A few years ago a new generation of oenologists decided to recover the Mencía native grape variety in order to make quality single-varietal wines. One of them was Amancio Fernández, a local from the León wine region of El Bierzo, who successfully steered the region’s long tradition of making wine for home consumption towards more commercial aims, and was one of the key figures in turning the region and its Mencía grape variety into a benchmark for fine wines. Since 2005, after his time at Dominio de Tares, where Amancio Fernández began his crusade to demonstrate El Bierzo’s potential to the world, the León oenologist has been deeply immersed in the Losada Vinos de Finca project, whose objective is to extract the maximum expression from this privileged region’s characteristic terroir, located in the northwest of the province of León.
The Mencía grape variety has been present in El Bierzo since the Middle Ages, its distinctive concentration of sugars and its low acidity join forces with the region’s isolation from the cold north winds, while a semi-humid continental climate prevails throughout the district. Factors which together with El Bierzo’s winemaking tradition, sustained by small cooperatives and by families who make wine for home consumption, made possible the conservation of huge extensions of vineyards, some of which are over a hundred years old.
According to Amancio Fernández, his first contact with the world of wine happened in those very circumstances: “In El Bierzo, cultivating vineyards and winemaking is a very deeply rooted tradition in popular culture. It wasn’t that long ago that in towns and villages families just like mine were making wine for home consumption”. A graduate from the Requena School of Viticulture and Oenology and with postgraduate studies in viticulture from the University of Valladolid, Amancio Fernández started his professional career at the Protos bodega under Ribera del Duero, where he had his first hands-on experience with vineyard husbandry and the celebrated region’s wines.
One of the key moments in Amancio Fernández’s career was his time spent at the Dominio de Tares bodega: “It was a very special time for me mainly because, together with other oenologists and winemakers from the region, as well as others who came from outside the area and brought their own experiences with them, such as Álvaro Palacios, we were able to enhance the value of the huge potential of the El Bierzo as a wine region”. Indeed, thanks to his creations and those of other oenologists from his generation, El Bierzo began to standout as a region capable of producing wines of exceptional quality on account of its privileged climatic conditions and the potential of the Mencía grape.
Since 2005, Amancio Fernández is in-house oenologist at the Losada Vinos de Finca bodega, a young venture whose philosophy is to extract the maximum expression from the region’s terroir via the painstaking selection of estates and vineyards. “Our aim is to find exceptional clay-soil plots in Valtuille and Pieros, capable of producing elegant and complex Mencía”.
Complexity and elegance are the grassroots of the Losada Vinos de Finca project, where, in addition to the conscientious selection of vineyards in order to express the true character of the region, the grapes belonging to each individual estate are handled independently at the bodega. Furthermore, the ageing process is regarded as a means of adding complexity and nuances to the wine, increasing its longevity. All of which is geared towards expressing the terroir of El Bierzo, with the greatest authenticity possible. “Our philosophy is to respect the environment and make elegant wines” Amancio summarised.
Of the three wines sold by Losada Vinos de Finca, for Amancio Fernández, ‘Altos de Losada’ is the wine which best represents the bodega’s philosophy. “Altos de Losada is made from grapes from 21 small vineyard plots with clay soils located between Valtuille and Pieros. Estates which we have bought and renovated over the last few years. And it’s a wine in which the work in the vineyard and the expression of the soil come together”. Made from Mencía and other lesser-known native grape varieties, ‘Altos de Losada’ stands out for its complexity, subtlety and elegance.
The bodega’s other two wines are, ‘Losada’, described by the oenologist as “a wine which is a fusion from different areas around El Bierzo, in which we try to reflect the region’s Atlantic and refreshing character” and ‘
Described by the experts as “subtle” and “balanced” wines with a distinct French influence, Amancio Fernández’s creations aim to integrate elegance and modernity with tradition and the expression of the terroir. The oenologist explained that: “What the experts value most is the personality of the wines and their marked ‘Bierzo’ character - their no frills style. These are not ‘global’ wines; rather they reflect the character of the region”.
The expression of a particular wine region and characteristic climatic conditions are what Amancio Fernández values most in a wine: “I like authentic wines, be it a Burgundy or a Prieto Picudo rosé”, a philosophy which he has successfully stamped on his wines throughout his professional career, which has helped to place his home-region among some of the most celebrated and competitive regions on the current wine scene.