I love seeking out wines from less well-known areas or from rarely seen grape varieties. Inevitably, not all turn out to be good – perhaps that’s why they’ve been ignored – but often you can find interesting and different flavours. And, because these wines are hard to sell because no-one recognises the names on the label, prices can sometimes offer excellent value, too.
You can find these unusual bottles from all over the wine world.
Take the Clos Lojen Bobal from the Manchuela region of Spain that I picked up in Corks of Cotham recently (£15). Bobal is actually Spain’s 2nd most widely planted red grape variety after Tempranillo but, despite that, it still counts as a rarity as you don’t see it on our shelves very often. I’ve only tasted it a few times before and certainly not for some time. And, as for DO (Spain’s equivalent of Appellation Contrôlée) Manchuela, I had to check my Wine Atlas to confirm that it’s inland from Valencia on the eastern edge of Spain’s high central plateau with many vineyards above 800 m (2500 ft) above sea level.
I also did some research on Clos Lojen, again a producer I hadn’t heard of, but, it seems, clearly one with high ambitions. The vines on the estate are up to 90 years old, giving the wines the kind of intensity you only find with true old vines; some are even still planted on their own root stocks and all are farmed biodynamically (the super-organic regime I’ve commented on previously). The owner has spent time working with Telmo Rodríguez, one of Spain’s star winemakers and shares his ethos of ‘letting the wine make itself’, using only natural processes and minimal intervention.
And the result of all this? A lovely, food-friendly, fresh, clean red with attractive dried fruit flavours, a hint of warm spice – my wife thought cardamon – some very subtle woody notes from brief ageing in large old oak barrels and a long savoury finish. Try it with grilled lamb chops. Delicious!