The first written reference to the Bierzo region, whose name derives from the pre-Roman city of Bergidum, is from Pliny the Elder. The Romans developed agriculture, introduced new crops including Vitis vinifera vines, and new technology such as the Roman plough. However, the greatest expansion of viticulture was related to the growth of the monasteries, especially the Cistercian order, during the Middle Ages. After centuries of production and after having achieved a good reputation in the markets of Galicia and Asturias, the Bierzo vineyards suffered a terrible blow in the 19th century when the phylloxera plague practically wiped them out. There was a severe economic crisis which forced many people to emigrate. Production was slowly re-established thanks to the technique of grafting onto new world rootstocks and wine production gradually recovered to assume the significant economic role it had played in the past. In 1989 the Bierzo Denominación de Origen was officially recognized.
The Bierzo is a natural region located in the northwest of the Spanish province of León, in the Castile and León. With 2954.28 km2, covering 18% of the provincial area. Geographically it borders the provinces of Orense, Lugo, Asturias and the following areas of Leon: La Montaña (Murias de Paredes and Laciana), Cabrera and La Meseta, thus being a transition zone between Galicia, León and Asturias. The area of wines production under this designation of Origin is located in the municipalities that the Regulator Board considers suitable for grape growth. The Bierzo is a set of small valleys in a mountain area and a wide flat depression, ´el bajo Bierzo´, that will shape the types of crops.
The Bierzo has a very special microclimate, very suitable to the crops in the area. A soft climate, rather mild regulated by a certain humidity, all of this is undoubtedly due to the Bierzo is situated in a valley. Its climate similar to the Galician as far as moisture is concerned and on the other hand is dry as the Castile climate, which makes it very distinctive keeping a water balance to which another advantage is added, the Bierzos low altitude generally prevents late frosts which is quite benign to vintage that is normally about one month ahead of the rest of Castile. The soils in the mountains consist of a mixture of fine elements, quartz and slate. The vineyards are planted mainly on humid, dark soil which is slightly acidic and low in carbonates. The acidity ranges from 4 to 8.5, with values of over 6 in the valleys. Lime content is low, less than 3000 kg/ha. The carbon/nitrogen ratio is 11.9 in the valleys and 11 on the plains.
Bierzo’s most prominent red grape is Mencia, premium examples of which are typically characterized by intense yet smooth flavors, often including floral and spicy notes. The region’s top white Godello wines are praised for their freshness and salinity, attributed to Bierzo’s mineral-rich soils. Red grapes grown: Mencía and Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera). White grapes grown: Doña Blanca, Godello, Palomino, and Malvasía.