On Grand Masters, Cosmetics and Oil….A Visit to Bodegas Besalduch & Valls, St Mateu, Castellon..

Grand Master Range.

Grand Master Range.

In the North of Castellon Province, in the region called the Maestrazgo, lies the historical town of Sant Mateu. Here in a recently refurbished old town-house the head office of Bodegues Besalduch y Valls can be found, a new bodega producing wine since 2009.

The Maestrazgo takes its name from the Grand Masters of the Order of Montesa, one of the Catholic chivalric orders which succeeded the Templars and Hospitallers after the suppression of the former order. The order was based in Sant Mateu and inherited on its creation vineyards from Arab land-owners, gifts to the Christians, which produced a dense and alcoholic wine.

Together with wool this was the economic driver in the region. Throughout the 16th-18th centuries the wine increased in popularity and was being exported freely to the top tables of the UK, Holland, St Petersburg, Hamburg,Livorno Brasil and other South American countries. Known as Viña Carlo, or Carlon, the wine was similar in style to a port and taken as an aperitif. In the nineteenth century some 40k Hl were being shipped, much of it to Bordeaux where it was also used to boost claret, a practice which continued until Phylloxera wiped out the vineyards at the turn of the 20th century.

Viña Carlon.

Viña Carlon.

Today this new bodega is reviving the wine-making of the area and has its vineyards in nearby Llomes with an experimental plot at La Coma. Currently they grow Macabeo, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscatel, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha Tinta and Garnacha Tintorera.

The wines are generally each vinified separately and sold as monovarietals, each with the name of one of the former Grand Masters of the Order, with detailed labels and the seal of the order making the bodega´s style quite distinct. This `Grand Master´ range is vinified in nearby Benlloch by Jose Luis Sanchez. The Viña Carlo in its distinct bottle is vinified at La Encina by Jose Maria and Carlos Espi and is a joint collaboration with the University Polytechnic of Valencia, Valencia´s   wine school.

The white Sauvignon Blanc `Llansol de Romaní ´has a short crianza after long maceration and cold fermentation to capture the essence of the variety. Pale straw yellow with green flashes, clean and bright. On the nose, clean fresh, grass, apple, gooseberry and elderflower developing into tropical fruit with pineapple and passion fruit. In the mouth clean and fresh acidity, nice round fruit and a steely finish. Quite French in style and a very nice wine.

Turning to the reds the Tempranillo `Guillem D´Eril´crianza is already a prize winner, gaining a silver at the ASUCAP Best wines from Castellon fair earlier this year. A deep cherry red colour with long glycerinous legs. The nose is almost perfumed, rich ripe fruits, balsamic notes from the nine months in French oak, in the mouth it is round, full-bodied, smooth, well-balanced. Long fruity finish….an easy drinker.

The Merlot Crianza `Bernat Despuig´ also has nine months crianza.  Plum red with long slow fat legs. On the nose sweet red fruit jam, chocolate and spice and in the mouth round, full-bodied, well-balanced, elegant and velvety with a long full finish. A big wine.

The Syrah `Francesc de Sanz´ crianza is very typical of Jose Luis Sanchez´s style, a wine-maker who understands and gets the best out of the variety. In colour it is intense, violet, with very glycerinous legs. On the nose, blackcurrants and cherry, peppers, liquorice…intense. In the mouth this intensity is in soft fruit, ripe, full-bodied with a long full finish. a serious wine.

Rodrigo Vera.

Rodrigo Vera.

The Cabernet Sauvignon `Arnald de Soler´is another plum red wine with long legs. On the nose complex with red fruit jam, sweet red peppers, peppery spice and balsamic notes, in the mouth it is round  , fruity, soft, elegant again with a long finish.

The Garnacha Tinta `Berenguer de March ´is a certified Organic wine and enjoys good varietal characteristics, plum coloured with glycerinous legs, a mixture of fruits and jams on the nose and in the mouth an underlying sweetness, not cloying, which marks it out as different. 14%ABV.

The Viña Carlo is a blend of three varieties, Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Tintorera and Bonicaire ( Trepat) . Intense black cherry colour, long glycerinous legs but a dry, almost astringent nose to begin with, aromatic and in the mouth full, round, gentle sweetness with well-integrated alcohol ( 15% ABV). This is very much a wine for fresh fruit, pate or foie gras

The bodega is currently selling its wines locally through specialist wine shops or in restaurants, but they exhibited in Germany at Prowein and are hoping to tie up a deal with an English importer shortly.

The product line does not end with wine either. Two other ranges are available, a series of quality AOVE olive oils and a range of cosmetics.

They will sell you a tasting box of ten separate varieties of Olives but I tasted four which are available in the shop in reasonable quantities, ranging from a smooth apply basic oil through to the Certified Farga variety from trees with over a thousand years of age, a variety which is native to the Maestrazgo, Rome and part of Greece. It has won Gold medals at the Israeli International Olive Oil Fair in both 2011 and 2012. It is full, fruity and slightly picante.

Range of Olive Oils.

Range of Olive Oils.

Add to this a range of olive oil based cosmetics such as soap, moisturiser, anti-wrinkle cream and a cologne the bodega has much to interest the visitor. The plan is to use the centre as part of a wider visitor centre taking in the olive groves, vineyards and including the family owned Casa Rural and restaurant. In a couple of years it is hoped to re-open the town´s old wine cooperative not as a bodega but as a Wine-museum covering the long history of this activity in the region. In a town with 17 historical monuments already there will be plenty for visitors to see.

Tapas in the Square.

Tapas in the Square.

My thanks to Jose Maria the bodega´s owner and Roderigo Vera the commercial director who made the visit very full and for the suggestion  to try the nearby La Cantonera bar in the square where we enjoyed a range of home-made tapas which are highly recommended!

The bodega has a website www.bbesalduchvalls.es/ and a Facebook page.,

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