CUATRO PASOS, 11th May 2014
A group of friends journeyed to Cacabelos (D.O. Bierzo, Spain) to visit Cuatro Pasos, an interesting winery created in 2003, a subsidiary of Martin Codax -the top producer of white wines of the D.O. Rías Baixas-. They produce red and rosé wine only, based on the indigenous grape variety Mencía. For those not familiar with this red variety, I would like to point out these wines are dark, with a great varietal fruit intensity and a distinctive character.
You only have to take a quick look to the vineyards to realize that something very interesting must be grown there, if not, who would dare cultivate something on such extreme slopes?
Slate + high slopes + old vines + local grape variety + extreme temperatures + hard work = … good wine!
This could be the winning formula to produce good and distinctive, quality wines. And this is exactly the route that Cuatro Pasos is following. Moreover, I think they will succeed in producing an outstanding wine in the near future, given that they have the right ingredients to do it. Perhaps, what they need is a little bit more of confidence in taking the plunge and launching themselves more vigorously into the premium sector.
We tasted four wines: Cuatro Pasos Rosado 2013, Cuatro Pasos 2011, Cuatro Pasos Black 2011 and Pizarras de Otero 2012, being the second and the third the ones I liked the most. In this regard, I would like to highlight three things: First, it is not easy to approach to these wines, as we do not have the same knowledge-base as we might, for example, in tasting a Pinot Noir or a Chardonnay. Additionally, these wines need some bottle ageing to calm down their initially nervous character. And finally, Mencía needs time to best express what it can offer, so one has to open the bottle well in advance to get the very best out of the wine.
Another thing I appreciated about Cuatro pasos was its dedication to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). They support FAPAS, a local organization focused on the protection of the wildlife, specifically the wild bear. In fact, “cuatro pasos” is the Spanish translation for “four steps”… referring to a set of footprints left by a bear in one of their vineyard few years ago. FAPAS is recovering the habitat for these animals in order to ease the hardship they suffer after leaving hibernation. Paradoxically, these particular bears are in need of human settlements to survive! Fruit trees, honey and crops have formed the main diet of these mammals for centuries, so it is hard for them to raise their cubs in a land lacking fruit trees and other trappings of civilization.
How do they operate? Some of their principal focuses are:
- Chestnuts and cherry trees reforestation.
- The construction of “cortinas”: an ancient Roman structure designed to protect beehives from the the bear attacks.
- The construction of some experimental hives which allow the bears to eat the honey while simustaneously protecting the breeding area of the bees.
I applaud this initiative, and hope it will become a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts and pilgrims, as they will have the chance to walk the Camino de Santiago, watch wild bears, drink good wine and get immerse themselves in local culture.
(Needless to say, I will be one of them!)