
Bright garnet in the glass, with scented aromas, ripe red berry fruit and hints of Moroccan spice mix. The palate expression reveals superb elegance, with red summer berry fruits picking up a touch of creaminess as well as showing that lifted accent that is evident on the nose. This has a gently building sense of concentration yet retains a Pinot Noir-like balance. This is a very textural wine, with a marked silky nature and gently expressed, admirably ripe tannins. A little darker fruit emerges from the glass in time, but this is a very refined vintage for Ponce, perhaps a little more linear than the 2020. It shows a terrific persistence on the finish. Already drinking now and in great form, this vintage certainly possesses the capacity to age, but on this showing, it is already well into its stride. Impressive once more – this outstanding Spanish red doesn’t surprise me anymore as I expect it to be nothing less than remarkable. Drink 2023-2029+