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What our expert thought of Losada Crianza, Bierzo




about this wine About this wine
 
Bierzo is quite a new name among Spanish reds.  The DO Bierzo was created as late as 1989, although the region has long been known for its Mencía-based wines.  Lack of official recognition meant that few producers could afford the short-term cost of replanting with trendier, more productive varieties, so the area became a treasure-trove of old bush-vine Mencía vineyards that are now recognised as the source of one of Spain’s best and certainly most distinctive reds.
 
Bierzo is officially part of Spain’s Castilla y León region, home to great Tempranillo-based reds like Ribeiro del Duero.  However, Bierzo lies in the far northwest of the region, on the border with Galicia, and its climate more closely resembles its maritime-influenced neighbour.  This suits Mencía rather better than Tempranillo.
 
Bierzo’s new-found fame has rested on its high mountain vineyards, planted on slate and granite slopes in the Alto Bierzo.  Winemakers from other regions recognised their potential and started buying these up in the late 1990s, producing fruity, floral and food-friendly reds that rapidly caught on.  The demand for Bierzo now exceeds the supply of these old mountain vineyards, so lots of new planting is taking place.
 
Lower-altitude vineyards on clay soil in the Bajo Bierzo continued to be ignored.  The pioneers of the Nineties had insisted on high-altitude vineyards, believing that the clay soils of the Bajo Bierzo were responsible for the low-acid pale wine traditionally produced in the region.  But in 2005 four winemakers ignored this received wisdom and started buying up neglected old-vine vineyards on clay soils which they thought showed exceptional promise, and so Losada Vinos de Finca was born.
 
They now own some 34 plots of old bush-vine Mencía, in both the Alto and Bajo Bierzo, and in 2010 were able to move from rented premises to a new purpose-built, gravity-fed winery.  It is unusual for a Bierzo producer not to use at least some bought-in grapes, but they firmly believe that good vineyard management is vital.  All their vineyards are worked entirely by hand and without chemicals, although not all are yet certified organic.
 
This wine was produced from a range of plots close to their winery, at altitudes between 480m to 600m.  Some are on slate soils and some on clay, but all are old-vine - between 60 and 80 years old.  Each plot is hand-harvested and vinified separately, starting in early September for the lowest sites and finishing in mid-October for the highest ones.  Fermentation is in stainless steel, while malolactic fermentation takes place while the wine is aged for 12 months in a combination of second- and third-use French oak barrels.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
This definitely disproves the notion that the clay soils of Bajo Bierzo yield pale wine!  It’s such a deep ruby that it’s almost opaque.
 
Mencía’s trademark floral scent is immediately apparent.  This has a full but fresh nose of roses, dark raspberries and herbs - especially rosemary.  Initially there’s also a note of dark chocolate, but with air that deepens into a savoury undercurrent of smoked meat.
 
The palate shows Bierzo’s typical fresh acidity, but those red fruits from the nose have darkened into juicy blueberries and blackberries.  The fruit is underpinned by savoury and mineral notes of blood and earth.  That smoke on the nose was probably due to oak but oak is hardly detectable on the palate, perhaps contributing some spiciness and a hint of coffee.
 
This is fairly full-bodied but not at all heavy; the 14% alcohol only shows up in the warmth of the spicy, black-pepper finish.  Stealthy tannins make an appearance here too; they’re firm but ripe, so it may take a few mouthfuls before you notice them.
 
Assessment
 
Although this is clearly Bierzo, with Mencía’s characteristic floral nose and fresh earthy palate, it’s considerably deeper and darker than most.  Bierzo is often compared to Burgundy, or even Beaujolais, but this one has more in common with a northern Rhône Syrah.  That smoky bacon and black pepper is very reminiscent of a good Crozes-Hermitage.
 
I love the way this balances the traditional Bierzo virtues of freshness and fragrance against its density of fruit, tannic structure and peppery spice.  The very subtle oak treatment ensures that this wine retains Bierzo’s food-friendly versatility, while that scent combination of smoked ham and roses is irresistably Spanish.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear very deep ruby - almost opaque
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas floral (rose), red fruit (dark raspberry), herbs (rosemary), dark chocolate. With air, meat & smoke.

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+

Body medium+, but less than expected for 14%

Tannins medium+, but ripe and not immediately apparent

Intensity medium

Flavours juicy black fruits (blueberry, blackberry), blood/earth, v. subtle oak (spice, hint of coffee)
Finish

Length medium

Flavours warming and spicy (black pepper), delayed tannins
Other notes
Clearly Bierzo, but hints of Crozes-Hermitage too. Great balance, v. food-friendly.


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