César Márquez Pérez, “Parajes” Bierzo

César Márquez Pérez, “Parajes” Bierzo

Castilla y León, Spain 2020 (750mL)
Regular price$30.00
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César Márquez Pérez, “Parajes” Bierzo

“Parajes” demonstrates why Bierzo wines are (1) enjoying a renaissance and (2) an unavoidable siren call for sommeliers. They’re refreshingly affordable; the ancient terroir has been revived by a wave of organic/biodynamic farmers; and the wines have an uncanny ability to produce visceral emotions on par with France’s top appellations. 

Bierzo is technically part of Spain’s Castilla y León, but famously sits right on the edge of Galicia—so much so that the wines are effectively “honorary” Galicians. As with the Galician wine zones, Bierzo experiences a cool, wet Atlantic Ocean influence, but as you move eastward, to lower altitudes closer to the Sil River, the influence of the warmer, drier plains to the east can be felt. At higher elevations (1500-2500 feet for today’s wine), the Bierzo soils are a mix of slate and granite, transitioning to more “alluvial” material—sand, silt, and clay—in the lower-lying areas. Another beauty of the region’s wine revival is that it’s home to some ridiculously old vines: a whopping 80-120 years of age for “Parajes.”

César Marquez Pérez grew up learning alongside his rock-star uncle, Raul Pérez. Their extended family, of course, has been a leading light in the Bierzo DO since they founded the iconic Castro Ventosa winery in 1792. César is among the front line of Spanish winemakers who are determined to reconnect with this ancient land and vines through organic farming, site-specificity, and minimal cellar intervention. 

Although comprised predominantly of Mencía, César also leans on small amounts of Alicante Bouschet and other unnamed red and white varieties culled from ancient, field-blended vineyards. After hand-harvesting, grapes from each unique parcel were fermented separately and naturally with a substantial percentage of whole clusters remaining intact, and without any temperature control. After a yearlong upbringing in old 225- and 500-liter barrels, it is bottled.

This wine is gorgeous, and exactly what we’d want someone to experience, whether it’s their first Bierzo or 100th. After a 15-minute decant, it fills the glass with a dense ruby-purple and emits lush, high-toned aromas of huckleberry, ripe black cherry, wild strawberry, black raspberry, rose petal, crème de violette, crushed black stone, leather, dried underbrush, and faint oak spice. The palate is loaded with supple yet crunchy berry fruit and perfectly framed with thirst-quenching acidity and polished tannins that accentuate the lively mineral core. Exotic spices and savory undertones also flood out on the mid-palate, further enhancing the depth of this Mencía and taking it into world-best value territory. This is a wine to study and enjoy for years to come!

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Eastern Spain


The Montsant DO is Priorat’s downslope neighbor in northeastern
Spain, but other than differences in altitude, there isn’t much else to tell their terroirs apart. Both appellations contain some of the world’s greatest old-vine Garnacha (Grenache) in soils of fractured granite and shale known locally as llicorella. It is a Mediterranean climate, with wide diurnal temperature swings.

Eastern Spain


Technically, a wine labeled ‘Cava’ can be produced in several different regions, but Penedès, on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast, is its
spiritual home. The climate is Mediterranean, the soils a favorable mix of limestone (key in pre-serving acids), sand, and clay, and Cava sparklers are crafted in the traditional ‘Champagne’ method. The traditional grapes used for Cava are Xarel-lo (cha-RAY-yo), Macabeu, and Parellada.

Northwestern Spain


Galicia is lusher, colder, wetter, and greener than most of the rest of Spain, especially where wine-growing
is concerned. Viticulture up here is some of the most “heroic” in the world, as vineyards cling to impossibly steep slopes along snaking rivers such as the Miño and
the Sil. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean is profound, often lending wines a salty, “sea spray” character.

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