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DO Utiel-Requena – Pioneering a holistic sustainability strategy

In partnership with D.O. Utiel-Requena

Shaping the region’s future by affirming the role of its wine industry in the preservation of the Spanish DO’s unique environmental, social and economic resources

Over the past two decades DO Utiel-Requena has been developing and consolidating a unique sustainability action plan that addresses the environmental, social and economic impact of the region’s wine industry. The plan sits at the heart of an encompassing strategic approach that considers the past and future in tandem. New emphasis is being given to the preservation of the region’s heritage, history and natural resources, while also promoting community engagement and innovation.

By giving equal weight to all aspects of sustainable development, Utiel-Requena’s strategy stands out as an example of creativity, coordination and multidisciplinarity, defining a new benchmark for wine regions the world over.

A philosophy of collaboration

Integral to DO Utiel-Requena’s philosophy – and to the success of its plan – is the summoning of different stakeholders to become part of a shared vision for the region’s future. Winemakers, growers, local councils, schools and hospitality venues form a diverse and vibrant constellation of collaborative agents, with the DO’s Consejo Regulador at its epicentre, who benefit from and contribute to this holistic approach.

Partnerships between all or some of these agents target specific intervention areas; for example Asociación Territorio Bobal advocates for the preservation of the region’s flagship variety, and Ruta del Vino de la DO Utiel-Requena promotes wine tourism in the area.

The involvement of local education institutions, linking students with those who work the land, is particularly of note. The DO runs a pedagogical programme with five secondary schools, as well as the Viticulture and Winemaking School of Requena and the Hospitality School of Utiel. The fruits of the project range from the production of limited-edition wines to inspiring collections of stories and poems, written by students after interviewing growers and winemakers.

Local schools take part in wine harvest

Preserving the roots

At the heart of it all are, of course, the vineyards of Utiel-Requena and its unique viticultural heritage. The preservation of the region’s invaluable stock of old vineyards and the genetic diversity of local varieties has been a priority for many years. These assets are fundamental to produce quality wines that have a sense of place and essential tools to face the challenges of climate change.

Highly adapted to local conditions and terroir, local grape varieties – among which the flagship red Bobal and the underestimated white Tardana stand out – have the incredible ability to leverage local conditions (altitude, significant temperature amplitudes) to preserve freshness and acidity, while delivering aromatic and textural complexity. Promoting biodiversity and safeguarding the region’s wealth of indigenous flora and fauna are two other key areas of focus.  Thus, expertise is offered to support growers and producers to implement organic and regenerative farming practices.

People at the centre

The protection of these natural assets would not be possible, however, without a parallel fight against depopulation. As such, environmental sustainability is inextricably linked to social and economic variables, justifying the holistic, connected strategy developed by DO Utiel-Requena. Further to the work with educational institutions – which will hopefully motivate younger generations to pursue careers in the local wine industry – the Consejo works closely with restaurants and hotels, empowering staff with knowledge of the region’s wines and history. It also participates actively in multiple gastronomic events and local festivities – all documented in the Agenda del Vino produced by the Consejo itself – highlighting the importance of viticulture and winemaking for the region’s identity and economic resilience.

Utiel-Requena’s approach to sustainability, in all its facets, is above all founded upon a sense of hope, joy and fierce determination. It is shaped by a deep belief in the uniqueness of the region’s terroirs and grapes, the talent and passion of its people, and the outstanding potential (viticultural as well as commercial) of its wines. It therefore highlights how the sustainability of the local wine industry and its community is in fact at the heart of the future of the region as whole.

12 Flagship DO Utiel-Requena producers discuss their individual approach to sustainability

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