DO Bierzo, located in the northwest of the province of Castile and León, is possibly one of the most exciting wine regions in Spain today. Its indigenous Mencia is the prime red grape while Godello, with its floral, ripe fruit and green apple characteristics stands out as its major quality white grape variety.
Characteristically, Mencia has a deep, intense colour, aromatic red and black fruit flavours with hints of graphite terroir and with great ageing capabilities.
The Godello, despite its small production (440 tons compared to 19,000 tons for Red), has been attracting attention and loyalty among both producers and consumers.
DO Bierzo, which covers an area of just under 4000 hectares of vineyards, some of which are over 100 years old, is on the border of the provinces of Ourense, Lugo and Oviedo in the north and in the south on areas of La Montaña, La Cabrera and La Meseta, all of which are in León. The area consists of numerous small valleys in the mountainous part (Alto Bierzo) and of a wide, flat plain (Bajo Bierzo).
The greatest expansion of viticulture in this region was related to the growth of the monasteries, especially the Cistercian order, during the Middle Ages on the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela that passes through the region. After centuries of production and having achieved a good reputation in the markets of Galicia and Asturias, the Bierzo vineyards suffered a terrible blow in the 18th century when phylloxera very nearly wiped them out. There was a severe economic crisis which forced many people to emigrate.
Production was slowly re-established thanks to the technique of grafting on to new world rootstocks, and wine production gradually recovered to assume the significant economic role it had played in the past. In 1989, the Bierzo Denominación de Origen was officially recognised.
DO Bierzo has a special microclimate which is beneficial for viticulture. On the one hand, it is similar to the climate of Galicia with regard to humidity and rainfall, and on the other it is also similar to the hot, dry climate of Castile. The low altitude, ranging from 500m to 650m, also helps to prevent late frosts and means that the grape harvest is usually about one month earlier than in Castile. The average annual temperature is around 12°C, with the minimum in winter of 3.5°C and maximum in summer of 24°C. The average annual rainfall is about 700 mm, and the vines receive about 2,200 hours of sunshine per year. The soils in the mountains are a mixture of fine elements, quartz and slate. The vineyards are planted mainly on humid, dark soil which is slightly acidic and low in carbonates.
The authorised DO Bierzo red grapes are Mencia, Garnacha Tintorera, experimental Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the white grapes Doña Blanca, Godello, Palomino, experimental Malvasía, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. At its best, Mencia has the ethereal nature of Pinot Noir, the brightness of Cabernet Franc and the freshness of Italy's Nebbiolo.
Vinos de Arganza is a dynamic young winery located in Toral de los Vados just south of Villafranca del Bierzo in the heart of the Bierzo region. It was established in the year 2000 by Victor Robla who is a very well respected winemaker, and they now produce young wines, Roble and Crianza. They own 20 hectares of their own vineyards as well as holding long-term contracts with selected "viticultores" in the area. The main objective of the winery is to make the most of the terroir, using fruit from old vines to create wines of both old and new world characteristics sold at astonishingly great value prices. The 1500m2 winery has state of the art equipment for the elaboration and bottling of the wines, and 1800 barrels of French and American oak. Production now reaches1,800,000 bottles for both domestic and export markets. In 2007, the winery was awarded the BRC Global Standard certificate and IFS.
on the underlined grape varieties for more information.