Occasionally a winegrower emerges who redefines an appellation in order to show its true potential. In our opinion, Diego Losada has done just this in Bierzo. In a relatively short time, this young man has built a small bodega, gained an extraordinary understanding of his vineyards, and is employing a non-interventionist approach to both. His resultant wines show an incomparable purity of fruit, with an intensity and focus that evoke the high elevation and rugged countryside of this region.
D.O. Bierzo, located in the northwest province of León, is known for its Mencía-based wines with plenty of fruit and spice character, as well as an important stop for travelers who walk the Camino de Santiago. Here the travel-weary pilgrim will find hearty Castellana food and much-needed repose before crossing the Cantabrian Mountains into Galicia toward the North Atlantic coast. Diego is in many ways a fellow pilgrim, in search of the “Atlantic” in his wines, and even named his project La Senda, which translates to “the path” or “the way” in Spanish, although Diego says that this is “a more mental than physical path.”
He was born in Ponferrada, but spent much of his childhood living in Madrid and Burgos and playing electric guitar. After returning to Bierzo in his late teens, he studied organic chemistry at university, acquainting himself with winegrowing through a scientific perspective. Eventually, Diego rejected the rigid nature of science, turning to the open-ended and intuitive philosophy of natural winegrowing. He worked at a few larger wineries in the region, but eventually decided that he needed to make wine his own way. After recuperating 3 small parcels, he bottled his first wine with the 2013 vintage. He currently rents 15 parcels totaling just over 5 hectares, focusing on bush-trained vines with at least 60 years of age, in sites relatively isolated from other vineyard land so that any chemical treatments cannot taint the soils of his own. Using organic viticulture Diego encourages biodiversity, letting the natural flora grow amongst the vines, a philosophy that is “respectful of the environment, an agriculture-based practice that is not intrusive and uses only natural methods to maintain the biological balance in our vineyards.” He also green-harvests to attain yields as low as 1.5 kilo per vine, versus the more typical yields of 6 or 7 kilos in the region. Outside of working organically and controlling yields, Diego renounces a formulaic approach to vineyard work, opting for a more evolved and “intuitive” approach.
In the winery, Diego is extremely low-intervention since he wants his wines to retain their energy and life of the vineyards. In such, he employs a mix of unlined concrete vats and older oak and chestnut casks & foudres, since he feels that these materials breathe, while stainless steel is an inert material that will “kill” the nature within the wine. During elaboration he does not use pumps, additives or SO2 additions - starting with the 2016 vintage in his newly built bodega - stating that “enological products are cogs in the capitalist machine.” Diego views his winemaking as an extension of the creative process that he practiced in his days as a musician. A favorite Diego quote - “Too many people in natural winemaking copy and paste the words – they don’t struggle, they don’t feel their vineyards.” Clearly, Diego is not your average Viñador!
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida comes from a variety of parcels around the village of Hervededo. All grapes are hand-harvested, with 1⁄3 left whole cluster, 1⁄3 destemmed and crushed, and 1⁄3 destemmed and crushed but the stems are included for primary fermentation, which is initiated with wild yeasts in older French oak. The juice is racked off of the skins and stems (via gravity) after 10 days of skin contact and the grapes are pressed. The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations continue without temperature control in 300 liter French oak barrels, where the wine rests for 8 months, before being bottled without fining, filtration or added SO2. This is an electrically charged vino blanco, bursting with orchard fruit, zippy acid and lingering minerality. Pair it with anything from the sea or white meats fresh off the grill.
La Senda Vindemiatrix is sourced from 7 parcels in the hills surrounding the village of Hervededo, in the eastern part of Bierzo. Most of the parcels are Mencíainterplanted with other native varieties, and Diego harvests them by hand with the help of a few other people. The grapes are partially destemmed, macerated for a few weeks, and fermented and raised in unlined concrete tanks. The finished wine is bottled without fining, filtration or added SO2. This is pure Bierzo, refreshing and engaging, the way wine was made here in centuries past. Pair this lively red with grilled meats or served chilled by the pool on a hot summer day.
La Senda 1984 is sourced from 3 old-vine vineyards in the hills of Priaranza del Bierzo, in the southwest part of the appellation. These 100% Mencíaparcels are harvested by hand, the grapes are partially destemmed, macerated for 7-8 days in 3 large oak casks. The wine is then transferred to small French oak barrels to finish primary and malolactic fermentation, then age for 8 months. The finished wine is bottled without fining, filtration or added SO2. This is amazingly fresh and engaging Bierzo, showing crushed cherries and orange zest, with mouthwatering acidity. Pair this vibrant red with anything char-grilled over wood fire or roasted on a spit.
El Aqueronte comes from a single namesake vineyard of 100% Mencía. The vineyard is full of life, with a huge diversity of flora that grows between the vines. The grapes are hand-harvested, with 1⁄3 left whole cluster, 1⁄3 destemmed and crushed, and 1⁄3 destemmed and crushed but the stems are included in the primary fermentation. Fermentation is initiated with wild yeasts in chestnut vat for 5-7 days with daily battonage, but no pumping over. The juice is taken off of the skins and stems before primary fermentation is finished and the grapes are pressed. The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations continue in chestnut vat where the wine rests for 10 months, before being bottled without fining, filtration, or added SO2. El Aqueronte is the most aromatic of Diego’s wines, showing a woven complexity of red fruits, florals, spice, and minerals. A supreme expression of Mencía and Bierzo terruño. Perfect to pair with grilled meats dusted with pimentón.
La Barbacana comes from a single namesake vineyard located in the western mountains of Bierzo. The grapes are hand-harvested, with 1⁄3 left whole cluster, 1⁄3 destemmed and crushed, and 1⁄3 destemmed and crushed but the stems are included in primary fermentation. Wild yeast fermentation starts in a large chestnut vat for 5-7 days with daily battonage, but no pumping over. The juice is racked off of the skins and stems before primary fermentation is finished, the grapes are pressed, and it goes into 650L chestnut barrel. The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations continue, and then the wine rests for 11 months, before being bottled without fining, filtration, or added SO2. The result is a wine with extraordinary purity, depth, and complexity with ample acidity, grip, and length. Perfect to pair with grilled lamb chops and the organ meat preparations typical to Bierzo.