Rapolao, a special site, a cru in the Bierzo · Vinissimus
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Rapolao, a special site, a cru in the Bierzo

Rapolao is the name of a vineyard situated in Valtuille, known for having been the first ‘paraje’ or specific site to appear on several Bierzo wine labels. A vineyard shared by different vine growers-winemakers, which characteristically provides wines of great delicacy, in the Burgundy style.

The El Rapolao site from the Michelini i Mufatto vineyard. Photo by Michelini i Mufatto.

El Rapolao is one of the most famous vine-growing sites in the Bierzo. It’s located in the municipality of Valtuille de Abajo, facing northwest, in the coolest area of the town and at an altitude of 550 metres. There’s an hour less of sunshine in El Rapolao than in the other nearby vineyards, the soils have a combination of stones and iron-rich red clay, and the resultant wines year after year deliver a delicacy only attainable by the finest, offering delightful perfumes and delicate tannins.

The vines are mainly old, planted between 1920 and 1980, in bush form and of the Mencía variety, although a small number of Estaladiña, Garnacha Tintorera and Sousón vines are also grown. The grapes ripen late here, the soils are deep and the grapes seem imbued with the aromas of the woods surrounding the vineyards.

The magic of this location hasn’t gone unnoticed by wine-making associates of Raúl Pérez, the true architect of the revolution which this special site is undergoing. Consequently, there are several producers working different plots of this wonderful corner of the Bierzo, each one putting their own stamp on the wines, while at the same time preserving its essential nature, complex, pure and full of vitality. There’s no doubt the project’s philosophy has taken much inspiration from Burgundy.

Bottles of different Rapolao wines.

The different Rapolao wines (at the moment):

A bottle of Ultreia Rapolao.

The Rapolao in the Ultreia range, from Raúl Perez: the most austere Rapolao

Wines made by Raúl Pérez owe absolutely everything to the terroir: to the vineyard, to the land and to tradition. In this case, the vineyard is located in this special site which this great master craftsman from Bierzo shares with a select group of friends, wine-producing vine growers, enthusiastic about the Bierzo and the Mencía grape, just like he is. The one in the Ultreia range comes from a plot which has some of the oldest vines and is perhaps the most austere of the Rapolao wines. The Ultreia Rapolao is a wine that’s intense and profound, with elegant rusticity.

A bottle of La Vizcaína El Rapolao.

Also from Raúl Pérez, in his La Vizcaína de Vinos project: a particularly balsamic Rapolao

The Rapolao from La Vizcaína de Vinos is a wine of great elegance and freshness, a true expression of its terroir of origin. It’s a serious, fluid and expressive wine, showing a more notable acidity than the bodega’s other wines, with a silky palate and a desirable harmony. It combines intense balsamic notes, almost like menthol and eucalyptus, with woodland berries and floral touches.

A bottle of Valtuille Rapolao from Castro Ventosa.

The Rapolao from the winery run by the Pérez family, Castro Ventosa: a very complex Rapolao

The Castro Ventosa Valtuille Rapolao is a wine that’s always profound and complex, with layer upon layer of aromas and textures, gifted with a special vitality. It’s floral and refined, and proves fresh even in dry vintage years, always so elegant and earthy.

A bottle of César Márquez El Rapolao.

The Rapolao made by Raúl’s nephew, César Márquez: a lighter, more fluid Rapolao

César Márquez also presents his interpretation of this highly-regarded Bierzo site, delivering a wine that’s floral and fresh, elegant and fluid, profound and with a delightful texture: César Márquez El Rapolao.

A bottle of Finca El Rapolao from Dominio de Anza.

The Rapolao made by Diego Magaña, more juicy

The Finca El Rapolao from Dominio de Anza is one of those wines which justifiably rests on its own laurels, conveying its vitality with every sip. It’s floral, with a complex aromatic array, elegant and showing great purity. Compared with the neighbouring wines from this exceptional site, this Diego Magaña one proves rather more juicy.

A bottle of Michelini i Mufatto El Rapolao.

The Rapolao made by Michelini i Mufatto, the most delicate

All the Michelini i Mufatto wines are outstanding, yet this is the one that shares fewer similarities with their other wines. However, it does most resemble other great Bierzo wines. The reason for this, its place of origin: the El Rapolao vineyard, where, despite being one of Valtuille’s coolest areas, the climate is warmer than can be found in Ponferrada, from where the rest of the Michelini i Mufatto wines originate, and the soil has a different composition: clay, instead of slate. This means the Michelini i Mufatto El Rapolao has a higher alcohol content than what we usually find from this family, although equally fresh, juicy and with their customary finesse. Undoubtedly, a Rapolao to add to the list of essentials for getting to know this exceptional vineyard, shared by master winemaker Raúl Pérez’s group of friends.