El Bierzo Mencia

Despite having been quietly tucked away in the autonomous province of Castilla y León for centuries, the Bierzo DO region is re-emerging at the forefront of modern Spanish winemaking frontiers — as a reliable source of regionally distinctive, high-quality wines. What’s far more longstanding than this newly minted status are the region’s Roman-era gold mines, Templar Castles, and a host of medieval monasteries serving as way stations on the famed pilgrimage path, Camino de Santiago. Geographically acting as a funnel into the verdant northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula, the various valleys of El Bierzo make up the upper basin of the Sil River system whose waters are fed by runoff from the Montes de León and the Cordillera Cantábrica mountain ranges. Aptly referred to as the ‘gateway to Galicia,’ which in turn is characterized as ‘green Spain,’ the fertile and rumpled territory of Bierzo marks the bountiful transition zone. Though still a relatively small and less-well-known Spanish region in the international wine market, Bierzo’s rising reputation for winemaking is fueled by a unique climate of Atlantic and Mediterranean influences that moderate each other’s extremes; making for conditions where both red and white wine grapes thrive. Capitalizing on this natural blessing, the 55 major Bodegas of Bierzo are impressively outputting 11 million liters of wine annually, and with the optimistic trend by local vintners of rehabilitating their older, under-producing plots, the vineyard expansion continues at a healthy/sustainable pace.

santa-maria-de-carracedo

Though taking the inspiration for its name from the inactive, neighbouring abbey of Monasterio de Santa María de Carracedo that dates to the 10th century, Bodega del Abad (‘the Abbot’s Cellar’) only became active as an independent producer in 2003. Initially developed under the guidance of a legendary winemaking master, José Luís Santín-Vázquez, the Bodega already boasts a loyal following that was engendered by a surprising release of a 2001 Crianza-grade cache of their earliest vintage; one which had been hiding somewhere in the dark back corners of their cellars. This week’s DéClassé feature of Abad Dom Bueno Crianza 2006 is also a surprising re-release that’s being offered for a 4th consecutive year. Evidently, the current vintner, Miguel Tienda Baena, has exercised discretion in evaluating the character of this particular vintage; one that’s been settling for eleven years now. Unsurprisingly, it’s evolved into a soft and rounded bottling, but surprisingly, still possesses some fruitful vigour, mineral streaks, and a reasonable level of enlivening acidity.

These balanced attributes point to many factors of winemaking accomplishment while bringing to bear modern production techniques, but also revealing the innate potential of Mencia. Indigenous to Bierzo, and with a significant increase in plantings since the 1990’s, the rising star variety has joined the list of the four most important Spanish red wine grapes: Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Monastrell. Producing compact grape clusters of medium-sized, violet-blue berries, its renaissance of popularity has been bolstered by an ability to yield age-worthy wine at relatively modest price points. 35 hectares of this bodega’s vineyards are located up on steep terrain made up of slate and quartzite-laden soils where the mix of old vines, with some approaching 70 years-of-age, continue to yield characterful fruit. When meticulously handpicked and sorted as they are at Bodega Del Abad, the harvests are creating wines that are characteristically fleshy, velvety, and bursting with red berry flavours.

This bottling is certainly ready to please now, and as it’s a yearly favourite for LCBO Vintages customers, it will evaporate from the shelves quickly as the word of this gem’s reappearance spreads. If you’re not an optimist when it comes to storing wine, then just buy enough to get you through the upcoming spring, summer, and Fall!

Abad Dom Bueno Crianza

ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #244699 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Bierzo, Spain
By: Bodega Del Abad
Release Date: February 18, 2017

Tasting Note
Though gracefully aged, this still offers juicy red cherry and currant flavours with subtle herb, vanilla and chocolate accents. A refreshing acidity enhances the core of soft tannins, so it could stand to be slightly chilled before decanting. Try serving with rich poultry dishes such as blackened Cajun chicken, a roasted leg of herbed lamb, Balsamic and ginger marinated steak or with spicy beef empanadas.

El Bierzo Mencia

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.

bodega-del-abad

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

ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #244699 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Alcohol/Vol. 13.5%
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Bierzo, Spain
By: Bodega Del Abad
Release Date: March 5, 2016

Tasting Note
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.

Mencia Alert

El Bierzo DO is a wine region tucked away in the province of León – among the
most exciting Spanish frontiers and source of some of its most qualitative wine.
The fertile plain and forests of this lush valley situated between the Montes de
Leon and Cordillera Cantábrica mountain ranges is referred to as the ‘gateway
to Galicia’ as its geography is a funnel into this verdant corner of northwestern
Iberia. Though it’s a relatively small wine growing area, it benefits from a special
microclimate that is equally conducive to cultivation of red and white vine stock.
Despite being a lesser-known region in terms of international markets, the 55
prolific Bodegas here are outputting an impressive11million liters annually and
still sustainably expanding.

Under the watchful guidance of master wine maker, José Luis Vázquez Santín,
Bodega del Abad (the ‘Abbot’s Cellar’) has only been active as an independent
producer since 2003, but already boasts a loyal following that was reinforced
by a surprising release several years ago of a 2001 Crianza-grade cache that
had been hiding somewhere in the back corners of their cellars. This week’s
DéClassé offering of a 2006 bottling is also surprising. In both cases, the wine
is well beyond the mandated 2 years of combined ageing to qualify for a Crianza
designation. The vintner has exercised significant patience in assuring that the
vintage has the balance of being fully rounded and mature, while still possessing
some soft fruitful vigor wrapped in chocolate flavours.

These attributes are a winemaking accomplishment due in part to the modern
production techniques being applied, but also a result of the innate potential of
Mencia. Indigenous to Bierzo, the variety is now considered to be one of the four
most important Spanish red wine grapes. Producing small, compact clusters of
medium-sized, violet-blue berries, its renaissance of popularity is founded on an
ability to yield age-worthy wine at a relatively modest price point. 35 hectares of
Bodega del Abad’s vineyards are located up on steep terrain made up of slate
and quartzite-laden soils. The properties mix of old vines, with some approaching
70 years-of-age, are yielding meticulously handpicked and sorted fruit; creating
wines with a characteristic, velvety palate.

This is both ready to go now and will hold up for nicely for several more years. It
will likely fly off the shelves quickly as word of this formerly hidden gem spreads.
So buy enough to get you through an upcoming Summer and Fall – while you can!

Abad Dom Bueno Crianza

ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #244699 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Alcohol/Vol. 13.5%
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Bierzo, Spain
By: Bodega Del Abad
Release Date: April 18, 2015

Tasting Note
Having aged gracefully, this offers juicy red cherry and currant flavours. A core
of gentle tannins and some refreshing acidity enhances the soft notes of black
pepper and tea leaf flavours. Serve with rich poultry dishes, roast leg of lamb,
marinated steak or spicy beef empanadas.

Mencia Alert

El Bierzo DO is a wine region tucked away in the province of León – among the
most exciting Spanish frontiers and source of some of its most qualitative wine.
The fertile plain and forests of this lush valley situated between the Montes de
Leon and Cordillera Cantábrica mountain ranges is referred to as the ‘gateway
to Galicia’ as it’s geography is a funnel into this verdant corner of northwestern
Spain. Though it’s a relatively small wine growing area, it benefits from a special
micro-climate that is equally conducive to cultivation of both red and white vine
stock. Home to 55 principle vineyards and despite being a lesser-known region
in terms of international markets – it’s producing an impressive11 million liters
of wine annually and still sustainably expanding.

Under the watchful guidance of master wine maker, José Luis Vázquez Santín,
Bodega del Abad (‘the Abbot’s Cellar’) has only been active as an independent
producer since 2003, but already boasts a loyal following that was reinforced
by a surprising release a couple of years ago of a 2001 Crianza-grade cache
that had been hiding somewhere in the very back corners of their cellars. This
week’s offering of a 2006 Crianza is also surprising. In both cases, we are well
beyond the typical 2 years of combined ageing in barrel and bottle mandated
by Spanish wine laws. This presumably translates into the vintner exercising
a significant amount of patience in deciding not to release stock before better
assuring that the vintage has the right balance of having become fully rounded
and mature but still possessing a fruitful vigor.

These attributes are due in part to modern production techniques being applied
but also a result of the innate potential of Mencia. Indigenous to the Bierzo, this
variety is now considered to be one of the four most important Spanish reds.
Producing small, compact clusters of medium-sized berries, its newfound
popularity is based on an ability to yield age-worthy wine at a relatively modest
price point. In the case of this week’s featured vintner, Bodega del Abad’s 35
hectares of vineyards are located up on steep terrain made up of quartzite and
slate-laden soils. The mix of old vines, with some approaching 70 years-of-age,
are producing meticulously handpicked and hand-sorted grapes, creating wine
with a characteristic, velvety palate.

This is ready to go now and likely to fly off the shelves quickly – so buy enough
to get you through the upcoming Fall and Winter while you can!

Abad Dom Bueno Crianza

ABAD DOM BUENO CRIANZA 2006
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #244699 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
Alcohol/Vol. 13.5%
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Bierzo, Spain
By: Bodega Del Abad
Release Date: July 19, 2014

Tasting Note
Having aged gracefully, this offers juicy red cherry and currant flavours over a
core of gentle tannins. The refreshing acidity enhances the soft accents of black
pepper and tea leaf notes. Serve with rich poultry dishes, roast leg of lamb,
marinated steak or spicy beef empanadas.