Friday, October 30, 2009

Bodegas Cueva Artisanal Organic Wines

The Utiel-Requena area and Denomination of Origin for wine is about one hour due west of Valencia city. Known for its native Bobal grapes, the area has a long history of viticulture dating back over 2000 years. Today almost 100,000 acres are in grape production with over one hundred registered bodegas (wineries) of which seven are certified organic.

One of these is Bodegas Cueva, a small organic winery priding itself on its artisanal wines. Grape varieties used are the local Bobal, as well as Tempranillo and Garnacha. Cueva is housed in a well-preserved 18th century winery that is under renovation to better accommodate tastings, as well as workshops the Bodega plans to offer on wine-making.

Cueva currently offers two red, dry wines, Cueva Selección de Finca and Barrica Selección.

The head of wine production is musician, Mariano Taberner, who plays music to the wine to make it happy and delicious. Passionate Adela Hernandez is in charge of promotion and sales. You can find Bodegas Cueva in the town of La Portera just south of the town of Requena.

Bodegas Cueva. Calle Mayor, 2, La Portera, 46357, Requena (Valencia); Tel 963 931 827; Email:; Web site:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organic Wine from Las Bodegas Los Frailes

Las Bodegas Los Frailes, meaning winery of the Friar House, is a family run, organic vineyard covering three hundred and twenty acres in the Els Alforins valley two thousand feet above sea level in Fontaners dels Alforins in the Valencia region of Spain, almost fifty miles from the Mediterranean.

Hundreds of years ago the property belonged to Jesuit friars hence the name. In 1767 the Spanish monarchy in an effort to control the wealth and power of the Catholic Church evicted the Jesuits and confiscated property. This vineyard met with that fate and was auctioned off and purchased by the Velazquez family who have been making wine there ever since.

Considered a Pago (a winery that makes wine solely from its own vineyards surrounding the main house like a French château), Bodegas Los Frailes controls the process from soil to grape to winery to bottle. While the property still has the original 18th century wine cellar, it also has a new state of the art cellar as well as a winery covering over 100,000 square feet.

Over half the vineyard is planted with Monastrell grapes and the remaining vines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Marselan, Shiraz and Garnacha. These grapes produce seven red wines (vino tinto in Spanish) for the Bodegas Los Frailes. The Monastrell variety is in every bottle of Los Frailes wines. The name of the variety derives from the Latin meaning Monastery People. It is conducive to dry climates and is traditional to the Els Alforins valley. The yeasts used in the wine-making are indigenous to the valley as well.

The vineyard has been organic since 1999. Delightful, energetic and passionate Miguel Velazquez is in the process of taking the vineyard to what he considers to be the next logical step -- managing the vineyard with biodynamic farming practices. Los Frailes has won numerous awards for its wines including from the prestigious Biofach and Millesime Bio organic trade fairs.

Los Frailes welcomes visitors so plan a trip to this fertile, organic valley for some delicious wines and beautiful scenery.

I have tasted two of the Los Frailes wines: Bilogia is a 50-50 blend of Monastrell and Tempranillo grapes, which to my unsophisticated taste buds has distinct currant tones and a delicious dry quality. Trilogia contains 70% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Tempranillo and while sharing qualities with Bilogia, Trilogia is what I would call a deeper wine.

Bodegas Los Frailes, Fontanars dels Alforins, 46635 (Valencia) Spain; Tel: 963 339 845; Email:; Web site:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wines of Spain and Valencia

Like their food, Spain seems to be overlooked when it comes to their wealth of wine, which is not only delicious but incredibly inexpensive to down right dirt cheap. There are any number of wine regions in Spain, the most known are La Rioja and Navarra, but most regions of Spain produce wines and, like their olive oils, each has their own attributes and qualities.

The Wines from Spain Web site, a department of the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade, is a great starting point to get acquainted with the regions and sixty-seven “Denominations of Origin” which distinguish regional wines. You can search for many Spanish wines at this site, but it is not a site for ecological wines and doesn’t include some of the ones I know of in their database. However, it is useful for basic information and worth exploring. The map at left is from their site and I highly recommend viewing the map in its full size glory. You will find the map under “Search and Find” > “Quality wines” > click on the PDF “Quality Wines (V.C.P.R.D) map” to download.

While I am on maps and basic information, another excellent map source can be found at De Long’s Wine Info web site where they sell wine maps – one of the Iberian Peninsula, and one of California with Italy and France in the works. The Iberian Peninsula Wine Map is detailed and includes some information into France and Morocco. It sells for $29.95 plus shipping.

Since I am currently in Valencia, I will start with wines from this region. John Maher has developed an informative blog dedicated to the wines of the Valencian region as he found they were largely overlooked even here in Spain. John’s blog can be found at, and he published a detailed book on the subject called, Valencia: Land of Wine, by Joan Martin, a compendium of articles originally published in the El Pais newspaper, and translated into English for this volume.

Vino Valencia is another excellent resource. They hold monthly wine “events”, which they prefer to simply tastings as they feel that the social element is as crucial to the enjoyment of wine as taste. At their web site you can see dates for their “events” as well as a wonderful list of wines and wine stores in the area. While they cover all wines, they definitely have a soft spot for organic varieties. At the last event, two of the three featured wines were organic.

As John Maher explains on his site, “Pago” is the term used for a winery that makes wine solely from its own vineyards in the immediate vicinity of the main house, like a French château. A number of the local organic vineyards are just this and I will share information about three of them in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome to the Inaugural Eco Wine Post

Traveling in Spain and Europe for the year I am discovering wonderful organic and biodynamic vinters -- too fabulous to keep to myself and too numerous to include in my guide books, so I am offering this new blog as a way to start to share this information with the hopes of spreading the good word about these vineyards, as well as offering links and resources about ecological wines.

Cheers! Salud! Zum Wohl! Salut! Proost! Salute! L'chaim! Sláinte! Sante!