Just Another Day in Paradise!..Visits to Vicente Flors and Juan Carlos Pavia Before Lunch in L´Escudella!

New Garnacha at Vicente Flors

New Garnacha at Vicente Flors

Leaving Valencia at 8.00 am in the morning and joining Friday´s  rush-hour traffic on the A7 Motorway towards Barcelona the day did not seem to be getting off to an auspicious start! I don´t do early morning nor heavy traffic normally!

But I will make exceptions to help friends and in any case a visit to the Bodega of Vicente Flors in Les Useres always throws something new and interesting up and today was to be no different. Vicente had been asked to host a visit from International Students undertaking a Master’s Degree in wine, agriculture and the marketing of wine. He did not know much about the background of the course and had asked me to help with translation into English. As I know his bodega and methods well I was more than happy to see what I could do. When they arrived, all 23 of them and the course manager a lot became clearer!

International Masters Students.

International Masters Students.

Yes there were Japanese, French, Argentinian, American and Russian students but interestingly a requirement of the course is to be fluent in a second language. The course is funded by UNESCO and partly administered by the EU. The students receive 45,000 euros to do the course and spend three months at a time in different countries and then do placements before qualifying.  Oh how I wish I was young again!

Before the coach arrived Vicente showed me the Garnacha Grano Menudo he has allocated for his new Natural Sweet wine, the grapes looking very healthy hanging in small bunches, small, concentrated , loose grapes with a healthy bloom. The intention is to pick them in about a month and press them slowly to extract all the colour and fruit and then ferment to about 14º alcohol leaving a enough natural sugars to give the wine its sweetness. The vines are just three years old and this will be their first vintage…..as long as the rain does not come and ruin everything!

Garnacha Grano Menudo.

Garnacha Grano Menudo.

The previous day Vicente had picked his Garnacha and Tempranillo for the new Rosado he is making and this was in a nearby bodega ( Vicente does not yet have permission from the Authorities to use his own premises) in deposit. This harvest had been undertaken dodging the frequent showers of Thursday afternoon.

The tour went well, the students asked lots of technical questions and between us we got it all explained, if slowly because of repetition in French, Spanish and English! The cata however was done in English, four very distinct wines, the maceración carbonica Flor de Tarongers 2011 Tempranillo, the Flor de Clotas with just five months in oak, also 2011 and Tempranillo ( fresh, fruity ) the Clotas Tempranillo with 14 months oak from 2010, Tempranillo, ( intense fruit, complex, spicy) and we finished with the Clotas Monastrell, also 14 months of crianza, ( Fruit, spice and hints of violets and figs).

Juan Carlos Pavia and Vicente Flors.

Juan Carlos Pavia and Vicente Flors.

The students left and moved on to nearby Clos d´escarragordes. We cleared up and went to see Juan Carlos Pavia in the next village,  La Barona. Vicente was keen to see how his rosado was coming along and Juan Carlos who was up to his ears in managing everything that was going on dropped everything to come and chat to us.

Juan Carlos eventually hopes to open his own bodega but , for the time being is very happy with the arrangement he and Pilar who owns Bodegas El Rosso ( former producers of L´Esperit)  have come to. He makes their bulk wines and uses the premises to make his own Roques Negres and this year has also been experimenting. A brief tour of the bodega was followed by a fascinating tasting…a continuing part of the learning process!

Selection of Wines Tasted!

Selection of Wines Tasted!

We started with a new white, a pure Macabeo, still fermenting in deposit. Cloudy but absolutely reeking of fresh apples, bananas and  boiled sweets this already has a fresh acidity. I was keen to monitor the progress of the Syrah, a new wine which I had tried from deposit in Les Useres earlier in the year. ( See archives June 2013). Thoughtfully Juan Carlos brought samples from the deposit and the barrica ( approximately half the wine has had a four-month crianza and is ready to go back to deposit to allow the other half to go into the  barrels). The wine in deposit has a spiky fresh black cherry fruit and the sample from the barrel has just rounded off nicely! The two sets of  wine will need to blended and bottled and allowed to stabilise but by around the end of Spring next year it should be ready for the market……cant wait!

Next we tried a Macabeo 2008 fermented in barrica which comes from the El Rosso stable. It was a modern attempt to produce a fuller wine in the style which was and still is traditionally made in the village. We were not all in agreement that it had worked. However the next two wines a traditional rancio aged in big oak barrels and a 16º + version which are sold in bidons were pleasant. Typical of the style of wines still produced in the Valentino of DO Valencia in villages such as Casinos and Vilar D´Arzobispo these have an interesting fruit base but are oxidised and on the way to being a sherry style wine….the second was very close.

After these we tried the Roques Negres red, a great way to finish a visit on a very busy day in the bodega and thanks to Juan Carlos for his time!

L´escudella Restaurant.

L´escudella Restaurant.

Visits to this area are never complete without lunch! It is not every day your host says `let’s go 60km and try a restaurant in Villafranca´….especially as the thunderstorms were gathering over the mountains we were about to cross! It did allow for some spectacular scenery as the plots  of vines, almonds and olives gave way to  proper fields with stone walls like you get in Yorkshire, cows, oak trees, hawthorn with bright plump red berry´s on, eagles flying over the windmills beyond the town of Ares del Maestrat ( itself an eagle’s nest perched on the Col de Ares) and later the truffle fields and hazelnut groves around the spa town of Benassal.

This is the country of El Cid and well worth a visit.

Salmon with Yoghurt.

Salmon with Yoghurt.

Villafranca del Cid has a small but spectacular restaurant, L´escudella run by Emilio Pons and Bruno Morrajo. It offers clever, traditional dishes using modern techniques such as low temperature cooking, fabulous presentation and with subtle touches such as salad dressings of concentrated grape juice, home-made jams and jellies and creams and yoghurts with hints of lemon to lift them and ice-cream with a dressing of lemon and basil to accompany a chocolate pudding to die for.

For starters we had rovellons and a potato dish marinated in vinegar with onion, salmon marinated with yoghurt and which was perfectly fresh,tasty and tender.

Baby Pigs Ears.

Baby Pigs Ears.

This was followed by a goats cheese salad and then baby pigs ears , crunchy and with a sesame seed crust served with cherry tomato garnish. This was followed by little croquettes ( or Napoleanas named after the tricorn hat) .

Main courses were baby lamb or baby piglet , slow cooked and absolutely tender, melt in the mouth meat served with a potato and maracuya garnish , (part of the passion fruit family). How well the Clotas Tempranillo went with them!

Pudding was the chocolate….too good to miss!!!!!

Baby Lamb. Melt in Mouth!

Baby Lamb. Melt in Mouth!

This was an excellent example of simple, top quality ingredients being cooked with care, love and a great deal of thought….cocina mimada  at its best! A very big thanks to Vicente Flors for a fabulous end to a truly great day!

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