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 farm all of their own vineyards and do not buy grapes, performing 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 the work in the vineyard and winery is performed manually with the use of gravity, minimal intervention, and no chemical inputs. Quality, excellence, and soul are always the philosophy. JAG is defined by small production, very low yields, artisanal methods, and minimal intervention, yielding complex, elegant, delicious wines among the finest in Bierzo.
Bierzo has adopted a new quality-based classification system for its wines, closely following the Burgundian structure of regional, village, and single-vineyard wines (called Paraje in Bierzo). In the Vino de Villa classification system, 100% of the grapes must come from vineyards within the designated village, and yields must be at least 20% below the limit for D.O. Bierzo (25% for Paraje wines). Other quality-conscious regulations have been implemented that now make the Bierzo appellation a leading producer of fine wine not only in Spain but in the whole of Europe.
Their flagship Valtuille Vino de Villa is from low-yielding vines in the village of Valtuille de Abajo, highlighting the virtues of JAG’s oldest bush-trained vineyards from their home village with mixed alluvial and clay soils with a wide variety of stones planted at 550m altitude. The wine is produced from co-fermented mencía and 15% white grapes (doña blanca, palomino, and godello) from different old vineyards selected for high quality.
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. It’s one thing to produce wines naturally; it’s another thing entirely to produce naturally-made wine from old-vine vineyards like these, which are among the oldest in Europe. The viticulture is strictly organic, and the only compost used is local, organic chestnuts, which grow in the vineyards.
The Valtuille Vino de Villa showcases the juicy red fruit character of the wines from Valtuille. It has generous fruits, silky tannins, and a dry, savory finish that makes it excel in food pairings.
Vinification – Following a manual harvest, 35% of the bunches are destemmed, while 65% are retained as whole clusters. The wine is then spontaneously co-fermented with indigenous yeast in large, open-top foudres for 40 days with manual punch downs twice a day. No temperature control. No pumps are used at the winery, with gentle racking done by gravity. Malolactic fermentation is spontaneous. Aging is on fine lees in new and old French oak barrels (300L and 500L) for 11 months. Very light fining with bentonite.