The historic port of Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, was founded by the Romans but reached its heyday during the 16th century when it was the hub of the silk industry.
It still has a well-preserved old centre, which includes its most famous landmark, the massive and modernist Mercado Central (central market), completed in 1928 in the Valencian Art Nouveau style with Gothic overtones.
At the other end of the architectural spectrum are the iconic white-arched buildings that house the City of Arts and Science, designed by native son Santiago Calatrava and comprising five structures over 2km of the former bed of the river Turia.
Valencia is also a city that knows how to party, with local festivities during the year ranging from the religious to the profane. If you visit in spring, be prepared for the noise and fireworks of the famous Las Fallas festival.
Valencia wine: the facts
Planted area: 13,000ha
Main grapes: White Moscatel, Merseguera, Malvasia, Macabeo, Arcos Red Monastrell, Bobal, Tempranillo,Garnacha, Manto
Denominations: DO Utiel-Requena, Valencia; Vino de Pago Chozas Carrascal, El Terrerazo, Los Balagueses, Vera de Estenas
Annual production: 700,000 hectolitres (one hectolitre = 100 litres)
Main soil types: Sand, clay, limestone
Valencia has a history of winemaking dating back more than 2,000 years. Until about 25 years ago it was predominantly a source of cheap bulk wines, but more recently it has begun making a name for itself in the international world of fine wines.
As is happening elsewhere throughout Spain, small independent winemakers have started to focus on the indigenous grapes of their native soils.
In Valencia province, which has two DOs (Valencia and Utiel-Requena) and four Vino de Pago ‘cru’ estates (all within Utiel-Requena territory), old vines have been recovered and native grape varieties are being grafted onto existing international vines, with some spectacular results.
Some big producers are also taking a turn at creating ‘micro bodegas’ within their larger operations. The trend of ‘returning to roots’ has created a new opportunity for Valencia’s winemakers to become trendsetters themselves. In the words of Catalan architect and designer Antoni Gaudí: ‘Originality consists of returning to the origin.’
Valencia wine tour: five great wineries to visit
Bodegas Murviedro was founded in 1927 as the Spanish subsidiary of the Swiss wine company Schenk Group, with vineyards and wineries in Switzerland, France, Italy and, of course, Spain.
Murviedro has become one of the big players in this southeastern region’s increasingly quality-focused winemaking fraternity.
Since 2014 it has been under the guidance of oenologist Juanjo Muñoz. Following the recent trend of reviving indigenous grapes with smaller production, Muñoz says he still gives the same personal attention to all its collections, large and small, all of which come from its own vineyards.
In keeping with Murviedro’s forward-moving attitude, the producer has embraced oenotourism with a passion.
Winery visits to La Casa de la Seda (Bodega Histórica) in the centre of Requena are available upon request.
Winemaker Toni Sarrión’s dream when he took control at family-run Bodega Mustiguillo in the late 1990s was to highlight the inherent personalities of the indigenous Bobal and Merseguera grapes of the region, previously only considered as a source of bulk wines.
His passion led to the creation of his own denomination, Vino de Pago (DOP) El Terrerazo – an uphill journey that has paid off both personally and professionally with award-winning Quincha Corral, his fullest expression of the potential of the Bobal grape.
The first single-estate Pago winery in Valencia (approved in September 2010), Mustiguillo practises low-intervention viticulture, respecting the characteristics of both the soil and the grapes.
Winery visits are available by appointment.
In La Serranía de Valencia, at the northern tip of the Valencia DO, Baldovar 923 has been recovering the native high-mountain varieties, especially Merseguera and Mencía, since 2016.
Founding partner Juan (Nito) Alegre Soler, along with winemakers Andrés Vergara and Francisco Bosco – and Manolo Camarena in the fields – have converted their 12ha (24 plots) of vineyards from old vines to organic viticulture, respecting nature and its cycles.
From humble beginnings, Baldovar 923 (named for the tiny hamlet of Baldovar, 923m above sea level) now produces five wines that have been catching the attention of international wine gurus and geeks.
Visits are available at weekends, morning and evening, by appointment.
Fil.loxera y Cía
South of Valencia city in Fontanars dels Alforins – or, more precisely, inside the home of Pilar Esteve and José Ramón Domenech – you can find the small but mighty Fil.loxera y Cía, founded in 2011 along with their friend Joan Llobell.
It’s the very definition of a micro-winery, now recognised for having revived native grapes including Arco (the local name for Valencia’s Arcos grape), Ull de Perdiu and Valencí.
Esteve makes it clear they weren’t looking to recover these forgotten grapes in order to be trendy. ‘Somehow the grapes found us,’ she explains, while recounting delightful personal stories of their first encounters. Their complex wines, creatively named with clever label artwork to match, are now beginning to appear outside Spain, including in the UK.
Private winery visits are available by appointment – contact Esteve by DM on Instagram.
Nearby towards Moixent is Celler del Roure, which started life in a garage and is now recognised as one of the most innovative wineries in Valencia. The paradox of this is not lost on winemaker Pablo Calatayud who, with his father Paco, began with the international grapes that were in fashion when they bought their first property in 1996.
Inspired by the acquisition of 100 or so 2,800-litre amphorae buried in the cellars of another estate, which they purchased 10 years later, Pablo began to study the traditional winemaking methods of the region with the help of neighbours who shared their knowledge, and vines, with him.
With 40ha in the DO Valencia sub-zone Terres dels Alforins, Celler del Roure produces three collections including the amphora-aged Vins Antics. But it was returning to the origins that earned Pablo the reputation as a vanguard winemaker. Weekend visits are by appointment.
Valencia for wine lovers: My perfect day
Little beats starting the day with an early-morning Spanish market visit. There is probably none more spectacular than this Valencian landmark, so today skip the hotel breakfast and head over to Mercado Central, not far from the cathedral. After a quick bocata and coffee at Central Bar, spend an hour or so taking in the sights, smells and sounds of one of Europe’s largest fresh food markets.
Lunch & afternoon
By now it’s time to think about lunch, and if one market visit wasn’t enough, then you’re in luck. Top chef and restaurateur Ricard Camarena’s Habitual is just a 15-minute walk away at Mercado de Colón – another of Valencia’s emblematic structures. With two Michelin stars at his eponymous restaurant across town, Camarena’s culinary focus is on super-fresh, locally sourced fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, all prepared to his demanding – and delicious – standards.
After lunch, head back to the hotel to pick up your overnight bag and the car, and in less than an hour (via autovía A-3 due west) you’ll find yourself in the charming medieval village of Requena.
Turn onto the N-330 towards Utiel and a further 20km will take you to Bodega Mustiguillo where you can enjoy a two-hour bodega visit while tasting award-winning wines by Toni Sarrión.
Once back in Requena, check in at Los Canilleros. Lovingly restored by Marta Cervera Sarrión and her winemaker husband, this family-run B&B in the centre of the village boasts six beautifully decorated rooms, as well as its own underground bodega dating back to 1858.
Dinner at El Yantar FoodXperience, located in the caves below the Castillo de Requena ruins, is truly a unique local experience, featuring three seasonal tasting menus paired with small-production wines from the Utiel-Requena area, all carefully chosen by owner-chef Carlos Cervera. A short walk back to the welcoming comfort of Los Canilleros is the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Your Valencia address book: Top restaurants and where to stay
Discover traditional Valencia at this five-star hotel in a 19th-century palace close to the old city centre and Turia Gardens. Relax in the wellness spa before getting a taste of the local cuisine in the quality restaurant, which specialises in Valencian rice dishes.
A great little boutique hotel right on Las Arenas beach. With superb views of the Med, friendly service, a restaurant and stylish decor, it’s the perfect base for your stay in Valencia.
Style and comfort in a perfect location with easy access to the historic centre of the city. Spacious rooms, Art Deco features, spa, a recently renovated main restaurant (one of three) and a new cocktail bar.
Three top Valencia restaurants not to miss
Enjoy paella perfection on the nearby beach, where four generations have cooked their traditional paellas over orange-wood fires since 1922. This venue is only open at lunchtime because – rule one in Valencia – nobody here eats paella in the evening.
Founded in 1836, and now run by two generations of the Domene family, the legendary Casa Montaña is one of the oldest and best-loved restaurants in Valencia. The menu is seafood-based, but also includes charcuterie and meat dishes.
Popular bistro-style restaurant and tapas bar, 10 minutes from the old centre, with traditional Mediterranean cuisine and an extensive wine list, now run by the third generation of the Rausell family.
Shops & markets
No stay in Valencia would be complete without a visit to the spectacular central market. One of the largest in Europe, with more than 300 stalls spread over two levels, it is truly a food lover’s paradise.
Spanish flavours from Original CV, a store dedicated to Valencia’s artisan food products, from wines and olive oil to charcuterie and cheeses – including some unique items such as saffron chocolate and artisan sangria. Check the website for upcoming tastings.
Take home a piece of authentic Spain with a gift from Simple. This Aladdin’s cave of local artisan craftwork has something for anyone who is looking for a unique handmade keepsake.
There are frequent flights from various destinations in Europe and the high-speed AVE train runs daily from Madrid to Valencia; average journey time 1 hour and 52 minutes.