Valencia is playing a part in a charity in Africa, namely the Bisila Bokoko project, a charity aimed at ending illiteracy amongst youngsters and giving young Africans a better start and chance in Life.
How is Valencia playing it´s part? Well, grapes from across the DO and from Utiel-Requena are being made into wines specifically to be sold to raise money towards the project.
Bisila Bokoko is the daughter of an African immigrant to Valencia whose family came from Equatorial Guinea, her father going on to become the first African to qualify here as a lawyer. The family still live here, her brother working in a bank in Valencia whilst Bisila herself is Executive Director of the Spain-USA Chamber of Commerce, based in New York. Previously she was working for IVEX NYC the agency dedicated to promoting Valencian business in the USA.
In order to repay some of the advantages and benefits they received here in Spain, they have created the Foundation as a not for profit, non-partisan project with a mission to share the gift of literacy with Africa by providing new Libraries, well stocked with targeted books and periodicals which will provide centres for learning and support in creating employment, cultural and technical exchanges in the areas where the libraries are based.
How did the project begin? Well on Bisila´s first visit to Ghana she met a local chief of the Kokofu tribe in the Kumasi Region. To cut a long story short he offered her the title of Queen Development Mother and gave her a plot of land for the first Library! This library was opened in February last year and work now progresses on the next project.
These projects are targeted in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and will roll out as funds permit. 5 Million US Dollars is the target to raise by 2015.
However the project does not stop with building libraries…these have to be stocked with books, librarians paid a salary and the projects generally supported and monitored.
This funding is raised in a number of ways. For example last year visitors staying in a particular hotel could leave the book they took to read and receive a discount. More information and the traditional ways such as cash donations and internet transfers are also available and can be found on the projects web-site http://bbalp.org.
Perhaps the best way locally in Valencia to support the project is through the range of wines being made specifically for it by Torre Oria, the bodega situated just outside Requena in Derramador. Here support for the project commenced initially with a range of just three wines a couple of years ago but with the sale of the bodega a new start was made with the new owners and a range of thirteen wines has now been available for around six months. The wine.maker for the project is Raquel Armero Simarro, a graduate of the University Polytechnic of Valencia and the Requena Wine-School. Raquel also worked with Dani Esposito at Dominio de la Vega before moving to Torre Oria last year.
The wines are all DO Valencia because it is felt that the association with Valencia is important. They sell for between 5-10 Euros a bottle and consist of four mono-varietals, ( Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosado made from pure Bobal. )
There is also a range consisting of a Crianza with twelve months oak ageing ( French and American) a Shiraz/Tempranillo blend and a pure Chardonnay. Three Cavas , a Brut, a Brut Nature and a Rosé complete the range available here, whilst a Reserva with 18 months ageing and a Gran Reserva with 26 months are aimed at the export market.
All are sold under the Bisila label and are available from SGI Drinks, Pza Barranquet, Valencia. Around ten thousand bottles have been sold so far and the aim is that 10% of the selling price will go to the project.
Of this range I can testify to the quality of the Shiraz/Tempranillo , a bright, youthful purple wine, with fresh and mature red fruit on the nose and a long fruity mouthful, easy to drink on its own or good with barbecues and the Cava Brut Nature, straw yellow with golden hints, very fine persistent bubbles, patisserie on the nose and good acidity with a long dry finish.
I am hoping to taste more wines from the range on a visit to the bodega in March once the building works are complete and have a bottle of the Cava Rosé recommended to drink with a seafood rice dish shortly!