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VALENCIA

Historically famed for its wines, Spain’s third largest city sold wines from everywhere, not only from its native vines. It was written about by Juvenal in the second century BC. Arnau de Villanova (yeah, that Villanova) was a Valencian who wrote one of Europe’s first treatises about wine, focusing upon production and wine’s health benefits. As with Bordeaux, the wealth generated by wine sales from its port allowed Valencia to build up its own estates; though there were many more vines a century ago, there are still more than 42,000 acres of wine grapes. In an unusual arrangement that perhaps echoes the city’s historical power, the DO is allowed to buy wine from Utiel-Requena as it sees fit to plump out any deficiencies in its own vintages.

Valencia’s own sea of wine is getting smaller and better. Wine writer John Radford talks of the likelihood of a new DO in Valencia, which will allow wines to be blended from the area, à la DO Cataluña (see above). For now the DO is split into four subzones: Alto Turia and Valentino high up in the mountains to the north, Moscatel de Valencia close to the city and producing an eponymous dessert wine, and Clariano to the south by Alicante. The rapid rise in elevation that marks most of Spain’s Mediterranean coast reaches real heights in Valencia. There are vineyards near sea level, as well as those above 3,200 feet; most are closer to 1,600 feet. Even so close to the sea, Spain has some of the highest vineyards in Europe, if not the world.

Most of the vineyards include large proportions of limestone, but marl, clay, sandstone, and gravel can all appear and impact the wines. Grapes include all manner of Mediterranean and international grapes, as well as locals such as Merseguera, Malvasia, Pedro Ximénez, Pedralba, Planta Nova (a white, not Bobal), Tortosi, Verdil, Alicante Bouschet (yes, they call it Garnacha Tintorera), and Bonicaire.

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