Manchuela, a lesser-known Spanish wine region that is inland from Valencia, is where the Bobal varietal thrives, Known for its thick skins and rusticity, controlling the Bobal’s vigor is what makes for a well-balanced and interesting wine. While there are very few defenders of this region and even fewer winemakers that are dedicated to this varietal, Juan Antonio Ponce stands proud as a master and interpreter of the Bobal grape.
Juan Antonio Ponce began his winery in 2005, at the age of 23. He works biodynamically in the vineyard, and in the winery he takes a natural approach, using low levels of sulfur dioxide. His philosophy is to make natural wines with wild yeast fermentation, to respect the local varietal Bobal and to express its terroir.
The winemaking process begins with hand harvesting. The bunches of grapes are then chilled to 8°C and fermented whole-bunch, with the stems, in a type of fermentation known as “remango,” which was once popular in Rioja.
Juan Antonio Ponce worked as the right-hand man to Telmo Rodriguez at Cia de Vinos Telmo Rodrigues for 5 years. During this time he was in charge of winemaking, vineyard management, etc. His father, who owned some land in Manchuela, decided to start this project with him.
Juan Antonio Ponce stands alone as the leader of the Manchuela DO and the master of the region’s indigenous Bobal grape. Bodal has a thick skin and rugged en vaso vines that don’t require trellising or irrigation. As a result, the variety has historically been relegated to bulk production for blending. However, Ponce has managed to tame his vines to bring out the softer and more nuanced side of Bobal as grown on his family’s estate. This is especially true of the 3.5 ha of old pie Franco Bobal vines that remain ungrafted and unencumbered by phylloxera due to the sandy soils of this particular site. Ponce feels the Bodegas Ponce “P.f.” is exemplary of Bobal’s most nuanced form highlighting the vineyard site most valued by such a singular producer.