Bobal is a red grape varietal used in winemaking, native to the Utiel-Requena region in Valencia, Spain. The name derives from the Latin word ‘bovale’, in reference to the shape of a bull’s head. It is grown predominantly in the Utiel-Requena DO where it represents about 90% of all vines grown, and is also present in significant quantities in Valencia, Cuenca and Albacete.
It can only be found in small quantities in other regions of Spain: La Manchuela (Castile La Mancha), selected vineyards in Ribera de Guadiana DO, Alicante DO, Murcia, Campo de Borja, Calatayud, Cariñena, Valdejalón. Small quantities are also grown in Rosellón (south of France) and in Sardinia (Italy).
As of 2009, Bobal was the third most planted variety in Spain with over 100,000ha, coming behind Airén and Tempranillo.The vine is very vigorous and highly productive; it adapts well to all types of vine formation but is most commonly grown as a low bush and less often on trellises.
The Bobal grape is perfectly adapted to the local climate and so is resistant to extremes of weather and diseases; the pulp is colourless and meaty and the hard skin of the round medium-sized berries is intensely and brightly coloured. The average bunch of the Bobal grape is of medium-large size, compact, with an irregular cone shape and the ‘must’ is normally high in colorants and tannins and is suitable both for aging and for blending with other varieties - the must also contains higher than average quantities of resveratrol.
The region of Utiel-Requena, located 80km from the Mediterranean coast, at a height of between 700 and 950m above sea level has very little rainfall, about 430mm per annum, with long, very cold winters. The Bobal vine protects itself from the frosts by budding late. It also ripens late thus allowing it to conserve acidity in the must. Being such a vigorous variety it has to be pruned back severely in order to limit its production.
Bobal is a very difficult grape to grow because the individual grapes mature at different times and vary greatly in size. It is possible that overripe grapes ripe and unripe grapes are all present on the bunch at one time. But when it is successful, Bobal produces very complex, and elegant wines that are full of character. Wines produced generally described as fragrant on the nose while fruit flavours dominate the palate, while being low in alcohol around 11%.