Thursday, June 4, 2009

W.O.W. or Wow?

Jancis Robinson has called Bierzo an "increasingly fashionable" region of wine production. I have to admit that it certainly seems to be catching folks attention. I've seen three random articles about the area in the press over the last couple of months - after never having heard of it before (or at least not having remembered hearing of it). To the extent that Boo and I were given a rather high-end bottle from a Bierzo producer last summer as a wedding gift and I didn't even realize that we had a bottle from the region in our cellar.

This is not that bottle. We'll bring that out on another occasion. This post's addition to The List was a Wine of the Week (WOW) at Marquis Cellars last month. Having just read about the area and seeing the wine, it only made sense to give it a chance.

69. 2005 Tercer Motivo (DO Beirzo - Spain)

I couldn't find much information about this wine - virtually everything that showed up in a Google search was en espagnol and I'm pretty much stuck with "dos cervezas por favor." I don't even know if that phrase is the same in Spain as it is in Mexico. But it was interesting reading more about the area.

Bierzo is a small region in the North-East part of Spain, known for small valleys in a mountainous part and wide flat plains. Historical records have shown that viniculture has been known in the area since the Roman Empire; however, the largest growth in winemaking seems to have occurred with the expansion of monasteries in the Middle Ages.

The "problem" has been that the wines produced were largely simple and not exciting enough to catch the world's attention. The wine industry started changing in Bierzo with the creation of an official denominaciones (DO) in 1989. In the 90's a group of small producers looked to resurrect the sleepy region and started producing wines that were grown more on the hillside than in the fertile plains with their high yields.

Most of the grape growers had small holdings and, therefore, cooperatives were important in the production and actual winemaking. In 2000, there were apparently 20 wineries in the area, a number that had grown to over 50 in 2007.

The DO limits the varietals that can be grown in the region and the primary red grape is the indigenous mencia. Yet another grape that has managed to slip my attention all these years. The Motivo is 100% mencia and, in fact, all red wine in the DO must have at least 75% mencia in its blend. The grape is known to be fruity and delicate, but definitely more noticeable when the cropping levels are reduced.

Intriguing area and grape; however, I can't say that the W.O.W. factor was there for me. This Bierzo didn't particularly WOW me. But it did provide yet another area and varietal to keep an eye out for.

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