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Bodegas Mengoba

Bye Bye Bordeaux: Dazzling, Authentic Bierzo from High Country Spain

The region of Bierzo missed much of the industrialisation that Europe went through post- WW2. The extreme landscape was too difficult to mechanise, and there was simply no interest in this remote area until a clutch of winemakers realised the remarkable potential of the high altitudes, old vines and quartz- and slate-rich soils.

Bordeaux native Grégory Pérez launched his career with Grand-Puy-Lacoste and also worked at Cos d’Estournel before travelling to Bierzo on the advice of a friend. What he found in the wild mountains of Bierzo would change his life forever. After acclimatising at Luna Beberide, he launched Mengoba in 2007.

Following organic principles, Pérez farms a patchwork of old vines on the hillside vineyards of Valtuille, Villafranca del Bierzo and Carracedo. Head-pruned Mencía and Godello are the key varieties, with smaller holdings of Alicante Bouschet, Estaladiña and Doña Blanca, often all interplanted within the same vineyard.

“You know, it’s always the crazy guys that make the best wine,” Pérez told us on our last visit to Bierzo. “Jose- Luis Mateo [Muradella], people say, he’s that crazy guy in Monterrei. Fernando in Ribera Sacra [Algueira] is another crazy guy, and here, people say I am the crazy guy.” Gregory Perez, winemaker

Yet it is the work in the slate-rich highlands of Espanillo that Pérez (and Mengoba) has become most associated with. Espanillo’s steeply sloping vineyards sit at the head of the River Cúa at an altitude of 850 metres and count among the highest in Bierzo. The rocky, fragmented slate and decomposed shale soils—and old vines—beget Mengoba’s most vivid and pungently mineral cuvées. Perhaps the most prized parcel is La Vigne de Sancho Martín, an isolated, 80-year-old plot. This vineyard looks more like a quarry—it’s incredibly stony, with the old trunks of Mencía and Godello protruding from a carpet of craggy fragmented schist.

In the vines, Pérez’s artisanal work can only be described as tenacious—or the work of a madman. These challenging, remote vineyards are ploughed by oxen or ancient caterpillar tractors, and Pérez’s brand of organic viticulture requires exhaustive work by hand. The high altitude, shifting pure-slate soils, and the steep uneven terrain makes for slow and often treacherous work. Indeed, several years ago, Pérez flipped his tractor and was lucky to survive the experience.

We’re pleased to say that all this inspiring grower’s hard work has been compensated by a stunning portfolio of wines. The new winery in San Juan de Carracedo allows Pérez to utilise the large-format oak he now favours, as well as a growing collection of clay jars and amphorae (and even two ancient sherry botas). With these systematic improvements, Pérez believes his wines are taking on more precision with each passing year. His goal is, and always has been, to make authentic wine with the most profound respect for nature. And the results are dazzling.

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“Most wine drinkers, I suspect, have never heard of Bierzo, but word is getting around. And if you get the opportunity to taste a good bottle, with its haunting, exotic wildflower, licorice and fruit flavors, you can't help but remember it.” Eric Asimov, The New York Times

“Gregory Pérez is one f@#$ing talented winemaker...” Alice Feiring, The Feiring Line



Primary Region

Bierzo, Castilla y Leon


Winemaker: Grégory Pérez



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