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Bernabeleva: Glowing old-vine Grenache and Pure & Textured Whites from the Gredos Valley

Bernabeleva: Glowing old-vine Grenache and Pure & Textured Whites from the Gredos Valley

“This bodega, established in 1923, is today one of Spain’s most dynamic producers. [Bernabeleva] produces a range of complex, highly perfumed wines that smoothly play power off finesse, in a style that’s reminiscent of the best producers of France’s southern Rhône valley. There’s often an intriguing wildness to these wines, but never any sense of rusticity, and their tannic structures are on the delicate side, making them enjoyable soon after release, at the top level as well as at the entry level of the range.” Josh Raynolds, Vinous

View the full available range from Bernabeleva here

The Arroyo del Tórtolas vineyard is a sight to behold. Home to a single hectare of 80-year-old Grenache vines, on the day we visited, the vineyard’s granitic sands—known locally as Episienita—had been freshly ploughed by Miguel Santiago. Santiago is one of this area’s two remaining specialists in his field. Yet, even he admits Arroyo’s twisting geology and gradient make it one of his more complex assignments. Despite the odd accident or two, he has done a great job, leaving aerated, almost bouncy soils that make you feel like you could be walking on clouds. You almost want to take your shoes off out of respect for the ground.

It’s hard to believe that before 2007, the fruit from this vineyard was sold to the local co-op. Today, it’s one of several of this grower’s vineyards that produces startlingly unique Garnachas—intense yet ethereal wines that give voice to an enchanting region few had even heard of a decade ago.

Bernabeleva’s vineyards lie in San Martín de Valdeiglesias, the westernmost sub-region of the D.O. Vinos de Madrid. The first wines were cast at Bernabeleva in the 1930s, and the estate’s vineyards are still chiefly based on Dr Álvarez-Villamil’s original 1923 Garnacha and Albillo bush vines. These old vines eke out their living at around 800 metres of altitude under the commanding peak of the Cerro de Guisando. This sandy and granite-rich highland terroir is an enchanting mountain country, full of rocky peaks and scrubby pine forests, still infused with a strong legacy of its Celtiberian heritage.

In the beginning of the project in 2008, former winemaker-vigneron Marc Isart not only set about restoring the vineyards to their full potential, but he also began working organically and biodynamically, a significant challenge in a region where even the most basic work is done by hand. Marc has now left to solely focus on his family estate at the opposite end of the Vinos de Madrid—Cinco Léguas. In his place comes Miguel Chimeno, who has been with the estate since 2017, and now works alongside Bernabeleva’s passionate owner, Juan Bulnes, the grandson of Dr Álvarez-Villamil. Bulnes grew up in Madrid and has fond memories of helping in the vineyards during holidays. He is immensely proud of the region and of how far his dream of revitalising his family heritage has progressed.

Bernabeleva’s artisanal way of working in their vines and in the cellar moulds wines of engaging depth and complexity combined with precision and delicious drinkability. At the core of the offering is a collection of delicately balanced, savoury and flamboyantly perfumed Garnachas, while the tiny old-vine parcels of Viña Bonita and Arroyo del Tórtolas synthesise all the magical qualities of this region like few others. These are glowing and refreshing wines, free from the confronting excesses of internationalisation or the rustic tannins and high alcohols that often shape this region’s red wines. Bernabeleva is also gaining fame for its unique whites, based on the enigmatic Albillo grape, alongside Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Malvar. These are finely textured, savoury and pure high-country whites that are well worth the effort to track down.

The Wines

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