“The future lies in the past” has become something of a battle cry for a new generation of winemakers in Spain who are reviving long abandoned vineyards and rediscovering a wealth of native grapes. Javier Revert is very much part of this renaissance, when he spent a few days in London recently we took the opportunity to find out more about this young project and his winemaking inspirations.
Javi grew up in a small village called Font de la Figuera, south of Valencia and around 60 km inland from the coast. Grapes have been grown here since the 4th Century BC and, like most local families, his family were farmers until his father’s generation. When phylloxera hit the region the hillside vineyards were abandoned, when people replanted many did so in the easier to work valleys, and started to sell their grapes to coops rather than making their own wine. Javi feels a strong connection to his home landscape, so knowing he wanted to work in the countryside he studied agricultural engineering. He didn’t specifically want to work as a winemaker at that point, but as he finished university a job came up at Celler del Roure in his home village. This was the perfect base for Javi to explore the local area while developing his winemaking skills.
He cites fellow Spanish winemakers and Indigo’ers Dani Landi and José Maria Vicente (Casa Castillo) as a big influence, and as good friends. They all enjoy visiting and trying wines from other producers that they admire, with a particular penchant for Burgundy and the Rhone – their Instagram feeds are a catalogue of enviable bottles. As Javi says:
“The important thing is to know what you’re aiming for!”
Javi is close to his grandfather and has always loved hearing his stories about the local area. One afternoon they were walking together above the village when they came across a vineyard that had been planted by Javi’s great-grandfather. This discovery prompted Javi to look out for other old, terraced sites and he has amassed around five hectares. These plots hadn’t been worked for years so had become overgrown with scrub, olive and almond trees. The vines which survive are field blends of local varietals such as Tortosí, Trepadell, Malvasía, Merseguera, Verdil, Garnacha Tintorera, Monastrell and Arcos.
All the old varieties had long growing cycles, many weren’t harvested until early November. This allows the grapes to ripen steadily and develop phenolically, but can be risky if Autumn rains arrive before you harvest. On the other hand with the the evidence for climate mounting and winemakers reporting earlier harvests, Javi thinks that working with later ripening varieties could be the future, unless people want to be harvesting in August.
His first vintage was 2016. Until 2018 he as been making his wines at Celler del Roure – 2019 will be the first vintage at his new cellar (pictured below).
Micalet is his only white wine. The grapes come from that original plot he discovered with his grandfather. The vines were planted in 1948 by his great-grandfather. They’re a mixture of Tortosí (40%), Trepadell (25%) with the rest made up from Malvasía, Merseguera, Verdil and Macabeo. He has worked with his grandfather and other older winemakers from the village to identify these forgotten varietals. The soils in the vineyard are chalky, not unlike the Albariza around Jerez. Some of the vines are on their own roots and other are grafted. These vineyards are between 700 and 900 metres above sea level so too remote for phylloxera to have reached in some cases.
The first year he harvested all six varietals and vinified them separately before blending – mainly because he had never tried single varietal wines of most of these grapes. But he found the resulting blend didn’t gel so now he co-ferments. In the first year he fermented and aged his white in amphora but found the result fruitier than he was aiming for. Now he uses 54 litre glass demi-johns and old oak barrels as he’s aiming for a fresher more linear wine which really expresses its chalky origins.
He makes two reds. Sensal is his ‘village wine’ grapes come from three plots. The blend for 2016 and 17 is Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) and Monastrell which are co-fermented and Bonicaire (Trepat). This will change as Javi is clearing old terraces and planting new vineyards which in the future will go into Sensal. He’s planting Arcos cultivated via massal selection and Garnacha with cuttings from his friend José Maria in Jumilla. This smoky, plumy red with a touch of pencil shavings on the finish is fermented 60% whole-bunch and rests in old oak for a year where it undergoes malo.
His other red is called Simeta, it’s made with 100% Arcos from a plot planted in 1975 on sandier soil. 30% of vineyards in the area used to be planted to Arcos but now only 2 hectares remain. It’s a late ripening variety with loose clusters of small berries with thick skins. He ferments 100% whole cluster and transfers the wine into amphora for 1 year. The result has a pure red fruit nose and a fresh juiciness in the mouth. The tannin is more apparent than Simeta, Javi sees this as a more serious wine than Simeta that should age well. Luis Gutiérrez. in his recent report on robertparker.com, gave Simeta 2017 94 points and said: “It has a super fine palate with very fine, chalky tannins. Plain great, elegant Mediterranean red.”
Javi describes his wines as having an “old fashioned Mediterranean style” which for him means a freshness and purity of fruit – not what people expect from such a warm dry region.
Terrace sites above the village ready for replanting. Javi’s new micro-bodega in Font de la Figuera.
What of the future? He’d like to make a bit more wine. He’s clearing the old terraces which were abandoned after phylloxera and replanting them with traditional varieties using massal selection to produce new plants. He’s also continuing to tweak the blends and winemaking – 2019 will only be his fourth vintage after all. These pure vibrant wines are tasting great already, we see a bright future for Javier and modern/old fashioned wines.