After a stint studying science—chemistry, to be precise—Verónica Ortega soon realised that it wasn’t the inside of a laboratory where she longed to spend her days. In fact, it was quite the opposite kind of scientific playground that she had in mind. Verónica didn’t grow up amongst winemakers. Her path to the vines was part and parcel (pun intended) thanks to a realisation that there was another type of chemical reaction that piqued her interest. After her first harvest in the magical vines of Priorat—under the esteemed guidance of Álvaro Palacios and Daphne Glorian—Verónica fell head over heels with the world of winemaking and, in her own words, “never went back to [her] place again. Just for the holidays!” That’s love.
"When I first arrived in Bierzo, the place felt so magical. The people were working with their hands and feet. I fell in love. It's more a style of life than it is a job."
People: Veronica Ortega
Place: Bierzo, Spain
Varieties: Mencía, Palomino, Doña Blanca, and a little bit of Verdejo
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? An intriguing facet of Verónica’s vision is her use of amphorae. Her passion for slow, considered winemaking and fresh, delicate wines is reflected in her decision to work with these large clay vessels, alongside oak barrels.
Verónica has gradually pieced together her parcels, noting that, although there are lots of beautiful vineyards full of old vines, there are also many old winemakers in the region who are reticent to part with their vines;
“There are still a lot of old viticulturists here that are still working by hand. To find one you have to look for the people who are the owners of the vineyards, and talk to them.”
Due to the heritage of the region, the plots are small and divided up; a little like Burgundy. In one plot there could be as many as ten farmers – each one the owner of a small piece of the vineyard.
For Verónica, the main charm of Bierzo’s vineyards is Mencía – “the Queen of the grapes”. The vineyards in the region have historically been co-planted to different grape varieties. For example, in one small plot you can find Palomino, Doña Blanca, and a little bit of Verdejo. There are also black varieties, notably Mencía (with twelve different heritage selections!). Unusually, some parcels are planted to both black and white varieties.