The wines of Victor Arroyo, Bierzo, Spain
A visit to this interesting Spanish region

Victor Arroyo

Bierzo is an exciting region in the northwest of Spain. It’s inland from Rías Baixas, just past Valdeorras, and just above the northeast corner of Portugal. It’s a small but not tiny appellation, with around 5000 hectares of vines, more than 50 wineries, and 2800 growers. 

Old vines

I visited winemaker Victor Arroyo, who works with UK agent Nick Oakley to produce one of Nick’s ‘Spanish Steps’ wines. Until recently Victor was a partner in Bierzo winery Agribergidum; now he’s forging ahead on his own, making wines from the local varieties Godello and Mencía under his own name.

Bierzo has a transition climate, mixing the Atlantic climate of Galicia with the continental climate of the more inland regions. Consequently, there’s relatively high rainfall here (900 mm/year), and the temperature ranges from around –5 °C in winter to 35 °C in summer. Summer nights are refreshingly cool.

Mencía is the real draw here, and in Bierzo makes wonderfully fresh, aromatic reds of real appeal. It’s the same variety as Portugal’s Jaen, which is grown in the Dão region. 

The vineyards are surrounded by mountains on three sides, ranging from 1200 m to 2000 m: there is only one way out from the region without climbing these mountains.

Victor’s vineyards lie on the ancient pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, and all through the year you will see some pilgrims passing by. He’s planning an auberge (as a pilgrim stop) with perhaps a restaurant, along with the winery that he is building.


BZO Godello 2009 Bierzo
13.5% alcohol. Godello comes from the same family as Verdejo and Albariño. Lovely fresh bright lemony fruit. Very crisp with lovely freshness and precision, and a hint of citrus pith. 89/100

BZO Mencía Joven 2008 Bierzo
Lovely fresh, pure aromatics here, with a very pure cherry fruit nose. The palate is fresh and bright with lovely elegant cherry fruit. Beautifully precise with a hint of chocolate alongside the cherries. 89/100

BZO Mencía Joven 2009 Bierzo (tank sample)
Very fresh and bright with crisp cherry fruit and a bit of zip. Fresh, bright and almost Beaujolais-like. 86–88/100

Spanish Steps Bierzo 2008
Bright, focused and fresh with some cherry notes and a bit of grip. There’s a nice spicy twist to the focused cherry fruit. Very nice fruit quality. Finishes dry with some grippy tannin. 87/100

Organic Mencía 2008 
(name not settled yet) Quite complex with dense cherry and plum fruit. Nicely pure and very fresh, with good acidity and some elegance. Vibrant, elegant, quite textured and with some complexity. Lovely. 91/100

See also:

Visiting Arribes, Spain
Visiting Toro, Spain
Visiting Rioja (series)

Wines tasted 03/10  
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