Vicente Garcia and Ana Suria (pictured) take delight in being different. They are co-owners of Pago de Tharsys in the Utiel Requena region of Spain’s Valencia province. And they are working hard to create great wine using mainly local grapes. Garcia is dubbed ‘the Godfather of Valencian Cava’, having created his own style of bubbly using Bobal, a traditional red grape from the area. He has also attracted attention for a sweet wine made from a little-known Greek grape. He and Suria also welcome visitors to a small hotel among the vines, as well as offering on-site tastings. Their efforts have raised Valencia’s profile among wine drinkers. It is now regaining some of the interest that it had historically before disease ravaged the vines and destroyed demand.
Indeed, wine from this part of Spain was once so highly regarded that it appeared on many well-known dining tables, and had a name check in Alexandre Dumas’ famed novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, which was written in the mid-19th century. But the phylloxera parasite that attacked most winemaking areas in Europe a handful of decades later killed off vast swathes of Valencian vines and also extinguished demand for the region’s wines. However, in recent years, largely hidden from view, a change has been underway and Valencian wines have staged a recovery. Vineyards have switched production from high volume, lower quality wine to a product more suited to discerning drinkers. Since then, standards have continued to rise and Pago de Tharsys has been at the forefront of the new wave, with Garcia and Suria among those leading the charge. In 1981, the Garcia family bought Pago de Tharsys – an estate dating back to 1805 – and subsequently added several other plots and adopted organic methods. There are now 12 hectares.
There’s a historic note to the two Pago de Tharsys wines we like. Both are part of the Academia de Nocturnos range. The title comes from a school of intellectuals, who met in the late-16th century in Valencia. According to accounts from that time, writers, poets and artists met around 30 times a year and their discussions were always lubricated by a glass or two of wine. The good news is that being an intellectual is not a pre-requisite if you fancy trying Garcia and Suria’s product – although clever people can also indulge. The white is made from the Macabeo grape. Lovers of fruity wines will enjoy this – it has strong notes of yellow peaches and golden delicious apples. The red is beautifully balanced and smooth. It displays the vineyard’s loyalty to local grape varieties, particularly Bobal and has hints of cherries and ripe red berries, with a herby hint in the taste.
We believe that both offer great value and are an ideal way to sample the skills of talented Valencian winemakers who rely on local grapes. And both feature in our wine list that currently benefit from our 15% Black Friday Cyber Monday Xmas Sale discount offer.