La Vizcaína is a relatively new project from Raúl Pérez that explores the hillside crus around his hometown of Vatuille de Abajo. Four reds and one white are produced under the name, all from vines with over fifty years of average age. Though all the red wines Raúl produces in the Bierzo D.O. are labelled as 100% Mencía, they all in fact contain significant quantities of other local grapes. The rich varietal diversity found in Galicia is due in large part to the famous Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint James in the town of Santiago de Compostela, the earliest references to which date back to the 9th century. The monks who made the journey would often carry vine cuttings from their home regions in their packs to offer as gifts to the Spanish monasteries that would put them up along the way. This is certainly the explanation for the preponderance of Trousseau found throughout northwestern Spain. Depending on the particular region (and often on the person you are talking to), the grape is known variously as Bastardo, María Ordoñez, Domingo Pérez, Merenzao, Godello Tinto and Verdejo Negro, but ampelographic studies have shown it to be genetically identical to the Trousseau found predominately in the Jura region of France. Other red grapes found scattered around the old vineyards of Bierzo include Sousón, Alicante Bouschet, Brancellao and Caiño. Curiously, Mencía and Alicante Bouschet are the only varieties approved by the D.O., hence the practice of simply labeling the wines as Mencía.
Village: Valtuille de Abajo
Vineyards: La Poulosa y Las Villegas
Year of plantation: 1940 (La Poulosa) and 1925 (Las Villegas)
Hectares: 1.5 (aggregate)
Altitude: 500-550 meters ASL
Soil: Clay (La Poulosa) and Sandy (Las Villegas)
Plant density: 4200 vines / hectare (La Poulosa) and 4000 vines / hectare (Las Villegas)
Varieties: Godello and Doña Blanca
Elaboration: The grapes are divided into two parts. Approximately 80% of the grapes are pressed and decanted, then fermented in 500-liter and 700-liter French barrels. That wine remains untouched in the barrels for one year. The remaining 20% of the grapes ferment with skins in clay amphorae where the wine then remains untouched for one year. The two parts are then blended and the wine is bottled without fining or filtration.