The absolute best part of my job is finding new wines and sharing them with people.
It’s a pursuit that never gets old - especially when the wines are as good as the ones I’m telling you about today.
And I’m excited to let you know that they’re available for pre-order right now.
A tip from the top
Back in July, I flew over to a wine fair in Galicia to hunt down the perfect Godello.
As always, I checked in with my contacts beforehand to get the lay of the land.
Two friends, whose palates I have the highest respect for, recommended that I get in touch with Silvia Marrao, a rising star of Bierzo.
One was Ferran Centelles, the former head sommelier of El Bulli, now Spain’s most respected and knowledgeable wine writer. And also Bárbara Requejo - herself one of the country’s most exciting young winemakers.
So I contacted Silvia and arranged to have samples sent to my hotel in La Coruña to taste while I was over there.
Zig where others zag
Originally from Madrid, Silvia Marrao studied agronomy in college and did her Erasmus year in Italy, where she fell in love with wine.
After completing a masters in winemaking back home, she went on to work in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Navarra, Rías Baixas, Bierzo, Chile, New Zealand and Australia. Taking full advantage (!) every year of the two harvests in each hemisphere.
During her time in Bierzo, she came across a small village called San Pedro de Olleros, high up in the Los Ancares mountains. Situated in the middle of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this place felt special.
It was cooler and fresher up here, and the grapes were incredibly vibrant and healthy - you didn’t get the fogs and mists which can cause fungal diseases in the main valley down below.
She couldn’t believe that no-one was making wine commercially here - old people would make it for home consumption, and tended their vineyards at the weekend as a hobby.
And as with so much of rural Spain, the young people were all leaving for the big cities, leaving nobody to take care of the precious old vineyards left behind.
Sensing the huge potential of the place, Silvia started her own business here in 2017, and Banzao was born.
Back to La Coruña - what a tasting!
The first wine up (of twenty!) in the hotel lobby was the Godello from A Coroa. With the first sip, I knew I’d found the crisp and refreshing white that I’d come over for.
Phew. With the pressure off, I went on to taste the rest of the line-up. And so I arrived at Silvia’s three Banzao wines.
First up, an aged Godello, from 2020. A creamy and complex nose, with stunning honeyed and floral flavours. On the palate it was gentle, soft and silky, with incredible length and purity. It reminded me of a great aged Riesling, and no doubt it was the best Godello I’d tasted in a long time.
Here for Godello, but...
Next was the Vino de Villa Mencía, a village wine from San Pedro. It was a dark, pure and spicy style of Mencía, showing a lovely bit of age and oak. Very juicy, bright and balanced - exactly what good Bierzo should taste like.
I was here for Godello but 'one can never have enough good Mencía' as the famous saying goes.
And finally her top wine, a single-vineyard Mencía called Almorelle. A complex, savoury and perfumed nose led to a dense and creamy palate, with violets, sweet dark fruit and savoury notes. Wow! This was incredible quality - such elegant, intense and persistent flavours.
It reminded me of a top Côte de Nuits Burgundy, and I needed a moment.
I tasted the rest of the wines but it didn’t really matter. I knew my work here was done.
If you like what you're reading, reserve your case now
If you’re a fan of Burgundy or even the northern Rhône, then you’ll be in heaven with these wines.
So pre-order your case here and the following delights will show up at your doorstep at the start of December:
- 4x Banzao Mencía Vino de Villa 2020 - a village wine, this is a dark and spicy style of Mencía, showing a lovely bit of age and oak. Very juicy, bright and balanced - exactly what good Bierzo should taste like
- 1x Banzao Godello Vino de Villa 2020 - a creamy and complex nose, with stunning honeyed and floral flavours. On the palate it's gentle, soft and silky, with incredible length and purity. It reminds me of a great aged Riesling, and no doubt it's the best Godello I’ve tasted in a long time
- 1x Banzao Almorelle Vino de Paraje 2020 - Silvia's top Mencía, a single-vineyard wine called Almorelle. A complex, savoury and enticing nose leads to a dense and creamy palate, with violets, sweet dark fruit and savoury notes. Wow! This is incredible quality - such elegant, intense and persistent Think top Côte de Nuits Burgundy and you're pretty much there.
The only bad news is that there are only 75 cases available. And knowing our dear members the way I do, these are guaranteed to sell out.
So if the wines sound good to you, then it would be a good idea to act now.
This is what I set out to do
Silvia is a one-woman band, doing everything by hand and by herself.
Setting up in San Pedro de Olleros was a brave move - recovering old vines, renting winery space and winning the trust and respect of the locals.
But the results are in the incredible quality of her wines. And I’m so happy I’ve discovered them for you.
I’ve snapped up the last of her 2020 vintage, so make sure you do too!