La Galapana 2019, singularity and craftsmanship

21 October 2021

One of the things that has most enriched the world of wine in recent years has been the blossoming of small producers who, through the craft of winemaking and conviction as their hand luggage, have managed to carve out a niche for themselves in this crowded world by contributing something different. This phenomenon, not exclusive to Spain, has allowed the consumer to enjoy today a greater number of artisanal wines. Today we would like to talk to you about La Galapana 2019, a Table Wine that comes from a very underrepresented area, the Bierzo Alto.

La Galapagana 2019, candidato Vino Revelación

La Galapana is a wine from a single plot of 0.25 hectares, located in Albares de la Ribera, in the heart of the Boeza Valley, in what is known as the Paraje de La Galapana. Surrounded by chestnut trees, the vineyard is largely defined by an altitude of around 980 metres, which implies an almost extreme viticulture, as the vines are at the borderline of reaching maturity. To give you an idea, the difference in harvest dates here compared to the lower areas of El Bierzo is about a month later. The climate here is more extreme, we are talking about a continental climate with Atlantic influences, in an environment where we usually find a Mediterranean or Mediterranean-Atlantic climate in the middle areas of Bierzo.

Its creator, Germán R. Blanco, is an entrepreneur who, after training in different wineries, decided to start his own project. His starting pistol was fired fifteen years ago with Quinta Milú, a project that began with a group of friends in Ribera del Duero and which sought to bring the consumer closer to this area so well represented by excellent producers but without the ambition of making big numbers.

It didn't stop there. Being half Asturian, half from Bierzo, he tells us, "I had a thorn in my side with this area of Bierzo, so I decided to come here to make wine, taking advantage of my grandmother Aurora's vineyards. This project is a tribute to her, which is why I decided to call it Casa Aurora".

Clay and altitude, a common thread

There is a common thread in the projects of this young winemaker and that is clay and altitude. Germán declares himself a clay lover; "for some reason I have always worked with clay and I feel very comfortable with altitude". According to him, "the ferric clay of Bierzo gives us very good acidity and slow ripening, precisely in an area where it is difficult to ripen, which helps us".

Germán explains that while the areas of Lower Bierzo were blessed by two great drivers of expansion and growth, the Camino de Santiago and the cooperatives, Upper Bierzo had to rely on mining, which is why the area has not had a professionalised viticulture to date. However, many miners had vineyards that they tended as best they could to make wine for their own consumption. The old vines that can be found there today are there because they are the best rather than because of precise and professional work in viticulture.

Germán R. Blanco

La Galapana is the recovery of a place that has survived to the present day with very interesting vineyards but cared for in a very rudimentary way. A place where the harsh climate and extreme altitude did not prevent wine from making its way, even though viticulture was not a way of life there.

Things don't just happen by chance, climate change has allowed the place to become a focus of attention for those who make fresh and elegant wines. That is why in the next few years we will surely see some important people coming to the area. For the time being it has been Casa Aurora, with due recognition also given to Dominio de Tares, who has laid the foundations for a meticulous, delicate and subtle work.

The project currently has 2 hectares of vineyards and is working on a further 8 hectares. Only what the owner can work personally is incorporated. This is a personal wine, although the most valuable aspect of this wine is not the person, but the representation of a fresh and pure environment. The work with wood in this type of wine is, as we imagined, subtle. It supports but does not hinder the true meaning of the wine, the place, the environment.   

Germán reveals that the plot where he extracts the grapes is a very rare vineyard in the area. Usually the vineyards have a wide range of grapes mixed together. Alongside mencía, it is common to find vines of garnacha tintorera, palomino, garnacha or merenzao (Portuguese), grapes that in the past had a creative meaning in wine. Here we find an almost exclusive vineyard of mencía but with a small percentage of other local companions such as garnacha tintorera and garnacha. Everything is made together in order to show a particular landscape, and above all with the aim that this landscape will be expressive in the bottle for many years, a goal in each and every one of this winemaker's wines.

The very few 560 bottles of La Galalapana 2019 and all the wines of this boutique winery have been released on the market as table wines, although it is expected that from the next harvest they will be bottled as D.O. Bierzo, which is the place where they belong since the limit of the DO's production area was extended a little over a year ago. Whatever the case may be, these wines take us into the universe of finesse, elegance and fresh fruitiness with great precision. Their presence here today claims a preferential treatment for an environment that has always been there, even if it was to provide drinking water for the miners and their families.

    Written by Javier Luengo, director editorial de Peñín