Bodega Los Frailes, Valencia DO, Valencia Provence
Casa Los Frailes is a Monastrell-focused, organic (certified) and biodynamic (certification in process) family estate, located in the southern portion of the Valencia DO, Fontanars dels Alforins.
The family has owned the property since 1771. The parents, now well into retirement, live at the estate, while their daughter, Maria Jose, runs viticulture and son heads up the wine making. Dominque Rojou de Boubee of Terroir en Botella, a great wine-mind and friend, consults for the winery as well.
Geographically the Frailes estate is more a part of Alicante than Valencia. Its soils are very calcarious and poor, varying in calcareous content, clay, sand and rock content, depending on its varying aspects and slopes. It sits in the southern extreme of where dry farming is possible in the area. The climate is continental and warm, occasionally hot, though with enough humidity and nightly temperature drops to retain good acidity and freshness in the wines. Vines up to 85 years of age.
Wine has been made in this location since the Romans occupied Spain, in fact, under the house they have unearthed Roman amphora and channels for racking wine. Prior to the family's ownership, the property was a friars convent, thus the name Casa Los Frailes (Friars Home).
The main grape of the estate, and region, is Monastrell, better known as Mourvedre, which, despite its fame in the Rhone, is actually from this part of Spain. Prior to phyllorexa it was much more widely planted, both in Spain and France (Rhone, Bandol, and more), though, being difficult to graft (particularly on early american hybrid rootstocks), post-phyllorexa it became much less common, which outside of this part of Spain, it remains today.
Frailes Rosado: Fun, fresh rosado of Mourvedre, stainless fermented and aged (briefly). Bright, floral, clean, easy to drink, in the lighter colored “Provincial” style.
Frailes Monastrell: Delightful, fresh Monastrell, stainless fermented and aged. Primary Monastrell fruit (dark, purple fruits), a bit of spice complexity, which I think makes it stand out from other wines of this style and price point. Some reductive funk. From the younger plantings at the estatePizza and pasta wine.
Frailes Monastrell/Garnacha Tintorera: Monastrell with 30% Alicante Bouchet (known in Spain as Garnacha Tintorera), rounded out by spending 4 months in neutral Barrels. Balanced with a touch of ripeness, dark color and intersting earthy aromatics from the Alicante Bouchet.
Biologia: 50/50 Monastrell/Syrah, full and lush, but with great freshness and balance. Dark fruit with lots of funk and some reduction.
MOMA: 50/50 Monastrell/Marselan. Marselan is a Cabernet Sauvignon x Grenache hybrid, found primarialy in Southern France. The family decided to try it out at the estate, based on their climatic similarity to Southern France. This makes much sense to me: many associate Monastrell (Mourvedre) with Bandol in Southern France. The soils for the Marselan plot are laden with limestone rocks the size of baseballs. The result is an interesting, complex, lighter bodied wine with a somewhat Bordelaise aroma profile, currants, herbal, graphite.
1771: From the estate's oldest, most coveted vines of 85 years, is this balanced, complex delight. I think of it as the elegant, lighter response to the normally ripe, power-driven, lush wines of the region. Stainless fermented with an extended warm maceration to autolyze the lees (not for further extraction) and aged in a combination of concrete and oak. Bright fruit complexity, minerality and tea notes, and a clean, slightly ripe note.