Valencia DO (Denominación de Origen) is, unsurprisingly, situated in the Valencian province within the autonomous community known as the Comunidad Valenciana. Each of these derives its name from the city of Valencia, Spain's third largest, where Valencian (known elsewhere as Catalan) is spoken. The city, founded by the Romans around 138BC, is home to one of the busiest ports in Europe and the most important on the Mediterranean Sea. It boasts a roaring tourist trade; many tourists flock to nearby beaches, marvel at Roman and Arabic architecture, celebrate local festivals or enjoy a plate of paella.
While most of the Valencia DO's vineyards are found inland, the port has played a crucial part in nurturing the wine trade.
Archaeologists have established that winemaking in Valencia dates back thousands of years. The region's reputation has fluctuated over the years and in the past 50 it has been known mostly for the production of bulk wines. Today, however, many estates have shed that image and are employing updated viticultural techniques to create modern, stylish wines.
The relatively large Valencia DO is made up of three geographically separate areas, but is divided into four sub-zones, concentrated mostly inland and in the northern parts of the Valencian province. The sub-zones are:
- Alto Turia, which occupies the mountainous northeast of the region and has vines planted at high altitudes of 2300ft to 3600ft (700m–1100m). This height makes it the coolest of the sub-zones, best suited to white-wine production. The local Merseguera and Macabeo grapes are the leading varieties here. Merseguera wines are particularly savored for their fruity aromas and are drunk young.
- Valentino, which is in the north-west, has moderately elevated slopes with vineyards located at 820ft to 2625ft (250m–800m). The mild Mediterranean climate supports a variety of grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Semillon and Tempranillo.
- Moscatel, which is a central area close to the city of Valencia. Its combination of low-altitude vineyards (300ft/100m), hot growing conditions and sea breezes favors the Moscatel grapes used for Valencia's most sought-after sweet wines.
- Clariano, which is in the south of the DO and has varied grape-growing conditions. The coastal east specializes in white-wine production while further inland, fine red wines are produced from Monastrell, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Blanco (white), tinto (red), rosado (rosé) and mistela (fortified sweet wine) are all permitted by the Consejo Regulador wine authority. White-wine production exceeds red, although it is perhaps the sweet wines that are most prized here. That said, Valencia wines across the board are slowly finding greater appreciation locally and abroad.