Akilia Villa de San Lorenzo Blanco is made with bunches which come from a small west-facing plot of 0.5 hectares which has clay-loam soils on quartzites and slate where vines about 75 years old grow. The grapes are harvested manually and fermented in 2,000-liter tanks. 70% of the resulting wine is aged on its fine lees for 5 months in stainless steel tanks and the rest is aged in used 228-liter French oak barrels for 5 months.
Age of vines: 75 years
Farming: practicing organic
After training at La Fleur Petrus in Bierzo, Mario Rovira returned to Spain in search of old indigenous varieties, a cool climate, interesting soils and slopes, and decided to set up camp in Bierzo. He co-owns Akilia with his mother, Marisol. The San Lorenzo district of Bierzo is higher and cooler, with great potential for elegance and delicacy, relative to the better known, warmer parts of the DO. It's a region dominated by over cropping and coop production--Mario was the first small producer to work in the region, and it took years to rebalance the vineyards for quality production. Mario produces wine in a highly specific and intentional way, with great though behind each decision, however focuses on minimal intervention--gentle processing, no additions to the wine other than a very low dose of SO2 at bottling, he doesn't filter or fine. Fermentations are spontaneous, slow and cool. He uses concrete to ferment and age most of his wines, except his whites, which he raises in stainless and a little used oak. In addition to Akilia, Mario has two personal projects, Tosca Cerrada in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (unfortified, vintage Palomino, aged under flor for periods of time), and Mario Rovira Viticultor, organically tending some tiny plots just outside of his home of Barcelona, in the Alella DO.
Palomino and Doña Blanca
Palomino is most widely known as the primary grape used for Sherry production. It is primarily grown in the sherry triangle; most notably Jerez, where it grows on chalky soils called albariza (al-bah-ree-tha). A few still, dry, single-varietal wines exist and expound saltiness.
Palomino Fino can withstand drought well and produces a reliable crop of slightly low acid, low sugar grapes whose wine may oxidise easily – in short, perfect raw material for sherry. It has also been planted in north-western Spain. In the Canary Islands and elsewhere in Spain it is often known as Listán Blanco, or Listán de Jerez; in France, where it is of declining importance, it is simply Listan, while in Portugal's Alentejo it is known as Perrum. It is grown to a limited extent in California's Central Valley, in Chile, and in Australia and South America. Palomino Fino was once widely planted in South Africa but most of the wine is used for distilling or basic blends. It was once widely planted in Galicia.
Doña Blanca is grown majorly in Spain’s Galicia region lying in the north- west. It is also grown primarily throughout Portugal spreading from the Douro going to the northern regions.
It is a permitted grape variety in the Spanish DOS (Denominacion de Origens) of Valdeorras as well as Monterrei in Galicia and Bierzo in Castile and Leon.
This white wine grape variety has many names. In Spain, it is known as Dona Blanca but, in the Valdeorras of Spain, it is known by the name Valenciana. In Portugal, the grape is known as Dona Branco.
There is another renowned grape variety in Spain known as Merseguera. It is still debated that Maerseguera is actually Dona Blanca, and is known by the name Maerseguera in some parts of Spain. The answer to this question is still a mystery.
Region: Bierzo DO
Bierzo is a wine region in the northwest of Castilla y Leon, Spain, close to the region's borders with Galicia to the west and Asturias to the north. The Bierzo viticultural area consists of two parts: Bierzo Alto, a mineral-rich and mountainous terrain where terraced vineyards are sewn into the slopes, and Bierzo Bajo, a wide and verdant plain.
This area was once inhabited by the Romans, who extracted many tons of gold, and relics of their presence remain dotted throughout the region. The Sil River was an important waterway back then and remains so today, although other minor streams also wend their way through the region. There is a local saying that "el Miño lleva la fama y el Sil le da el agua" ("the Miño carries the fame, but the Sil gives it its water").
Bierzo's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean has a profound effect on its overall climate, with average temperatures during the growing season much cooler than in Castilla y Leon's more inland areas, making it rather mild. Average rainfall is around 28 inches (720mm). Nevertheless, the Cordillera Cantábrica mountain range in the north provides the vineyards with adequate shelter, ensuring that the local Mencia grapes achieve optimum ripeness to produce lively, fruity and often intense red wines.
Bierzo's soil is different from that found in other parts of Castilla y Leon in that it contains a predominance of slate and granite. This favors the Mencia vines and helps them to produce wines with a distinct mineral character. The wines tend to be lighter in terms of alcohol and more refreshing than those from other parts of Castilla y León.
White wines are also produced in Bierzo, predominantly from Dona Blanca, Godello (Verdelho) and Palomino grapes. Rosé wines may also be produced, although a minimum of 50 percent Mencia is required.
Baked apples and spice, dry straw notes
Recommended pairings: Roast turkey, brown sugar pork and apples