Wine Culture Connection
Saviors of the Vine
By the end of the Franco era and the decade or so that followed, the vineyards of Monterrei, as in many other parts of Spain, had been torn up for other uses or been increasingly left derelict and abandoned. After decades of quantity over quality focused wine production throughout much of Spain, the economics of primarily domestic wine sales became less and less sustainable within a global marketplace geared more and more toward quality wine.
Castro de Lobarzán proprietor José Fernández Feijoó saw the oncoming demise of the vines in his town of Villaza. Rather than letting the vines that had adapted to the area over centuries die out or be replaced by higher production commercial clones in widespread use, he set out to save the genetic vine heritage of the area.
José Fernández with the help of his son José Manuel, began keeping track of local vines (from many small plots owned by various vinegrowers, as is typical of Galicia). After years of notation, in 1991 they started grafting vegital material they had collected durning the winter of 1990/1991 onto their own vines, employing massal selection of the oldest and best vines of Villaza.
Not only did they focus on the most important grapes of the region such as white grapes Godello, which José Fernández feels offers the greatest expression of the terroir of the area, and Treixadura, and red grapes Mencia and Arauxa, but also the obscure and dwindling Bastardo grape.
These were the first of the 13,000 of the 14,000 vines they own today. Every year since then, they have continued to walk through more than 50 local plots, looking for and selecting/marking the best vines in order to get clippings to be grafted at the appropriate moment.
This makes Castro de Lobarzán's massally selected vineyards the largest holding of vineyards that express the pure essence of the Villaza micro climate of Monterrei. Not only that they have nearly single handedly restored the Bastardo grape in the area.
Castro de Lobarzán
First, from the outstanding quality of their mineral-driven, terroir-oozing wines. Second, from their part in preserving pre-commercial nursery clones of local vines, including saving the Bastardo grape from extinction in the area. And third, from their colossal efforts in Villaza that helped spark a resurgance of the centuries old wine heritage and tradition of the Monterrei region of Galicia.
It is believed that the Romans first brought vine cultivation and wine production to what is now the Monterrei Denominación de Origen. From the late ninth century onwards religious orders expanded wine production throughout the region.
During the Middle Ages, and through much of the modern era Monterrei had great economic, political and cultural influence within the wider region of Galicia and in Spain. Due to that influence and the quality of Monterrei wines, they were marketed along with wines from neighboring Porto to the Spanish colonies in the Americas.
Castro de Lobarzán proprietor José Fernández Feijoó, helped by his son José Manuel, became important pioneers of a new era of wine production. In 1991 they started extensive work on their own vineyards, grafting clippings from the best and oldest vines in the area on their vines through massal selection. See the Wine Culture Connection aritcle at right, Saviours of the Vine, for more on this process.
These efforts lead the way for the region and were buttressed by new, quality oriented European rules and investment in the wine industry beginning in 1994. Castro de Lobarzán showed that world class wine could once again be viable in the area and became an important part of this new era of winemaking that continues today.
Viticulturally Castro de Lobarzán employs green pruning and green harvest (very unusual in the area) to control yields. They limit yields to 6,000 kg/ha for white grape varieties and 4,000 kg/ha for red grape varieties. All pruning and harvesting is done by hand. They use no herbicides or commercial chemical treatments.
Their winemaking philosophy is to employ as little intervention as possible in order to capture the typicity, personality and character of their extraordinary terroir.
It is because of their exhaustive and pioneering earlier efforts reviving the best clonal selection of vines in the area combined with their painstaking vineyard work throughout the year and careful vinification that their wines offer the outstanding quality we bring you today.
The microclimate of Villaza is a confluence of Atlantic and Continental climates, featuring wide differences between day and night temperatures, a high number of hours of sunshine but with cool temperatures that help achieve excellent ripeness and good acidity without unhealthy conditions for the grapes. The first vines to achieve phenolic maturation are those on the slopes of Villaza, which tend to avoid the hazards of late september later ripening vineyards more frequently suffer.
Castro de Lobarzán 2010, Monterrei DO White $20 –
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