Bobal

Bobal is a dark-skinned wine grape variety native to Utiel-Requena in southeast Spain. It is one of Spain's most planted grape varieties behind Tempranillo and Airen, despite its relative obscurity: Bobal grapes have long been used as a minor blending partner to the region's more glamorous grape varieties. Now, more producers are turning toward varietal Bobal wines, which are dense and chewy with characters of chocolate and dried berries.

Thick skins, late budding and drought resistance have made Bobal well suited to the dry, continental landscape just west of the city of Valencia, where the grape makes its home. Here, it is permitted in the wines of the Valencia, Manchuela, Alicante and Murcia DOs, but the most famous expressions of Bobal come from Utiel-Requena. Outside Spain, Bobal is grown in small amounts in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France and the Italian island of Sardinia, where it is known as Bovale or Nieddera. Its name is derived from the Latin word bovale – meaning bull – and refers to the resemblance the grape bunches have to a bull's head.

While production of Bobal today is focusing on quality, and particularly that of the wines that come from higher altitudes, the grape has not historically been though of as a quality cultivar. In the past, its main function was to produce grape concentrate, and provide colour and acidity to other grape varieties such as Monastrell or Cabernet Sauvignon.

High levels of acidity in the grape make Bobal a versatile variety: it is used to make deeply coloured rosé wines and has even been used to produce sparkling wine. Rosé wines made using the variety can reach a level of complexity that suggests it has great promise when put to this use.

Bobal's thick skins have a high amount of anthocyanins, giving the wine a deep, intense colour as well as a good tannic structure. This trait is played up by winemakers who commonly use a technique known as doble pasta, where the grape skins left over from rosé production are added to the red grape must. This concentrates tannins and colour further, leading to an intensely structured red wine.

In Sardinia, Bobal is the primary ingredient for Campidano di Terralba wines. There, it produces red wines blended with the little known regional varieties Pascale di Cagliari, Greco Nero (known locally as Greco Nieddu) or Monica and can be released a mere six months after being harvested.
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