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This wine is truly exceptional for all sorts of reasons and I can't tell you what fun it was to drink, not just taste.
Valencia is not a region often associated with exciting, nervy wine. The grape variety from which this wine is primarily made, Mandó, is described as nearly extinct even in our Wine Grapes tome*. And although it is becoming a little more common, it is still highly unusual for a wine to be made solely in clay jars or tinajas. But Parotet 2012 fulfils all these conditions.
Celler del Roure was established by Pablo Calatayud in the hills of Moixent south west of the Mediterranean port of Valencia in the mid 1990s. His vineyards are at about 600 m elevation and, to judge from photographs, look exceptionally well maintained. The enterprise specialises in indigenous varieties, particularly Mandó for red wines and Verdil for whites.
This young red blend Celler del Roure, Parotet 2012 Valencia is mainly Mandó with 25% of the local speciality Monastrell (Mourvèdre). The fruit is fermented, using ambient yeast, in stainless steel, where it remains for about 20 days. But the wine is then transferred to the amazing subterranean clay tinajas – Spain's take on amphorae – shown in the gloomy underground cellars here. This is where malolactic conversion takes place and the wine stays here on its lees for a total of about 14 months before being put into these smartly dressed bottles (not too heavy).
Nor is the wine at all heavy, despite its 14.5% alcohol content. It has a really edgy attack and wonderful freshness but concentration too. The attack is most impressive and then on the palate is real bite, guts and depth. The flavours are in the liquorice and balsam spectrum and the whole thing is both persistent and seriously interesting. I found it extremely vibrant but not at all thin. I found it quite delicious already and suspect it may continue to develop for many years but since it is a completely new wine (it looks as though 2011 was the first vintage), I will conservatively suggest that you drink it in the next few years.
For the moment, according to wine-searcher.com, it is available only in Spain, Germany and the UK (specifically from Davis Bell McCraith and Tivoli Wines) but Celler del Roure's wines are imported into the US by Eric Solomon of European Wine Cellars, who will be ensuring that it makes its way over the Atlantic before long.
I also tried the white Celler del Roure, Cullerot 2013 Valencia based on the nearly extinct Verdil plus 20% Macabeo from 30-year-old vines, 30% Pedro Ximénez from 70-year-old vines and 20% Chardonnay from 15-year-old vines. It was aged for six months in the clay tinajas and is also very interesting but I found the PX ingredient a bit heavy and the whole thing rather unintegrated at this stage. I'd love to taste a varietal Verdil, however.
Seeking more information about Celler del Roure, I came across this intriguing, and exclamatorily enthusiastic, account of a visit to the estate in what is described as 'the Valencian Tuscany' (taken from Valencia Cool Food). The gentleman described is Paco, Pablo Calatayud's father:
Last Saturday, we visited bodega El Celler del Roure in Moixent. The welcome was just fantastic! A very kind elderly man told us: Welcome to your home! And you become fascinated by the beauty of the landscape and the man’s kindness. To start the visit, the whole group stayed under an almond tree following his explanations of how he lived among the natives in different rainforests in Africa. He used to be a wicker craftsman who needed to learn how to shape different forms using this material.
Afterwards, he started explaining which are the autochtonous varieties of the area (Mandó and Monastrell) and how they grow in this excellent land for vines. The high altitude (600 metres above sea level) and cold winters give extra flavours to the grapes. His great knowledge of agriculture and life in general makes you feel proud of how the elderly people in our country struggled to live during post-war times. All their experiences make them wise men for us.
The visit continues through the winery where we saw the deposits where their line of wines is stored. Depending on the wine grape variety, different conditions are needed. And he continued talking and explaining the most accurate details on their production process.
After that, a great surprise!!! An underground wine cellar dug in stone!!! He explained that some archaeologists are studying its exact origins but they presume it is from the Roman era, as the Via Augusta (the Roman way through Spain to Rome) crosses the town. By the winery, there is an archaeological site from the 4th century BC called Bastida de les Alcusses [Alcusses being the name of another of the producer's bottlings]. Lots of Iberian remains have been found, which give us the idea of how those people drank wine at that time. So, as you see, this land is very special since ancient times!!!
* We note in Wine Grapes that Mandó is a synonym for a Bierzo variety called Mandón, also known as Valenciana Tinta, therefore suggesting origins in Valencia. Our co-author suggests it would be a good idea to compare the DNA of the Mandón of Bierzo with that of the Mandó grown by Celler del Roure.