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February 24, 2015
The Bear's Forest: Synonymous with Grand Garnacha
San Martín de Valdeiglesias lies a mere 75 minutes from Madrid in the Madrid highlands. As one drives west from the capital city, the terrain quickly becomes rugged and mountainous, the air cooler, and one begins to see signs of an earlier era. San Martín is one of three subzones of the Viños de Madrid DO (created in 1990). The DO is sandwiched between La Mancha and the Spanish capital, where it forms a semicircle around the southern suburbs of Madrid. While much of the wine produced within the Viños de Madrid DO is comparable to the mass production of La Mancha, within San Martín and the other two sub-zones (Navalcarnero, Arganda) there grows in strength a small group of dedicated, quality-conscious producers that are slowly building a name for themselves. Bernabeleva is one of them.
Bernabeleva resides in the small village of Pelayos de la Presa, next to San Martín de Valdeiglesias, a historic town after which the sub-appellation takes its name. The producers in this small zone are careful to include “San Martin de Valdeiglesias” on their labels, to indicate and differentiate the higher level of quality found here. Bernabeleva (“the bear’s forest”) is named for its Celtic past, which is seen in the landscape with ancient bears carved from boulders to mark forests dedicated to the hunt goddess.
Bought and named in 1923 by renowned Madrid doctor named Vincente Alvarez-Villamil, it wasn’t until 2006 that the dream of producing wine on the estate became realized. In 2006, Vincente’s great-grandchildren Juan Diez Bulnes and Santiago Matallana Bulnes took over the estate’s 80-year old vineyards and resolved to make wines of purity and expressiveness that were in harmony with the beauty of their ancestral land. The cousins wanted, above all, to protect the unique personality of their estate, and they hired consultant Raúl Pérez, a master of cool-climate winemaking, to help them develop the project. Raúl is no longer apart of the project.
Just as important, they hired as full-time manager and winemaker, a young Catalan named Marc Isart Pinos. Marc’s devotion to demanding viticulture and to non-interventionist winemaking has served the cousins’ vision well. He is passionately focused on transforming the project to 100% biodynamics. In addition to the deep, perfumed and incredibly mineral Garnacha-based red wines they produce, there is also the Blanco de Bernabeleva 2012 (60% Albillo and the rest Macabeo), which is available for pre-order!
José Luis Mateo, owner of Quinta da Muradella, summed it up best when he said, “Of all the producers around Madrid, for me he is the best. His wines have the most finesse.”