Overview of Bierzo
Continuing on our Spanish theme from my previous post, I would like to introduce you to Bierzo, a small wine-producing region in the northwest part of Spain. This is an “up-and-coming” region in every sense of the word – ten years ago, Bierzo wines were virtually unheard of in the international marketplace. Today, however, Bierzo wines have swelled in popularity due to a dramatic increase in the quality of the wines. You may not have heard of Bierzo, but odds are your local wine store has several bottles from this enchanting and developing region.
The hilly terrain of many Bierzo vineyards creates a unique microclimate ideal for winemaking.
Bierzo produced only small quantities of locally-consumed wines until the late 1990s. In 1998, an intrepid winemaker named Alvaro Palacios discovered this region while traveling throughout Spain. Palacios was already gaining renown for producing ripe, modern and powerful wines in Priorat. However, Bierzo offered Palacios something different – a cooler climate between the mountains of Castilla y León and Galicia that could produce lighter-bodied wines with more elegance and finesse.
Palacios was the primary driver behind the growth and development of Bierzo wines in the 21st century. He expressed his confidence in making distinctive wines from Mencía, a native grape that had primarily been used for blending. He employed techniques from France’s Burgundy wine region, such as making wines from grapes grown in single vineyards and aging his wines in new oak barrels. The result has been an impressive ascension from anonymity to international acclaim of Bierzo wines in the 21st century.
The Mencía grape creates extremely versatile wines with a range of fresh fruit and mineral flavors.
As previously mentioned, the star grape in Bierzo is Mencía, a native grape to northwestern Spain that is virtually unheard of in other regions. The Mencía grape occupies approximately two-thirds of the Bierzo vineyards and produces light to medium-bodied red wines. The weather in Bierzo tends to be warm during the summers and cool at night, allowing the wines to exhibit fresh, fruity and minerally characteristics with high levels of acidity. Due to the mild tannins and light body of many of these wines, they can generally be enjoyed at a younger age – although certain producers are making more structured and age-worthy wines.
While many Bierzo wines are difficult to find in wine stores outside of Spain, the bottles below should be relatively accessible in a store or online. Similar to other up-and-coming wine regions, Bierzo wines are likely to only continue improving, so keep your eyes peeled next time you’re browsing your local store for one of these unique and refreshing wines.
- Telmo Rodriguez Gaba do Xil Valdeorras Mencia 2009, $18: A fruit-forward wine, with some floral characteristics and a persistent finish
- 2010 Bodegas Adria Vega Montan Mencia, $14: Black fruits and currant on the palate, with refreshing acidity
- 2009 Descendientes de Jose Palacios “Petalos del Bierzo”, $20: A delicious and structured red wine, with dense aromas of dark fruit, mineral and herbs
- 2010 Pago de Valdoneje Mencia Bierzo, $12: Light-bodied, with a refreshing and perfumed finish
- Bodegas Estefanía Bierzo Tilenus Pagos de Posada 2001, $28: An elegant and fragrant wine, with blackberry and spice on the palate