Monday 12.MAR.2012 - EL NORTE DE CASTILLA
facebook.com / castillayleondevinos
Original from Valladolid, Nacho Leon leads a small sustainable project at DO Bierzo with his Demencia de Autor
Valladolid. He belongs to a generation of young winemakers for whom the important things are the vineyard and the wine, and the elaboration building is secondary. Nacho León (Valladolid, 1975) has started the house from the foundation, to develop a modern wine with traditional methods. His sustainable project is called Demencia and dons the back label of the DO Bierzo since 2007. It grew out of a dream, a kind of madness, but the winery Demencia de Autor is already a benchmark for high quality wines from Bierzo.
After initial steps into the world of wine in La Rioja, this agricultural engineer from Valladolid landed in Bierzo as a winery manager and got hooked with an area and a variety that is what gives character to the wines from this wine region, the grape Mencia. The project began to take shape in 2006. The name of the wine came from a play on words between the raw material and the foolishness of undertaking an authentic adventure, that of preventing the loss of old vineyards for lack of profitability.
“Older people left the vineyard and their children won’t take over” he laments. So Nacho Leon took the hoe and pruning shears and bought a small vineyard, which, at first, looked like his garden, without much plans, and at the same time keeping his day job. But coming harvest, the bug got stronger, so he bought two tanks of 1,500 liters and began to produce wine in the traditional way with “bazuqueos” (punching the cap), but looking for a modern wine.
Friends helped him gather the grapes, until the young Javier Vidal joined the project, son of vinegrowers from Bierzo, who now has become Nacho’s “hands and eyes.” In 2009, he left his job and now lives on his mad project. He has purchased other parcels, where they adapt the vines, improve the soils, and pulls certain varieties which, from their point of view, do not work in this area, and buy the grapes from other growers. He likes loam to sandy loam soils, facing east, with a gentle slope.
The goal is to grow very slowly, at most reaching 10,000 bottles a year. Now they have rented a warehouse in Toral de los Vados, headquarters of the winery Demencia de Autor, and the future plans include building a small winery, designed to develop their craft. At this time they embarked on a project to replant 3 000 vines grafting native clones adapted to the terrain of Bierzo in a Navarra’s nursery.
It’s a 100% Mencia red, the grape that gives personality to the wines from Bierzo
Nacho Leon poses with a bottle of his Demencia
Photo Henar Sastre
Despite his enthusiasm it’s hard to believe that he makes a living out of this madness in such difficult times. But he insists it is an advantage to be born in a crisis that puts everyone in place. Nacho Leon said many wineries have abandoned the idea of producing good wines, but the project remains.
In the second vintage, the 2007, 4000 bottles were sold. Dementia 2007 achieved a Gold Medal in the London Sommelier Wine Awards. The 2008 vintage aged for thirteen months in 22 French oak barrels to produce 6,336 bottles of a wine with touches of modernity. The grapes come from 25 plots located in the vineyards of Matadeprada, Valdelaliebre, Valdedemanteiga and Villegas.
Walking the Halls
He thinks that the project has matured enough to give it a further commercial boost. Nacho Leon passes by Valladolid on his return from the German city of Dusseldorf after “walking the halls” (they can not afford to pay an exhibitor booth) in Prowein, the most important wine fair for the countries of northern Europe, those with some of their major clients. Sweden, Finland and Norway (through an import monopoly, because there is no other way to enter these countries), Denmark, Belgium and Germany are the main destinations to which he exports small quantities of their diminute edition, thanks to the PIPE program of Spain’s Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX). Last year they also made the leap to Mexico and the United States.
In Spain he has woven a small network of distributors that carry the wine to cities like Barcelona, Mallorca, Valencia, Murcia, Jaen, San Sebastian and Madrid.
Now the goal of Nacho Leon is to return the inheritance to those who come behind. He considers that the vineyard has a great potential to eliminate unemployment in Bierzo. He learns continuously from the elders in the region, traditional knowledge such as the moon influences on the maturation process of the vineyard and at the time of harvest, but also when tasting wines.