Demencia Wines, by Nacho Leon

Demencia Wines, by Nacho Leon

When I first met Nacho back in early 2021 while visiting El Bierzo, I knew he was a perfect fit for Nativo. There we were, in the heart of his vineyard, with him carefully pruning some very old vines. I was full of curiosity, and Nacho, very patiently, shared his knowledge, answering every question I had. At the end of a day of tasting and exploring his different vineyards, it was clear: Nacho has a deep appreciation and understanding of the unique terroir of Bierzo.

Nacho Leon

His winery, aptly named Demencia, represents a touch of the madness one needs to fully immerse oneself in winemaking. And immersed he certainly is, single-handedly taking care of his vines and creating some truly extraordinary wines. Despite Bierzo having a bounty of old vines and ambitious young winemakers, Nacho’s down-to-earth approach and commitment to honesty set him apart.

Nacho is a guardian of the earth, promoting healthy soils and breathing new life into old (sometimes abandoned) vineyards, abandoned when their owners grew too old for the task. His organic practices aren’t about gaining a certification, they’re his means to achieve the high-quality wines he strives for. His hands-on approach extends to the approximately 3.5 hectares of head-pruned old vines he oversees, specializing in Bierzo’s main varieties: Mencía for reds and Godello for whites.

Century old Godello

The soil in Bierzo is a wonder in its own right, characterized by sandy loam and a variety of clays. Combined with the age of the vines, ranging from 60 to 115 years, yields are small but the grapes they produce have an astounding concentration and complexity of flavour.

Head pruned old vineyard

In the cellar, Nacho adheres to a philosophy of minimal intervention. He uses oak sparingly to add depth and complexity, while ensuring the distinctive floral character of the Mencía grape remains front and centre.

Nacho’s barrel room, tasting room and office!

What’s fascinating about Nacho’s wines is the quality you find across the board. From entry-level to single vineyard, each one has unique attributes that distinguish it in the global wine scene. All his wines come from very old vines, and the reds undergo barrel ageing. Yet, despite the amount of work that goes into them, they’re incredibly well-priced.

Tentenublo Wines by Roberto Olivan

Tentenublo Wines by Roberto Olivan

With his dedication rooted in the land where he was born and raised, Roberto Olivan tends to his vineyards in the Rioja village of Viñaspre, located in the cooler climate of the Basque Rioja Alavesa.

His vineyards are at a maximum altitude of around 700 meters, nestled in the foothills of the Cantabrian Mountain range, this terrain gives his wines unique personalities that are hard to replicate elsewhere in Rioja. The limestone and sandstone marl soils lend a great balance to the wines, ensuring they retain concentrated flavours yet unmatchable freshness from the diverse range of varieties Roberto cultivates.

Roberto, a fourth-generation winemaker, doesn’t merely live off the land—he’s deeply connected to it. He exhibits this connection in how he cares for his vines, embracing low-intervention and organic practices without seeking costly certification. His humility shines through in his work; he never shies away from getting his hands dirty. I remember a video call with him where, even as we spoke, he continued to survey his vineyards, demonstrating a continuous commitment to his vines.

Roberto and his family

Passionate about the diversity of Rioja, Roberto understands that this region is more than just oaked Tempranillo. He cultivates other many of the heritage varietals of Rioja like Garnacha, Malvasia Riojana, Jaen Blanco, and Viura, many of them mixed planted with each other in the same vineyard. His wines are unique blends that beautifully balance tradition and innovation. Some are blended after fermenting the varieties separately like his Tentenublo range, while others are field blends, drawing on the diverse grapes already mix planted in his very old vineyards.

Las Guillermas, a 67 year-old vineyard

Incorporating a significant proportion of white grapes into his red wines, Roberto adds layers of complexity and freshness. This allows his wines to age gracefully, further enhancing their depth. But his creations aren’t your typical Riojas; they encapsulate the traditional essence of Rioja but aren’t overshadowed by oak or oxygen. Roberto’s wines are evolving year after year, he adapts his methods to let the terroir shine through, ensuring that each bottle encapsulates the spirit of its vintage and of its place.

Roberto’s Barriques

The Tentenublo range offers a glimpse into the complexity of Rioja, offering a traditional white that is complex and just delicious, while the Red offers a fruit driven but with a solid freshness that can be considered easily a textbook Rioja that makes the typical Tempranillo shine. His single vineyards are out of this world, coming from very old dry farmed vineyards, the work on these vines is extreme and he makes very limited amounts of these wines, not many bottles at the moment so be sure to get one!

Roberto always has fun in the vineyards

Roberto’s wines are an exhilarating blend of youth and energy, ready to be savoured now, yet promising a future of enhanced depth and complexity for those patient enough to cellar them. Dive into the world of Roberto Olivan’s wines and let yourself be transported to the heart of Rioja through the narrative of one of its best ambassadors!