A small area on the northwestern edge of the province of León, Spain, Bierzo is a developing wine appellation. The Upper Bierzo area is home to the mining industry, but the Lower Bierzo has built its legacy on agricultural and viticultural traditions. Following the initiative of young producers and important investments in recent years, Bierzo has undergone dramatic transformations that also include transformations in the quality and reputation of its wines.
The DO Bierzo appellation (Denominacion de origen) is a recent creation dating back to 1989. Bierzo enjoys favourable conditions for growing its vines due to a micro-climate with a strong maritime influence and an ideal location with shale slopes (in the Cacabelos, Camponaraya, Ponferrada, and Villafranca del Bierzo areas).
Because of its strategic location on the road to Santiago de Compostela, the first vineyards in the region were planted by French monks who mentioned this area under the name of "del Borgonon" in their writings. The wine region is often nicknamed "the little Spanish Burgundy" because the small-sized vineyards are organized according to terroir or type of wine, and producers use traditional Burgundy bottles. It also owes its nickname to its symbolic local black grape variety, Mencía, which is often compared to Pinot Noir. However, Mencía is a grape variety that is closer to Cabernet Franc.
Mencía produces particular wines with a unique bouquet. With a bright ruby red colour, the wines offer fresh and spicy aromas that evolve into cocoa, black cherry and stewed fruits notes. On the palate, a fruity, velvety texture with generous, soft and pleasant tannins give a seductive mouthfeel. These typical wines that are found nowhere else have a good ageing potential and are recognizable by a slight metallic taste. Mencia represents 62% of the area under vine while Garnacha Tintorera is the second most widely planted variety.
For the whites, Bierzo produces an excellent Doña blanca, a variety from Portugal. With its pale yellow colour, fruity aromas, and lively and light flavours, the wine ideally pairs with shellfish and fish.