.As summer draws to a close, it will soon be harvest time in Requena, a historic town at the epicentre of the local wine production and one of the easiest day trips from Valencia. Let someone else do the driving and join the wine bus or one of the new summer days guided tours from the city centre, so that you can concentrate on the wine tasting. But save some energy: there are lots to see and do in the area!
As you approach the high plains around Requena and Utiel, 65 km inland from Valencia, the scenery changes from orange groves into endless vineyards. We are in Valencia’s wine country now, in particular the area given the D.O Utiel-Requena (designation of origin). You will see signs for wineries dotted around, many of which offer guided tours like Dominio de la Vega or Torre Oria, as well as many wine co-ops where you can buy the local wines. The area is particularly famous for its reds made with the local bobal grape, though it also produces some great cavas.
Wine production in this region dates back to the time of the Iberians in the 7th century BC, and you can see proof of that in the remains found in villages like Camporrobles, Caudete de las Fuentes, or Requena itself. You can also learn more about it in the Museo del Vino (Wine Museum) here, located at the Palacio del Cid, a gothic building where the legendary El Cid is reported to have lived in the 15th century. That’s yet more proof of the historic importance of this town.
The old walled town or Villa de Requena was built on a rocky outcrop dominating the surrounding plains. You can still see one of the gates (Puerta del Angel) on the ancient walls, as well as the Castle built in Arab times to defend the town. Another must is a visit to the Cuevas de la Villa, a labyrinth of caves and tunnels underneath the town’s centre dating from the 12th century, which have been used as pantry, wine cellars or even shelter through the times. Having underground wine cellars dug into the rock is a common feature in many of the houses of Requena still today.
But to really soak up the atmosphere of Requena, the best way is simply to go for a stroll through the narrow streets of its medieval centre -known as La Villa – and pop into any bar or restaurant for a glass of local wine or a bite to eat. Besides wines, Requena is also renowned for its hearty cuisine, and in particular its embutidos (charcuterie). And if you are here during the matanza (around January-February), the time of the traditional slaughter of the pig, you may be treated to mouth-watering special menus!
But when Requena truly comes to life is at the end of August for its annual Fiesta de la Vendimia (Grape Harvest Festival, 24 August to 4 September this year). This is a true celebration of the local wine production, with special markets, parades, fireworks, concerts, and of course the traditional stomping of the first grapes of the season and plenty of wine tasting opportunities.
To catch the festival, you can go on the Summer Days guided day tours available on Fridays until the end of September this year, or simply jump on the AVE, the high speed train to Madrid which will drop you in Requena in just over 20 minutes.
Also, throughout the whole year, you can book wine tours of the Utiel-Requena region on the Valencia Wine Bus with stops at different wineries for a tour and wine tasting, followed by a typical meal at a local restaurant. Salud!