The Bierzo region northwest of Spain may be a new name for new oenophiles, but it is a name that should definitely be on their tongues; I attended the “Discovering El Bierzo” tasting last week and the wines were incredibly good.
Despite being a relative unknown in the wine industry, Bierzo wines possess a character unlike no other. Grapes from this region are kissed by the dry, hot climate akin to the lands of Castile, and then showered with the rain and humidity that is reminiscent of Galicia. Coupled with a soil with fine minerals, slate, and quartz, the region produces grapes that are of unique quality.
Red wines produced from Mencia grapes are among the best varieties produced in this region. The character of this wine is known by professionals for its fresh, fruity notes, smooth tannins, as well as a reflection of the terroir the region is known for. Although better known as a young wine, some creative wine producers are able to prove that Mencia wines can age well, especially if the right kind of oak is used as the barrel.
The Bierzo region is also well-known for their white wines as well, particularly those of the Dona Blanca variety. These were some of my favorites. The thick skins of the grapes fit well with the wet climate of Bierzo, although it does add to the bitterness of the finishes wines. The astringency of the wines could be gleaned from the amount of polyphenols present in the skin.
After years of being inactive in the wine scene, Bierzo wines are finally coming back. The main reason why this appellation has not been marketed much is the reluctance of retailers to try something that has not been proven to be a success. But the world is a large place, and there are many people who would love to try new things. After all, ten years ago people had no idea what Malbec was. Bierzo seems to fit the bill, so it would not be surprising if this would be one of the hottest wines in the current market.
Wine lovers rejoice; right now there are 55 wineries in the region. I tasted wines from 17 of these producers to find a delightful surprise. Now it is up to you to visit those stubborn retailers and demand something new and exciting.