Castro Ventosa is owned by the family of Raúl Pérez, a winemaker who has opened new paths for red Mencía, both in Bierzo (León) and Ribeira Sacra (Galicia). The tradition of growing vines and making wine dates back at least to 1752 when an ancestor stated in his will that anyone attending his funeral should receive a glass of wine.
Like many other producers in the region, the Pérez family began making bulk wine. In 1989 they started bottling under the name Herederos de Rosaura López, as a tribute to their grandmother, who had been the driving force behind the business. In 1991 the name Castro Ventosa was adopted after the Roman site located on top of a hill surrounded by vineyards. This is the usual starting point to describe the different terroirs where their vines are grown.
In a way, Valtuille de Abajo is the winegrowing heart of Bierzo, both for its high vineyard concentration and because many local producers buy grapes in this hamlet of Villafranca del Bierzo. Boasting an impressive old vine heritage, Castro Ventosa owns 85 hectares, most of which are over 50 years old.
When Raúl Pérez returned to the family business in 2010, many of the ideas he had applied to his own wines were also introduced in Castro Ventosa, including relatively early harvesting dates, whole bunch fermentations with extended vatting times and, in general, a gentler approach in favour of the expression of the soils and of Mencía’s character rather than colour or extraction. Since 2017, the day-to-day management is in the hands of his nephew César Márquez, although Raúl has a saying in all the blends. As of now, César's goal is to pursue elegance and expressiveness in the wines and to make more oak-aged wines.
Castro Ventosa can produce around 300,000 bottles on a good vintage, 250,000 of which are young reds. El Castro de Valtuille Mencía (under €6 in Spain) is one of them and offers great value. It is a good introduction both to the grape variety and to an aerial, fruit-focused style. While destemming is the norm for the young red, 50% of bunches are fermented with the stems in El Castro de Valtuille Barrica (around €14-15 in Spain, 20,000 bottles) which comes from older vines. In the case of Valtuille Cepas Centenarias (around €34, 2,500-3,000 bottles), where all the bunches are fermented with their stems in open tanks and vatting may be extended for two months, grapes come from five very old plots.
The range of single-vineyard or lieu-dit wines (less than 2,000 bottles usually) includes Valtuille Villegas (grapes are sourced from a sandy plot and barely two barrels are filled), Valtuille La Cova de la Raposa and Valtuille El Rapolao, one of the freshest sites in the area.
César Márquez's most recent contributions include Valtuille (€15 in Spain, about 5,000 bottles), a village wine which will bear the official "vino de villa" seal from the 2019 vintage onwards and a single-vineyard wine from La Vitoriana set to be released shortly.
The range includes two white Godellos: El Castro de Valtuille (around €14-15 in Spain) and Valtuille (€46). The latter is a single-vineyard wine from a sandy plot and only a few hundred bottles are produced.