Wines from Bierzo began making their way to this country three or four years ago. First available mainly on the East and West Coasts, they are now beginning to be found in the heartland.

Bierzo is a small mountainous wine region in the northwest Spanish province of Castilla y León, on top of Portugal. Long in decline, the region was revived in the 1990s by a handful of producers who saw the potential of the indigenous mencía grape and the rugged vineyards.

One of the best examples of the grape and the region is Baltos 2005, made from 25- to 40-year-old vines by Dominio de Tares. baltos.jpg The color is, well, just inky, with a deep purple rim. The bouquet bursts from the glass in a welter of funky, roasted black currant and blueberry scents packed with dried fig and fruit cake spices and notes of earth and minerals. This is a wild, robust and rustic wine, deeply spicy and smoky, with brambly black currant and plum flavors set into a dense chewy texture like dusty velvet. It gets more complex as the minutes pass, opening the whole box of exotic spices and dumping them onto your palate. The wine is given six months in new to three-year-old French and American oak barrels, contributing to structure but not overwhelming the wine with toasty flavors. Drink now through 2010 or ’12. Case production is 7,500. I rate the wine Very Good+ and an Unusual Experience. About $15 to $18. You may have to do a little searching for Baltos 2005, but that will give some purpose to your week.

We drank this with bleu cheese burgers that I cooked on the grill outside. I had mine spread with tapenade on one side, Dijon mustard on the other and lettuce and tomato. Have mercy, that was a good burger and a great match with the funky, meaty wine!

The producer’s website is filled with information about the grape, the region and the wines.
Imported by Classical Wines, Seattle.