BODEGAS CELLER DEL ROURE
& BODEGAS LOS FRIALES
I received a call recently from a small group of six American visitors, staying in Javea – would I be able to take them on a two-bodega tour for a day? Well, it’s what I do (along with many other wine related events etc), so the answer was an immediate and unequivocal, ‘Yes, please!’.
But where? That was the next question. In fact my new friends had already visited DO Yecla the previous week under their own steam, so it couldn’t be there. It had to be somewhere not too far to drive to and both bodegas had to be fairly close to each other, hopefully with a restaurant for lunch in between.
Well, it wasn’t difficult. I contacted my friends Miguel and Pablo, respectively of Bodegas Los Frailes and Bodegas Celler del Roure, both founder members of the Grupo Terres dels Alforins – a group of a dozen outstanding bodegas within DO Valencia, dedicated to upholding the tradition of fine wine making in Valencia.
Regular readers may remember a series of articles I wrote a few years ago talking about other members of the group, and of course their wines. To remind you, and for those readers who haven’t already heard, and put simply, you cannot fail with any of the wines produced by the individual bodegas within this group! It would be most interesting for me to re-visit and see what developments had occurred in the interim period.
Plus, I was confident that the group of Americans would love both visits, the more so when some extra fascinating facts are involved! For example, the finca which is home to Bodegas Los Frailes was bought at auction in 1771 from the King of Spain who had confiscated it from the Jesuit Monks who had built and run it, the decade before. It remains to this day in the hands of the same Velazquez family and I’ve even seen the deeds from those hundreds of years ago!
Also, at Bodega Celler del Roure, when they were renovating the run-down property they had bought less than 15 years ago, believing it to be an ideal location to make quality wine, they were delighted to discover an underground wine cellar where stood, in good working order, a whole regiment of terracotta ‘tinajas’ where wine was made centuries ago. Indeed, these ancient heirlooms have been brought back into service, making wine – which is all part of the bodegas current success!
Our first port of call on a chilly early morning was Bodegas Los Frailes, Fontanars. The Velazquez family still lives in the old finca and still uses the old cement tanks of their forefathers. However, there is also an impressive new facility replete with stainless steel fermentation tanks and all the paraphernalia required for modern-day wine making too. Plus, sitting atop this facility is the super tasting room which has an enviable and wholly beautiful view over the vineyards which provided the raw ingredients for the wines tasted!
Bodegas Los Frailes has been officially certificated as a producer of organic wines for a number of years now, Miguel having made the decision to convert the estate to organic farming with a view to handing on a sustainable business to his children. He is now taking this laudable philosophy to the next level. Bodegas Los Frailes is slowly converting to Bio-Dynamic farming!
The phases of the moon are considered, as they were in ancient times, when deciding when to prune, plant etc. A 300-strong herd of sheep, organic fertilizer providers, were grazing on the natural vegetation allowed to grow between the rows of vines. Special, totally organic, preparations are sprayed onto the vines during the growing season to encourage healthy vines. Natural predators which attack vine pests are encouraged to inhabit the flora and fauna nearby. Etc Etc.
And the bottle result of all this? Well, Bodegas Los Frailes continues to make top quality wine, and that’s not top quality – for organic! Oh, no – look at the guides and you’ll see that their wines are consistent high pointers in amongst all Spanish wines, organic and non-organic!
Limited space doesn’t allow me to go through all the wines, but trust me and buy with confidence! My favourites, were the lovely fruit-forward Moma, a blend of the indigenous Monastrell and the less well known, Marselan – a variety made by man by crossing Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha. Look out for this variety, and certainly for this wine. Under 20€.
Also the subtle and elegant 1771 (in honour of the year when the Velazquez family started their wine business) which includes on the label a copy of part of the deeds of sale! This wine’s violet, earthy, plum notes make it a wine to remember. It’s new and, priced at around 18€, it’s a real winner! (Also recommended by Jancis Robinson!). Seek, find, enjoy and lay-down too!
After lunch, which in itself was another super experience, we went to Bodegas Celler del Roure. This bodega, a relative new kid on the block, as already established an excellent name for itself. The philosophy is simple – to use indigenous grape varieties (as well as some international varieties) to make the finest wines possible blending traditional methods with modern-day thinking, and all with a keen eye on sustainability and the environment!
It’s here where the visitor will be taken to the old underground cellar to see the ancient tinajas which are still doing their job today. These earthenware pots (think Dandy/Beano Ali Baba and his 40 Theives!) are used for fermenting and ageing wines.
Pablo is intent on making wines of two different styles. He has a range of wines made in this old and traditional method; as well as a range made in the more modern away with stainless steel fermentation and barrel ageing. Tasting one style against the other is fascinating.
Favourites for me are the ‘tinaja’ style red, Parotet (with the distinctive black dragonfly label) and the oak aged Maduresa red, whose label bears a series of holes in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Plus, they have a ‘tinaja’ style white wine made with grapes indigenous to the area: Verdil, Moscatel and Malvasia, which really has to be tried!
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