La Zafra’s story begins in 2016 with Mar Cabanes and her partner Ignacio Mancebo returning to her ancestral home in Monòver, Alicante. Her family had farmed Monastrell here for generations, selling grapes and making wine to drink at home, and Mar and Ignacio saw an opportunity to put their backgrounds in organic agriculture into practice. They took over about two hectares of vineyards from Mar’s uncle and started building a small winery. Their intention was always to farm and work in harmony with the natural environment, and to make wines without additives and in a fresher style than is common in the area.
Mar’s family’s vineyards are in the highlands of Alicante, on rocky white limestone soils. Here, inland from Valencia, temperatures are high, rainfall is low, and the sun is intense. These characteristics are beneficial for low intervention farming and fit the main local grape, Monastrell, which is late-ripening and drought-resistant. The same factors have led to a tendency towards burly, high-alcohol wines in the region, made with grapes harvested at the highest possible level of ripeness. Mar and Ignacio approach Monastrell with a different mindset, harvesting much earlier than their neighbors and producing wines of depth and intensity, but with more moderate alcohol levels. In their small cellar, they are similarly innovative. They work mainly with stainless steel tanks, fermenting everything in very small 300L vessels, with a used French oak barrel employed for aging wine made with their oldest vines.
Their quest to make wines of the Alicante terroir has also led them to other grape varieties that are now very uncommon in the area. Working with neighboring organic farmer, they made a skin-contact wine with old-vine Merseguera in 2020. More significantly, Mar and Ignacio have been on a quest to recover the nearly extinct Valencí Negre, a local variety that was also commonly grown as a table grape. Discovering the only remaining plot, they worked with the vines’ owner to recover the 70-year-old vines. Simultaneously, Mar and Ignacio worked with the local authorities in the D.O. to get the grape back on the list of permitted varieties. Their efforts bore fruit in 2020, when Valencí Negre returned to that list in 2020. For now, they blend their small quantities of the variety with Monastrell to make the wine Monval.
Mar and Ignacio’s passion for Alicante, for eco-agriculture, and for natural winemaking is infectious. La Zafra is equally the product of Mar’s family’s heritage in Monòver and Mar and Ignacio’s vision for ecologically beneficial agriculture. Their vision extends beyond wine: in 2020, they harvested their first organic saffron from crocus beds that they planted in 2019. The tiny winery and farm’s motto is “Vinos hechos con cariño” – “wines made with love,” and you can feel Mar and Ignacio’s passion in their wines.
Pet Nat 100% Monastrell from 20–21-year-old vines with 4 hours of skin contact, fermented in 300L stainless-steel tank and bottled before fermentation completed. Bottles were disgorged the following June and refilled with the same wine. No sulfur added.
Rosado NU 100% Monastrell from 20–21-year-old vines. The grapes were destemmed, then macerated on their skins for 24 hours. Fermented and rested in stainless-steel tanks before bottling without fining, filtration, or sulfur addition. Brisado NU 100% Merseguera from 55-year-old vines owned by Mar and Ignacio’s neighbor. The grapes were destemmed, pressed with a small manual press, then ferment and macerate on their skins for 4 days in small stainless-steel tank, with 3 or 4 punch downs each day. Bottled without fining, filtering, or sulfur addition.
Nuet 100% Monastrell from Mar and Ignacio’s earliest ripening plot of younger vines. The grapes were destemmed and fermented in small stainless-steel tank with 3 days of maceration on their skins. Bottled without fining, filtering, or sulfur addition.
Tinto NU 100% Monastrell from mix of Mar and Ignacio’s older and younger vines. The grapes were destemmed and fermented in small stainless-steel tank with 10 days of maceration on their skins. Bottled without fining, filtering, or sulfur addition.
Madara 100% Monastrell from Mar and Ignacio’s oldest vines in a small single plot. Fermented in 300L stainless steel tank with 12 days of maceration on the skins, then transferred to a used French oak barrel to rest for 12 months. Bottled without fining, filtering, or sulfur addition.
Monval 80% Monastrell and 20% Valencí Negre, fermented in 300L stainless steel tanks and macerated on their skins for 6 days. After fermentation finished, the wine was racked into a used French oak barrel to rest for six months. Bottled without fining, filtering, or sulfur addition.