I visit Bierzo quite regularly and enjoy drinking the wines of the names that you will all know, wishing I had only got there sooner. I have also tasted a lot of wines where I felt I wish I hadn’t been there at all. So it was with an element of reluctance that I made an effort to taste the wines of Jose Garcia, a young man in the first flushes of his wine making career. Of course, the story now does not need to be told in full, he is charming, considered, thorough and above all in possession of wit and skill. All this makes his relationship with the vineyards passed down to him by his Grandfather a naturally harmonious one. He works 29 parcels in Valtuille de Abajo, in the heart of Bierzo and where his vines are at their youngest at 80 years and oldest at around 120 and perhaps even more excitingly, several hectares in the region of Corullon. This is exciting for two reasons; first the vines here are planted on near vertical slopes in the most amazing valley and second; he and Palacios are the only two growers to have vineyards in this commune. There are exciting things afoot to be sure.
He works without the use of agro chemicals and allows the wines to ferment naturally, using whole bunch for the reds and gentle pressing for the whites. A Chuqueio is a 120 year old Godello vineyard where the wine is produced in large oak and kept under Flor, which helps to take the fat out of the wine and give it an exceptional mineral edge. Unculin is his drinking label, even though the Mencia is 80 years old, whole bunch fermented and left unfined and unfiltered. Unculin Blanco is made from Dona Blanca and Godello of a similar age and kept on fine lees for a little time to help concrete the flavours of this often misunderstood variety. Aires de Vendemia is a super old Mencia produced with deft care and attention and possesses the hallowed ‘pinocity’ so often sought in this region. He is an experimenter but a traditionalist too. His wines have luminosity and drinkability but also a sense of place, and perhaps like the man himself, they don’t come across as too serious, just a joy to be with.