Bierzo : The next big thing in Spain?

Similar to the hype on New World winescand regions, the same is also happeningcinside the European boundaries. The term new old world is now a thing to recognizedcemerging, once smaller regions in old worldccountries that are now making waves andcshowing their true potential. For Spanish wines,cthis newcomer is certainly Bierzo with its richchistory, past, unique style and classic local varietals.

Cloistered in the northwestern extremity of Castilla-y-Leon, close to the Galician border, Bierzo has many aspects to brag about, but surely its shining light’s the excellent potential of Mencía. Not exclusive to Spain, as it can be found in Portugal under the synonym Jaen, it’s a rather fresh, rich-flavored, high quality wines with the ability to exhibit earthy, vegetal characters with red berry nuances and stony can’t miss minerality. While some expressions, especially in the past, has been pale and fragrant, today’s Bierzo wines are highly-complex, food friendly with palpable structure, superb attributes and aging capabilities, the secret of these outstanding, modern wines resides in the vineyard heritage. First is the unique climate and location, in somewhat of a mountain region, with milder temperatures that allow for slow ripening. Then, and most importantly, many winemakers have turned their interest towards ancient, steep vineyards, which were 40, 50 even 100 years old. To find these vineyards is no small task, as these are often abandoned and hard to locate, but their careful tending of these old vines on schist hillsides, resulted in more concentrated grapes, giving way to deeper, higher-quality wines as well as international recognition.

Truth is, for now, the price for grapes from old and young vines is the same in the region. There’s been a significant price raise for the lands, but truly there are simply no other vines options, besides these precious oldies. Of the more than 3,000 acres of Mencía in the region, an estimated 80% are considered to be “old vines,” planted at least 50 years ago. This capacity to create wines that emphasize the singular qualities of a particular region was definitely the right turn for the region. Putting Mencía on the map, with a distinctive style and a sense of place deserves a toast!

Some producer’s impressive winemaking skills has had the world’s attention, all of them quite small scale and passionate such as Álvaro Palacios and his nephew Ricardo Pérez Palacios, Dominio de Tares, Raúl Pérez, Bodegas Adriá, Prada a Tope and
many more. It’s thanks to their dedication that we can now enjoy the true taste of Bierzo. It’s an exciting time for Spanish wine history, as this exciting search for new wines is not limited to Bierzo, rediscovered regions, rejuvenated plots of abandoned old vines, and audacious producers arises all over the country, and they are making waves. The same exciting movement can be found in Ribeira Sacra where Laura Lorenzo of Dominio do Bibei; Pedro Rodríguez of Guímaro; Roberto Santana, Alfonso
Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez, who together form the Envínate (Wine Yourself) project have also been invigorating Mencía. This combination of old vines and new ideology is here to stay as the response from consumers is quite cheerful.

by Joanie Metivier

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