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New to Our Portfolio: Wines of Bierzo

From the “increasingly fashionable small DO region” of  Bierzo, in Castilla y Leon, in the northwest of Spain, comes the wines of Valle del Boeza, Tinto Mencia and Roble.  An ancient wine region that has recently been resurrected to help pave the way for Mencía, a native red grape, Bierzo is known for its fruity, aromatically refreshing red wines.  In the small village of Valtuille de Abajo (population 200!), it is here that our most recent acquisitions, Valle de Boeza Tinto Mencia and Roble, are produced.

Inspired by Jorge Perez’s (our Iberian Portfolio Director) trip to Bierzo in 2007, these wines are made in collaboration with winemaker Jorge Peique, a third generation viticulturist. And while most other vineyards in the area have been ‘abandoned’ by their owners, the Peique family still farms the 20 hectares that they owns, just as they cultivate 20 additional hectares that are owned by five other families.

Once a village where most everyone grew grapes and produced their own family wines, Valtuille de Abajo is where the Peique family maintains tradition.  At a time when others were bringing in Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Peiques stuck to the area’s native grape, Mencía.  Seventeen years ago, Jorge studied oeonolgy, so that he could refine his family’s vineyards and produce wines for export.  Once a supplier of bulk wines to co-ops and negociants, who also made wines for their own personal consumption, the Peique family released their first commercial vintage in 1999.

With 45-90 year old goblet trained vines that are always harvested by hand, the Peiques employ two green harvests, one early on and a second in July.  Yielding between four to six tons of fruit per hectare, where the soil consists of stone, clay and sand, the family practices sustainable farming, habitually using organic fertilizers, and employing copper and sulfur only when necessary.

In the beginning of the collaboration, Peique used 50% wild yeast and 50% commercial; but since 2009, Jorge has used only wild yeasts for all of his fermentations.  And while both the Tinto Mencia and the Roble are both made with 100% Mencía, the Tinto Mencia is fermented in stainless steel, while the Roble sees seven months of oak.

We are pleased to welcome both Tinto Mencia and Roble to our Spanish book.  The family’s history, methodology and preservation of tradition make them a perfect addition to the other farmers who cultivate the grapes that become the wines we drink.

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