While on holiday in the Alicante DOP, I had the privilege of visiting Bodegas Faelo, a family owned and operated biodynamic vineyard and winery, situated in the town of Matola, near Elche. A true passion for tending the vines as well as making incredible wines is apparent with this fourth generation owned and operated estate. Current owner and the great grandson, Jaime Soto, is continuing the winemaking tradition that his great grandfather started almost 100 years ago.
Monastrell was the first grape variety planted at the bodega about 100 years ago by Jaime’s great grandfather. 1930 marks the year of the bodega’s first wine production; however, the wine was only ever consumed by the family and sold by the Litre to neighbours and close friends. Named after Jaime’s grandfather Rafael, the bodega continued this informal method of production and distribution until 2000, when Jaime took over as director of the vineyard. Four more grape varieties; Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat of Alexandria and Chardonnay were planted and commercial wine production began in 2005. Today, Bodegas Faelo sells five different wines; a dry white wine (Chardonnay), a dry rosado (Syrah), a dry red wine (Cabernet & Monastrell blend), a sweet dessert wine (Muscat of Alexandria) and another bottle of the same dessert wine but with gold flecks, which is perfect for celebratory occasions.
Located off the main highway and hidden amongst the other local farms, Bodega Faelo is a a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Juan, who is Jaime’s son. He led our tour and provided us with information about the Bodega’s history, viticultural practises and approach to winemaking.
The vineyard is farmed without pesticides or the use of other harmful chemicals. Whenever possible, plants are specifically chosen and planted throughout the vineyard that either prevent disease or positively benefit the vineyard’s dynamic ecosystem. For example, roses are planted at the end of each vineyard row, as they are often the first plants that will show signs of a disease that may be a potential threat to the vines.
Bodegas Faelo produces wines using low intervention methods which coincides with their approach to viticulture. We were given a tour of the cellar and winery, where we learned how these beautiful wines are created. Juan explained to us that the small farmhouse, also known as a faeneta, was originally built by his great-grandfather and has now been incorporated as part of the winery.
The cellar and winery tour was like taking a trip back in time. Our first stop was the winery’s solera which houses some of the oldest barrels of wine in the Bodega. One barrel dates back to 1930 and is annually topped up with wine from other barrels in the solera system. This wine isn’t sold by the bodega, as it is considered a bit too precious and saved for special occasions.
The winery still uses tools and machinery that are over 100 years old. We were fortunate enough able to see the original grape press, as well as the afollaor, which is container where the grapes are stomped by foot and the must is collected below in a concrete tank. Traditional shoes made out of local grasses are worn when stomping on the grapes.
Our final stop was a visit to the cellar where wine is stored both in barrels and stainless steel tanks. Only the La Dama wine is aged in barrels, while the remaining wines are aged in the stainless steel tanks.
After touring the vineyard and winery, we were seated under a wooden pergola beneath the trees, alongside the vines. This was the perfect respite from the intense afternoon sun!
While my husband and I enjoyed an incredible tasting of the bodega’s wines paired with locally produced cured meats, cheeses and pastries, our five children were presented with sodas, a selection of homemade pizza, cured meats and cheeses. As a parent, I often find it so difficult taking children along on a winery tour. However, this was an extremely enjoyable experience for everyone. I highly recommend Bodegas Faelo if you’re a wine lover wishing to indulge in a fantastic oenological experience while visiting the Alicante region with children in tow!
L’Alba del Mar ~ Chardonnay ~ 2019
L’Alba del Mar Chardonnay is the perfect embodiment of the local terroir. It’s almost as if the fresh citrus, stone fruit and tropical fruit flavours from the surrounding fruit groves have been perfectly captured in the bottle. Despite growing in a rather warm, Mediterranean climate, this medium-bodied, 12.% abv Chardonnay still manages to retain a refreshing level of acidity on a lengthy, flavourful finish. My husband and I enjoyed this wine so much that we purchased three bottles! Enjoy this Chardonnay on its own or paired with your favourite cheese board and charcuterie.
L’Alba Rosado ~ Syrah ~ 2019
The gorgeously vibrant, ruby-red and violet tinted L’Alba Rosado is made entirely from 100% Syrah grapes. On the palate, the wine is a bit more of a fuller-bodied rosé wine; similar in body to that of a Tavel. Notes of red cherry, ripe strawberry and juicy red raspberries along with hints of cinnamon and spice filled the palate on a lengthy, indulgent finish. This wine is great with food and paired perfectly with the local pastry filled with a fresh tomato and herb filling.
La Dama ~ Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell ~ Crianza 2017
I really enjoyed this La Dama Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell Crianza 2017 blend. Although this wine is labelled as a Crianza, it has been aged in oak for 1 year and then bottle-aged for an additional two years before release. Jaime believes that the extended time both in barrel and in bottle imparts additional elegance and complexities to the wine. This wine offers flavours and aromas of plum, cherry, cassis, vanilla, dried fruit and some leather notes. At 13% abv, this wine is full-bodied, yet possesses well balanced acidity, smooth tannins on the mid-palate and a flavourful finish. I would pair this wine with a lovely, succulent roasted leg of lamb, seasoned with fresh herbs.
Palma Blanca ~ Muscat of Alexandria ~ 2017
This Palma Blanca dessert wine is made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape variety. The wine is made entirely from the Muscat of Alexandria grape by blending unfermented must with 15% abv distilled wine. This delightfully sweet wine is filled with aromas of fresh blossoms, apricots, orange peel and hints of almonds. On the palate a medley of pronounced citrus notes such as ripe lemons and oranges along with fresh nutmeg and dried apricots continues to tantalise the palate with medium+ acidity and full body. This dessert wine wasn’t overly sweet, but rather enjoyable on a hot, August afternoon.
Pefectly paired with dried fruit and almond squares, this Palma Blanca dessert wine was an indulgent way to end this truly magnificent wine tour.
I highly recommend visiting Bodegas Faelo. This truly boutique bodega offers not only a heartwarming welcome, but also an exceptional level of dedication and commitment to winemaking and preservation of the local terroir. You’ll be so glad you made the journey!