Bodegas Los Frailes is a family-run Single Estate Pago situated in DO Valencia in the south-west province of the same name, 80kms inland at 600-700m above sea level, high up in the valley known as ‘Els Alforins’. They have been dedicated to organic and biodynamic farming since 2002, being one of the pioneers in Spain. Their 165 hectare estate has 130 hectares of vineyard, the rest is almond and olive trees and Mediterranean forest. By intensifying this diversity in the plant world, Los Frailes have introduced into their vineyards bees, sheep and chickens.
Over 1,000 sheep graze during the winter months on the vegetation around the vineyards providing the compost, a fundamental food for the soils. This manure is composted at the cellar and then returned back to mother earth. The bees fly long distances each day pollinating and creating diversity, and the rest of the animals form part of a farm organism favourable to life. Los Frailes also work on the vegetation of the ground by planting cruciferous vegetables and grasses adapted to drought and the soils. These covers serve to sponge the soil, permit good drainage of water, encourage biodiversity between the vines and help to avoid erosion. Starting with good agronomic management, Los Frailes apply the biodynamic preparations, above all (500 – works on the root zone of the vine and 501- enhances the photosynthesis of the leaf) to vivify, regenerate and develop the land. The traditional farmers of the region, Terres dels Alforins, have worked with the moon’s phases and still work in this way (for example the compost is applied when the moon is waning). Los Frailes maintain respect for traditional agriculture and follow the lunar cycles.
The name, ‘Casa Los Frailes’ (The Friars’ House) was formerly the property of the Jesuit friars until the confiscation of all Church property in Spain in 1767. The Velázquez family bought the estate at auction in 1771. In 1999, the current generation, Miguel and María José Velázquez, undertook an ambitious project. They re-organised the vineyards giving priority to the indigenous Monastrell, returned to methods inherited from traditional agriculture and implemented organic and biodynamic viticulture methods. A new cellar was constructed with all the latest technology; fully automated stainless steel tanks, advanced cooling control systems, a hydraulic press, 600 new oak barrels (Hungarian and French) and a brand new bottling plant.
Los Frailes are totally dedicated to the cultivation of organically grown vines on their Estate - 60% indigenous Monastrell, and Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Shiraz, Marselan. The average age of the vines is over 30 years with over 40 year old Monastrell vines. The unique microclimate of ‘Els Alforins’ and the low yields, 2500 kilos per hectare, are the two prerequisites for making high quality organic wines. The low yields not only improve the quality but also the sustainability of the vineyards, which makes them naturally more resistant to disease. The Monastrell is adaptable to very poor soil and the result is excellent quality grapes even in the worst climatic conditions of long dry periods.
Strict organic viticultural practices are maintained. Instead of chemical fertilizers, the vineyards are treated with organic composts. This organic material of composted cellar residues and shredded wine shoots maintain the soil balance. Instead of copper sulphate, the winery uses copper oxide, which has a lower copper content and is more active at lower doses. In terms of organic production only half the amount of sulphur dioxide permitted in conventional cellars is actually used. In addition, all the yeasts used are indigenous to the ‘El Alforins’ valley. Resveratrol, the grape compound unique in its ability to fight diseases, is found in high degrees in these organic wines and especially in the Monastrell grape.
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