The hilltop village of Les Useres in the Alcalaten county of Castellon province calls itself the `Poble de Vi.´ With it’s just over 1000 inhabitants it has some seven bodegas. Clos d´Esgarracordes, Flors and El Mollet-Roques Negres, are three of which we have been following very closely for some years.
Over the weekend the town held its 4th annual fair, based around all the bodegas but including the local bakers, butchers, cheese makers and other artisans.
Our visit this year coincided with that of the Valencian Sumilleres Association, (ASVASU) , testament to the importance of the wines being produced in IGP Castellon and Les Useres particularly.
We started by chatting with Juan Carlos Pavia and Toni Albiñana, (pharmacists and partners in El Mollet, Roques Negres) as well as tasting two of the newer wines. This small production bodega had mixed results with the harvest last year but we started with the Macabeo, a wine we have decided is one of the best pure Macabeo we have tasted from the 2015 vintage.
Pale gold in colour it is very clean and bright, with a hugely expressive nose with ripe apple and melon. In the mouth this rich fruit is replicated by a good balancing acidity giving a fruity wine which is dry at the same time. Perfectly balanced it will accompany a wide variety of food.
The Syrah/Monastrell joven is designed to be fruity, easily approachable and drunk young. It is. With its deep colour, the nose expresses ripe notes of red and black fruits, at the point where youthful freshness turns to maturity. In the mouth neither variety dominates, there is an explosion of fruits and this is balanced by a long dry finish and a touch of minerality from their soils. Not yet labelled, this will sell very quickly.
The wines of Clos D´Esgarracordes, Baron D´Alba are probably those we have followed most closely with several trips to taste the wines in deposit and barrel and understand more of the ways they seek to protect their soils.
On our last visit we had tasted the Macabeo from deposit and the Viognier in barrica which were to make up the 2015 white with Mario Malafosse, the wine-maker. That wine is now blended and is on the market. With 13%ABV, this wine has a golden colour with green flashes and is very bright. It has a rich spicy nose and the Viognier with its apricot, apricot stone and spicy notes dominates. In the mouth the Macabeo´s acidity provides much of the structure but adds some melon fruit into the mix. This is quite a full, rich, ripe, wine . Very round with a long rich dry finish and just a hint of the oak in the aftertaste. We highly recommend this wine.
The new Tinto 2013 has also been released with a blend of 39% Tempranillo, 29% Monastrell and 25% Garnacha ( more or less). A medium bodied garnet coloured wine with very long legs, the Tempranillo´s brambly fruit and the oak are the most obvious on the nose. In the mouth the brambly fruit is again evident, but the tannins have yet to settle down.
Finally we met Vicente Flors who is considered a father figure by many of the other wine-makers in the area but he has not been making wines for much longer than any of them! He is experimental, learning from the results and uses the biodynamic calendar.
His wines have long been favourites and we were again to taste two new releases.
At one end of the scale is the white, 2015 Flor de Tarongers, a 12.5%ABV blend of Macabeo, Moscatel and Gewürztraminer. Pale gold with gold flashes the wine is dense, clean and bright. On the nose it is full of apricot, with notes of spice and fruitstone oils. In the mouth there is plenty of acidity to counter the ripe spicy fruit, it is a rich wine but fresh enough to drink on its own.
At the other end of the scale The Flor de Clotas is 15% ABV, a blend of Tempranillo and Monastrell with 6 months in American oak. This is a medium bodied cherry , with long legs still colouring the glass. The nose has very mature fruit and touches of the oak, whilst in the mouth the fruit is ripe and rich, the wine creamy and smooth with a satisfying long finish.
As this was a flying visit we had to leave shortly after talking with Vicente but as Sergio Garrido had been unable to attend the fair we arranged to call in and see him and his wife Maria Jose at Clos D´esgarracordes on the way home…. and at his request compare the 2014 and 2015 Rosados.
The 2014 is a blend of Monastrell, Garnacha, Syrah and Tempranillo with 13% ABV and a marked onion skin colour. Fresh on the nose it is a classic rosado with a good acidity, an easy drinking wine which is very good with seafood dishes.
In marked contrast the 2015 is a pure Syrah and despite a couple of hours maceration on the skins is a deeper strawberry colour. Cherry fruit and red currants with a floral hint on the nose this has more fruit in the mouth, is rich well-balanced acidity and minerality in the long full finish. It is very much to the taste of the English community and needs to be well chilled as it is much fuller.
We are always very happy to visit with these friends, for such is the relationship we enjoy. Les Useres produces some of the finest wines from Castellon (these are not all of them by any means) and we will always be happy to show them in tastings and promote them wider. We know there will always be something new for us to learn or something new to taste.