First Published Costa News Nov 2012

BODEGAS LOS FRAILES

TERRES DELS ALFORÍNS

I remember with some embarrassment the dreadful faux pas I made quite a few years ago, when I visited, with a coach load of people, Bodegas Los Frailes, near Fontanares, inland from Gandía. Standing in the beautiful and tranquil vineyards I was talking to the group about the favoured grape variety of the region and also of Bodegas Los Frailes – Monastrell.

I had just explained (in error, as I was soon to find out!) that Monastrell is the Spanish name for the French variety, Mourvèdre. The hand of Miguel, the owner of the Bodega, whose family had in fact worked the vineyards for generations having bought the estate at auction as far back as 1771, gently but purposefully landed on my shoulder:

No, Señor Colin – Mouvèdre is the French name for the Spanish grape variety, Monastrell!”.

Of course it didn’t really matter to the group who were probably more interested in tasting the wine than listening to a lengthy discourse on the provenance of the vines which supplied the grapes for that wine. And I have to admit that I smiled in apology to Miguel, thinking – no matter, it’s probably just a parochial disagreement, some friendly(ish!) cross-Pyrenees rivalry!

Well, when I returned to my office I looked into the matter and yes, Miguel was quite correct of course and I thanked him for pointing it out to me.

I thanked him recently too, this time for giving me several of his wines for a tasting to be included under the association banner of Terres dels Alforíns after we had lunched together with the three other founder members of this group of leading DO Valencia winemakers. Regular readers will remember a number of articles I have written about the impressive wines made by members of the group, and the wines of Bodegas Los Frailes are no exception!

The entire production of this bodega is organic. When I asked Miguel all those years ago why it was that he had decided to change to strictly organic production he simply pointed to a photo on his office desk.

I want the land I leave to my children to be good, clean land. I want to put back into the soil what I take out if it, not with chemicals and fertilizers, but with organic matter. We are all but caretakers of the land with which we work and it is our duty to pass on perfect soils to the next generation.”

Gone are the days when organic wines were drunk solely by tree-hugging, Earth-loving, long-haired, wooly-jumpered Bohemians who accepted anything as long as it was produced organically. The quality of Organic and indeed Bio-dynamic wines is self-evident and, whilst there are wine competitions solely for Organic wines, most of these wines are entered in competitions that are open to all – and they do very well too!

Indeed the wines of Bodegas Los Frailes are of very high quality, full stop!

Blanc Trilogía, which as you might imagine from its name, uses three varieties – Sauvignon for lovely fresh gooseberry, nettle and asparagus notes; Moscatel for grapey, raison perfume; and the indigenous Verdil for extra body.

The grapes undergo a five-day maceration at low temperatures to extract the maximum aromas, then half of the must is fermented French Oak with regular stirring of the lees. After fermentation this portion joins the other 50% which underwent stainless steel fermentation.

You’ll find tropical fruit with citrus too and a touch of vanilla. It has a certain weight in the mouth but with fresh acidity too, and maybe just a passing whiff of wild fennel and thyme.  

Trilogíca Tinto (yes, three varieties!), includes Tempranillo with Monastrell (of course) and some Cabernet Sauvignon all of which have enjoyed a long maceration period where colours, mature tannin and deep flavour are extracted. Mature fruit sits on an integrated bedrock of Hungarian oak vanilla aromas and flavour. Super.

Bilogía (yes, you guessed it!) has a 50/50 blend of Monastrell and Tempranillo. It too has had a long maceration followed by 12 months in Hungarian oak to add some vanilla, depth and complexity, though the wine is very pleasant easy drinking.

f (that’s the name, not a disguised swearword!) Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon is as dark in the glass as you might imagine from these particularly black grapes. It’s had just 4 months in oak, to mellow the Cabernet and add some extra flavout to finished product. Like it’s stable-mate f Monastrell Monovarietal it’s meant for tasty easy drinking and both serve this purpose very well! 

Finally, I was wholly enamoured with Miguel’s Moma 2008 – an excellent wine! It’s made with old vine Monastrell and the superb very new variety, Marselan, which is a man-made cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, first bred in 1961 and first vinified (used for making wine) as recently as 2002!

It’s painstaking elaboration, using modern and old, traditional methods, including finally a lengthy time in medium toasted French Barricas with its lees and then in bottle in the cellars, this wine is outstanding for its under 20€ price tag. Mature fruit mixes with some spice, dark chocolate and a touch of tobacco and stony mineral notes on a long finish.

An outstanding bodega making a significant contribution to the Terres dels Alforíns group, which is causing something of a stir in the DO Valencia – because of the sheer quality of its autocratic members’ wines!

PS Wednesday 5th December is a date for your diary. I’m presenting five super wines to partner five gourmet tapas at Moraira’s Olive Tree restaurant when we’ll also be enjoying the beautiful music of Dolce Divas throughout the evening! And check out the price – only 25€ for all this!! You can call into the restaurant to reserve; or call me on 629 388 159; or e-mail colin@colinharknessonwine.com It promises to be a special night!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com & www.colinharknessonwine.com

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