Among the most exciting of Spanish wine producing frontiers, the El Bierzo DO is a unique part of the autonomous region of Castilla y León. Romans prized this land as a rich mining source of minerals and gold; Christians guarded it with a network of 300 castles and fortified monasteries, effectively containing Moorish expansion in the 8th and 9th centuries; Castilian knight Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (aka ‘El Cid’) is arguably its most famous son; the crusading Templars are its best-known religious order, and Spain’s most iconic Medieval royalty, Ferdinand and Isabella. Tucked quietly into the historical legacy is the landscape and the winemakers of the Bierzo Valley. Framed between the Montes de Leon and Cordillera Cantábrica mountains, this square-shaped valley of a fertile plain, surrounding stands of forest and steep vineyard terraces acts as a geographic funnel into the lush northwestern corner of the Iberia. Referred to as the ‘gateway to Galicia’, it’s part of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route, providing the speculation that it was the religiously motivated travelers who first brought vines to the area? Though relatively small as a wine region, its vineyards benefit from an Atlantic influenced maritime microclimate, making it equally conducive to the cultivation of red and white grapevine. Curiously, it remains one of the less well-known Spanish designated DO’s in the attention of international markets–despite the impressive fact that its 55 or so Bodegas are prolifically producing 11million litres of wine annually!
Bodega del Abad (the ‘Abbot’s Cellar’) has only been active as an independent producer since 2003, but boasts a loyal following that was expanded by a surprise release several years ago of a 2001 Crianza-grade cache that had been hiding somewhere in the back corners of their cellars. This DéClassé featured 2006 bottling is also surprising. In both cases, the wine is well beyond the mandated 2 years of a combined barrel and bottle aging required to qualify for a Crianza designation. Evidently, this vintner has exercised patience to assure that the vintage has achieved a balance of being fully rounded and mature while possessing fruitful vigour; wrapped in delicious chocolate-tinged flavours.
35 hectares of Bodega del Abad vineyard are located on high terrain made up of slate and quartzite soils, imparting a discernible minerality into the profile. The property’s mix of old vines, with some approaching 70 years-of-age, continue to yield meticulously handpicked and sorted fruit; creating wines with a distinct aromatic character, medium-body, and preserved acidity. These attributes are a winemaking accomplishment, due in part to modern production techniques, but they’re also a result of the innate potential of Mencia. Indigenous to Bierzo, with some spillover into Galicia, this resurgent variety has been anointed as one of the four most important Spanish red wine grapes. Producing
compact clusters of medium-sized, violet-blue berries, its renaissance is based on an ability to generate age-worthy wine, at a relatively modest price point.
This bottling is ready to go now but will also hold up for nicely for several more years. It will likely fly off the shelves as word of this formerly hidden gem spreads. So buy enough to get you through the Spring, Summer and Fall dinner seasons!
ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #244699 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in: Bierzo, Spain
By: Bodega Del Abad
Release Date: March 5, 2016
Having aged gracefully, this has soft notes of black pepper and tea leaf wrapped around the juicy cassis, plum and currant flavours. With a core of gentle tannins, try serving this food friendly wine with rich poultry dishes, marinated steak kabob, roast leg of lamb, or spicy beef empanadas.