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Cañada Honda Estate

The Estate and its wines over the centuries

Cañada Honda’s existence as an estate under that name dates back to 1355, when it is mentioned in a Charter of King Pedro I of Castile, preserved in the archives of Utiel Town Council.

Part of the estate has been in the Iranzo family since time immemorial. Another part was the hereditary estate of the Marqueses de Caro and Condes de Plegamans, and was bought by the Iranzo family in the 1940s.

Its exceptional conditions for producing fine wines encouraged the Marqueses de Caro to bottle wines from the Cañada Honda vineyards under that label from the late 19th century. Cañada Honda wines were awarded Gold Medals at the Valencia Exhibitions of 1909 and 1910.

Following the estate’s purchase by the Iranzo family, wines have continued to be bottled there under the Cañada Honda label.


The Vineyard

73 hectares planted with vines under ideal conditions for balanced growth.


Because of its altitude, aspect, soil texture and micro-climate, Cañada Honda enjoys perfect natural conditions for cultivating vines for the production of fine wines, with minimum human intervention.

Cañada Honda lies barely 500 metres from Caudete de las Fuentes, once the ancient city of Kelin, where archaeological remains have been found indicating the existence of vineyards in the 5th century B.C.

As its name suggests, the estate lies in a 1.5 km long ravine (cañada) at the foot of the Sierra de la Vicuerca, oriented NW-SE and at an altitude of between 800 and 870 metres. Since antiquity, Cañada Honda’s singular shape has led to its being known locally as a “river of wine”.

The vines are cultivated on terraces supported by hydraulic masonry retaining walls which have been gradually raised over the centuries as the soil has built up, and which in some cases are over 2 metres high. The soil texture varies from sandy to sandy loam, overlying a stony subsoil, and is poor in organic matter.

The estate’s position in the lee of the mountains protects the vines from the westerly winds, which can be scorching in summer, and those from the north, which are bitterly cold in winter. In addition, it benefits from excellent insolation. These circumstances, together with its altitude, tend to ameliorate extremes of temperature, especially in summer.

The banks of terraces retain rainwater, reducing water losses from run-off and holding back the cultivable soil, which would otherwise wash away in torrential rainstorms. Occasional excess water drains away through the masonry walls.

All this adds up to a microclimate that differs from the surrounding area in having less extreme temperatures, maximum insolation and relatively high soil moisture levels. This favours moderate growth of the vines, reducing though not entirely eliminating, hydraulic stress, and encourages the ripening of the grapes.

The estate’s high altitude is a determining factor in the quality of the grapes and their acidity level, a key factor in developing the sharpness of the wines.


Planting of the Vineyard


The present vineyard was designed and laid out in 1983 with a view to achieving two distinct but complementary objectives: the production of wines of the finest quality; and total respect for the environment. The volume of wine produced takes second place to both these objectives.


Only minimal alterations were made to the land, limited to preventing imminent collapses of certain terraces by building new retaining walls in the same material as the existing ones. The other option, widespread levelling and the removal of terraces and walls, which is often carried out to facilitate mechanisation and reduce the cost of installing irrigation, was discarded to avoid disturbing the soil structure, which would have resulted in erosion problems and rainwater losses, and brought the mineral subsoil to the surface, burying and killing the humus soil by depriving it of oxygen.

In disinfecting the soil, the use of nematocides was avoided, and mechanical and biological methods were used instead, including digging out the roots of the former planting, cultivation and ploughing in of leguminous and grassy plants, and a lengthy fallow period before replanting.

Deep ploughing was limited to those parcels where the subsoil is broadly similar in composition to the topsoil. Soil conditioning work on the rest of the estate was limited to subsoiling in order to avoid disturbing the soil profile, with its potential implications for erosion and loss of fertility.


To establish the vineyard and achieve a well-developed root system, it was decided to use bare root plants that would be grafted in situ when two years old. The rootstock used is 161-49 Couderc, a rootstock of average vigour that provides adequate vegetative growth and encourages fruiting and early ripening, as well as being perfectly adapted to the physical conditions on the estate.

The planting density is high for the area’s climatic conditions, approaching 4000 plants per hectare on some parcels, a practice which, although reducing yields and raising planting costs, has a marked effect on the quality of the fruit by reducing the vigour of the vine. The distance between rows is 2.5 metres, the ideal spacing to enable the plants’ root systems to exploit the soil to the full, and to avoid the direct action of the sun on the soil with its resulting drying effect. Closer spacing was ruled out because it would have prevented the practice of green fertilisation.

The orientation of the rows has been designed to simultaneously counter erosion by following the contours of the land, and capture the maximum energy from the sun. The general geographical orientation of the estate means that these objectives are achieved on almost all parcels.

The principal grape variety is Tempranillo, occupying 36 hectares. The planting material was selected from the surrounding district to ensure its perfect acclimatisation. Each plant is individually monitored for three years on the parcels destined for the production of quality wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon variety occupies 8.5 hectares and Merlot 3.5 hectares. These varieties have been introduced with the aim of producing wines of greater complexity in aroma and taste, while not disregarding the presence, in moderation, of the extraordinary qualities of our reigning variety. The non-native plant material comes from vines grown on the experimental plots of the Requena School of Enology and Viticulture, and their quality and adaptation to the estate’s environment has been repeatedly confirmed by that institution. Lastly, 7 hectares are planted with the local Bobal variety.

The vines are trained in simple espalier form, on a single wire at a height of 60 cm supporting the architecture of the vine, leaving the growing parts to hang free. This system of training aims to combine the advantages of the full cordon method, designed for non-native northern varieties, with those of the traditional open vase pruning method.
The main advantages of espalier training over vase pruning are greater ability to capture solar radiation, lower risk of contamination by cryptogamic diseases, markedly improved opportunities for mechanisation, and reduced vegetative growth resulting in better quality fruit in dry climates. Of the above advantages, the first is the only one that requires tying back the shoots, a practice which is unavoidable in regions with low insolation. In our case, with average annual insolation of 2700 hours, of which 975 are concentrated in the summer, and an ideal aspect for capturing solar radiation, it has been found best to leave the green parts of the vine to hang free, thus obtaining the main positive effect of the vase pruning method, that is, better conservation of soil moisture because of the greater area of shade it produces.

A final question to which special attention was paid in establishing the vineyard was whether to install an irrigation system, and if so, which system would be most suitable.

The answer to the first question was clearly “yes”. Although excess watering reduces the quality of the grape in direct relation to the volume applied, it is an inescapable fact that too little water, by preventing the plant from meeting its physiological needs, adversely affects both factors.

The irrigation systems used vary according to the soil texture and the area of individual parcels. In approximately half of the vineyard, where there is a predominance of sandy loams that retain water for long periods, a sprinkler system has been installed for use in the winter, solely in years with prolonged droughts. Irrigation in winter reflects the lack of risk in that season of propagating cryptogamic diseases and weak evaporation resulting from the sun’s oblique action on the land. The principal advantages of this type of irrigation over others are its similarity to natural rainfall, which results in high oxygen levels in the water, uniform distribution and considerable water savings compared with gravity systems. It also does not require the soil contouring that gravity systems need.

The remaining half of the vineyard has shallow sandy soils where, without irrigation in summer, the hydraulic stress imposed on the vines would have an adverse effect on the size and quality of the vintage. Given the impossibility of using sprinkler irrigation in summer, because of the risk of propagating cryptogamic diseases, it was decided to install point irrigation. Point irrigation has obvious advantages such as water savings, in addition to avoiding the spread of fungi. Its main disadvantage from the point of view of organic agriculture is its tendency to encourage the growth of root bulbs, which restrict the physiological action of the roots, resulting in under-exploitation of the soil’s resources and the need to apply fertilisers to overcome the deficit. In order to avoid the formation of root bulbs, the vineyard has been designed so that the separation between rows of vines is not too wide, and by installing a large number of irrigation points in each row.

The area eventually served by the irrigation points is 2.5 x 1.25 metres, enabling any doubt about whether the root bulbs have been eliminated to be overcome. Achieving this result is helped by careful management of the system, with long periods of non-use forcing the roots to exploit the maximum soil volume.

Environmental Protection.

For the Iranzo family, the practice of organic farming reflects a wider view of the management of natural resources which has led it, since the 1950s, to reforest over 30 hectares with native woodland species.

The family has also promoted the establishment of concepts such as a Flora Micro-reserve and a Biological Station which have made the Cañada Honda estate the largest environmentally protected area in the Valencian Community.

Lastly, it has granted use of part of the estate to the University of Valencia for the construction of the Valencia Alsthor Station.

Flora Micro-Reserve

For generations, the Cañada Honda estate has been managed in an environmentally responsible manner. This has encouraged the development of a rich plant diversity that has led to its being designated a Flora Micro-reserve by the Valencian Government.

The micro-reserve concept was created by Decree 218/1994 of 17 October of the Valencian Regional Government, implementing Law 4/1989 on the Conservation of Natural Areas and Wild Flora and Fauna. The establishment of micro-reserves is intended to offer full protection to the vegetation of small areas of natural landscape which contain a high concentration of rare native plants that are threatened or of special scientific interest.

The creation of a network of micro-reserves in the Valencia Region has been widely commented on in conservationist circles, including a lengthy positive article in the July 1998 issue of Plant Talk.
By Order of the Department of the Environment of the Valencian Regional Government on 27 November 1996 (published in the Official Gazette of the Valencian Government of 17 January 1997), a micro-reserve was created on the Cañada Honda estate, covering an area calculated from GPS co-ordinates of 1.09 hectares.
The label identifying Organic Products is as shown here:
According to a special report prepared by the Department of Plant Biology of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Valencia, headed by Professor Gonzalo Mateo Sanz, the composition of the flora in the area covered by the micro-reserve is as follows:

Dominant vegetation:
· Holm oak (Quercus ilex subsp. rotundifolia)
· Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera)
· Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis)

Upper shrubby layer:
· Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
· Juniper (Juniperus oxicedrus subsp. oxicedrus)
· Wild madder (Rubia peregrina subsp. peregrina)
· Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea)
· Cistus (Cistus clusii)
· Scorpion’s Thorn (Genista scorpius)

Lower shrubby layer:
· Shrubby Gromwell (Lithodora fruticosa)
· Fumanas (Fumana hispidula, F. thimifolia and F. ericifolia)
· Helianthemums (Helianthemum violaceum, H. hirtum, H. marifolium and H. cinereum subsp. rotundifolium)
· Everlasting Flower (Helicrysum stoechas)
· Lavender (Lavandula latifolia)
· Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
· Savory (Satureja tragoriganum)
· Ironwort (Sideritis tragoriganum)
· Prostrate Canary Clover (Dorycnium pentaphyllum subsp. pentaphyllum)
· Cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus subsp. squarrosa)
· Mountain pennyroyal (Teucrium capitatum)
· Thoroughwax (Bupleurum fruticescens)

Vigorous dry grassland:
· Brachypodium retusum
· Carex harellana
· Koeleria vallesiana
· Stipa offneri
· Teucrium pseudochamaepitys
· Carduus assoi subsp. assoi
· Atractylis humilis
· Carlina corymbosa
· Centaurea melitensis
· Cuscuta epithymum
· Leuzea conifera
· Asperula aristata subsp. scabra
· Astragalus incanus
· Thesium divaricatum
· Linum narbonense
· Orobanche latisquama
· Polygala rupestris
· Coris monspeliensis
· Echinops ristro
· Phlomis lychnitis
· Sedum album
· Sedum sediforme
· Dactylis hispanica
· Eufhorbia minuta
· Eufhorbia nicaeensis
· Hippocrepis scabra
To this list should be added the following species, identified by the biologist Dr. Emilio García Navarro during the preparatory fieldwork for the Micro-reserve Management Plan:

· Ficus carica
· Argyrolobium zanonii
· Helichrysum italicum.

Bodegas Iranzo is a founder member of the association "Espacios para la Vida", consisting of the owners of protected areas in the Utiel-Requena district, whose aim is to maintain and improve the biodiversity and sustainable development of the district.


Biological Station - Wildlife Rserve

Following the signing of an agreement with the Valencia Ornithology Association, the Valencian Government approved, on 14 October 1999, the creation of a Biological Station on the estate, which means that hunting is totally prohibited throughout Cañada Honda. Cañada Honda is arguably the only private estate in the Valencian Community to which this level of protection applies.

Mirroring the richness of its plant life, the Cañada Honda estate also has a considerable variety of wildlife.

Valencia Anchor Station

In view of the Cañada Honda estate’s outstanding environmental conditions, little affected by the impact of human activity, the University of Valencia has selected it as the site for the Valencia Anchor Station, a reference meteorological station.

The Valencia Anchor Station is a latest generation meteorological station, financed and equipped by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Regional Ministry for the Environment. Its purpose is to validate the data obtained from equipment installed on the various meteorological satellites managed by the European Space Agency (ESA). Measurements have been recorded in conjunction with the GERB (Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget) instruments installed on the European METEOSAT (MSG-1) satellite, managed by a European consortium led by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the United Kingdom and composed of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) – United Kingdom, Services Federaux des Affaires Scientifiques, Techniques and Culturelles (SSTC) – Belgium, and the Agencia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) – Italy.

The Valencia Anchor Station has been involved in a number of scientific programmes, including:

The GERB International Science Team Campaign, carried out between 14 and 30 June in co-operation with NASA, which programmed the CERES sensors on board the TERRA and ACQUA satellites to converge on Cañada Honda at a height of 700 km, coinciding with the GERB satellite at a height of 36,000 km. Measurements were also made with the LIDAR sensor of Barcelona Polytechnic University, and atmospheric radiosounding equipment by the National Meteorological Institute. More information at:

The SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) Mission, organised jointly by France and Spain, whose initial studies at Cañada Honda were carried out in July 2003 in conjunction with the Institute for Mediterranean Desertification Studies. The purpose of the Mission is to measure soil humidity and ocean salinity by remote sensing.

Mission EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer), managed by the ESA and NASDA (Japanese Space Agency).

Bodegas Iranzo - Caudete de las Fuentes - ctra Madrid 24 - 46315 - Valencia - Spain - Telephone: +34 963 846 000 - Fax: +34 962 319 282