The Wine Route
On the way towards the Valley of Buñol from Valencia, along National Highway 3, the traveller in search of Valencia´s vineyards arrives at Cheste, a town of Arabian origin whose inhabitants earn their livelihood from winemaking and the exploitation of olive and cereal crops. Further on, in Chiva, the shire and the castle remains stand on a hilltop while the modern part of the town flourishes on the plain. The eighteenth century church houses frescoes of considerable interest.
Buñol clings to the side of the castle hill and is surrounded on all sides by watercourses. Here, town planning is a complex business. The Town Hall is unable to provide a square wide enough for the popular tomato field battle, known as Tomatina, held at the end of August. In the town centre, there are over 300 fountains. The Municipal Archaeological Museum occupies the spot where the old Mosque used to be surrounding area has been endowed with an open-air sculpture museum. Towards the outside of the town, after passing through its long, lengthways streets, the visitor comes upon Buñol´s most popular fountain, dedicated to the patron saint, Luis Beltrán. Tradition has it that he worked the miracle of giving this spring eternal life. Musical band concerts are held frequently at the open-air auditorium.
Back on the National Highway 3, with the town of Siete Aguas behind us, we enter the region of Requena-Utiel, clothed in vineyards. This is the Valencian Community’s leading wine-producing area, with the widest range of red and rosé wines in Spain. Part of the wine is sent to other Spanish cellars to obtain specific qualities. The traveller reaches Requena, a toponym meaning strong, safe rock. It derives from a settlement, situated on the left bank of the River Magro, on top of a small crag defended by walls and fortified towers. Nowadays, the old area is known as La Villa (the Town). As it is the original nucleus, it preserves over 40 buildings and ornamental ensembles. On its main façade, the Church of Santa María still has a fifteenth century Gothic front of the period of Isabel 2, althought the three inner naves are not in such a good state of preservation. The Church of San Nicolás is considered to be the oldest in Requena. Built in the fourteenth century, it was later resurfaced in 1730. Similarly, the Church of San Salvador, in the square bearing the same name, still has an attractive Gothic façade. Standing outside the La Villa quarter is the Municipal Museum. Building of this former Carmelite Convent was commenced in the thirteenth century but it was not completed until the eighteenth. Of particular note is its interesting Valencian tiled plinth and the Baroque cloister. It contains the various rooms of the Municipal Museum, which consists of sections concerning painting, archaeology, ethnography, natural sciences and diplomacy. The International Wine Museum is most certainly worth a visit.
Situated on the same high plateau, the town of Utiel grew thanks to the productive drive coming from wine making. Unlike Requena, whit its historical centre, life in the town of Utiel hinges round farming tasks and activities. The main church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, is a refined piece of the Gothic style under Isabel 2. The Wine Museum is located in the famous Redonda Cellar. This building was restored in 1891 so that future generations might learn of the area´s rural archaeology.
From Requena, there is access to a secondary route, that of the Calle de Ayora, of interest on account of its beautiful castles in Cofrentes, where the River Curiel meets the River Júcar, Jalance, wuth the Cave of Don Juan, Jarafuel, Teresa de Cofrentes and Ayora, with the Iberian own of Castellar de la Meca and a thriving activity in the form of beekeeping. Other places of interest include Hoces del Cabriel, the Contreras Reservoir and, towards the south, the major National Hunting Reserve, Muela de Cortes.
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