Jose Antonio García and his wife Julia Peña García (JAG) are at the forefront of the next generation of vignerons in Bierzo, leading the charge towards wines of place and definition. Their familial roots in Bierzo are fundamental to them, as they do all of the work in the vineyards themselves, which is signified by the term viticultor on their bottles. Jose’s mother is a native of Valtuille de Abajo, and his father is a native of Corullón. Together, Jose and Julia’s families have owned vineyards in Bierzo for generations. All of their wines are hand-harvested, foot-crushed, and vinified very carefully with native fermentation and without manipulation.
Their cuvée Unculín is a fresh, energetic red Bierzo that offers a refreshing antidote to the over-blown, internationally-styled wines previously made in the region. Rather, Unculín is focussed on delivering an experience where the soul and energy of Valtuille and Bierzo are on full display. This is accomplished through utilizing the region’s tradition of co-fermentation from some of the village’s best vineyards.
Bierzo has adopted a new quality-based classification system for its wines, closely following the Burgundian structure of regional, village, and single-vineyard wines. In the Vino de Villa classification system, 100% of the grapes must come from vineyards within the village of Corullón, and yields are more than 20% below the limit for D.O. Bierzo. Other quality-conscious regulations have been implemented that now make the Bierzo appellation a leading producer of fine wine in not only Spain but in the whole of Europe.
Unculín is a Vino de Villa wine from over 80 different organically-grown, family-owned small plots in the village of Valtuille de Abajo. At 500m to 650m elevation, they are planted with 60 to 100-year-old traditional bush vines from native varieties, including mencía, alicante bouchet, merenzao, palomino, and doña blanca from various parts of Valtuille that are known for producing fresh, elegant wines, including: Cabanelas (clay soils), Mata los Pardos (sand and clay), and El Val (pebble soils), among others. Crucial to the quality and complexity of JAG’s wines is the genetic heritage of their ancient vines, planted mostly before the industrialization of Spanish wine. With some vines in Valtuille being between 100 and 200 years old, their vineyards provide an unspoiled genetic window to an era before modern clones were selected for higher yields. The viticulture is strictly organic, and the only compost used is local, organic chestnuts, which grow in the vineyards.
Vinification – Whole bunches are hand-picked, leaving stems on 30% of the bunches. The remaining 70% of the grapes are de-stemmed by hand and left intact, without crushing. A 48-hour maceration precedes a spontaneous alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeast. After fermentation the grapes are pressed with a 20-day post-fermentation maceration. All of this occurs in stainless steel tanks. After four months of aging on the fine-lees and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel, the wine is briefly racked into foudres to give it some oxygen. Gently fined with bentonite, unfiltered and very little sulfur at bottling.