Though technically a part of the more famous Spanish region of Castilla-León, Bierzo has more in common with the cool, wet Galician peninsula than the hot, central plain. The soils are predominantly well-drained quartz and slate and the region is far enough from the wet, buffeting winds of the Atlantic to produce quality reds, mostly from the local Mencia grape. For many years there was an apocryphal theory that Mencia might be Cabernet Franc bought to the region by pilgrims visiting the nearby shrine at Santiago de Compostela but DNA testing has quashed that rumour. Mencia is local to Bierzo. The best local whites are made from Godello. Mencia produces deeply coloured black wines with an intriguing herbal lift. The best examples are made from old, low-yielding vines grown on deep schistous soils. The other red grape of note is the teinturier grape Alicante Bouschet, planted in the recovery from phylloxera but all red wines in Bierzo are mandated to be at least 70% Mencia.
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