HISTORY AND CULTURE
EL BIERZO WINE ROUTE
Even the air of El Bierzo tastes of wine. Its geography and microclimate make this county a privileged place for growing grapes. Wine is all around in the delicate work of the vineyards. Its aromas can be savoured and perceived in the wineries, livening up the parties, lunchtimes and spirit of a region traditionally linked to the culture of wine.
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El Bierzo, an ideal place for vineyards
El Bierzo is an ideal place for vineyards. The valley where its vines grow lies on a gentle slope down from the pines of the encircling mountains which protects it from any inclement Atlantic winds. Its protected wine production uses only authorised varieties. Mencia is the main red variety and Doña Blanca and Godello the whites.
But here the grape par excellence is Mencía, producing excellent reds and grown in 70% of the vineyards. This variety produces small, compact bunches of middle-sized, ellipsoid grapes with a regular cross-section and thick skin. Reds made from Mencía are outstanding for their capacity for ageing, with a characteristic velvety palate, without detracting from the excellent conditions this variety brings to the production of young reds. The rosés are aromatic, fruity, lively, light and soft. The whites, clean and bright with straw colouring, sweet tones and lively acidity.
A wealth of monuments and culture in their natural environment
The sheer number of monuments in El Bierzo is due to the many cultures that have left their mark on this land: the Asturians and their forts, the Romans and their gold mines, the religious orders and their monasteries, among many others.
El Bierzo invites you to climb its hills and enjoy its landscapes, stroll its paths and absorb the silence of its mountains, the magic of its breezes and enveloping aromas.
Land of cultural and natural landscapes
Among its seemingly endless resources, Las Médulas, declared World Heritage, forms a cultural landscape resulting from Roman intervention in the area and all the changes it has undergone to the present with the remains of the Roman gold mines.
The Tebaida Berciana, the Aquilianos mountains, the Fornela Valley, the Sil Valley and the Gistredo Mountain Range are just some of the natural heritage that you can take in on this route. There are also protected spaces like the Los Ancares Mountain Range, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Of particular interest are the 12 Properties of Cultural Interest and the Way of Saint James, a World Heritage site.
A host of festivals: processions, mediaeval markets, saint’s days and cuisine
Here is a selection of the festivals that visitors can find throughout the year along the Route: in January the feast of Saint Thyrsus (in Villafranca del Bierzo); in February the Festival of National Exaltation of the Botillo (in Bembibre), the Produce and Agricultural Fair at Villa de Bembibre and the Festival of the Botillo in Fabero; in March, the Hunting Dogs Fair (Camponaraya) and Gastronomic and Tapas Days (in Fabero), in April a Wine Fair and Festival of the Fifth Anguish are held in Cacabelos.
With the coming of spring and the good weather the months are filled with activities, celebrations and festive events in towns along the Route. In May there’s the Fair of the Cross of May (Cacabelos), the Andalusian Horse Fair (Camponaraya), the Antique and Second-Hand Books Fair (Ponferrada), the Feast of Saint Isidore (Villadecanes Toral de los Vados) and the Hunting Dogs Fair (Villafranca del Bierzo). Meanwhile in June, the Produce and Agricultural Fair (Carracedelo), the Procession of Our Lady of the Cliff (Congosto), the Night of the Templars (Ponferrada), the Procession of Saint John (Toreno), “Toral in Train” (Villadecanes Toral de los Vados) and the Feast of Saint Anthony (Villafranca del Bierzo).
When summer comes round, many villages celebrate the days of their patron saints. In July there’s the Mediaeval Market (Bembirre), the Procession of the Grass (Candín), the Feast of Saint Christopher (Cubillos de Sil), the Celtic Market and Magic Night (in Fabero), the Festival of the Carp in Santa Marina del Sil (Toreno), the Feast of Saint Christopher (Villadecanes Toral de los Vados) and the Feast of Saint James (Villafranca del Bierzo). In August among the most interesting are the Procession of the Way of Saint James (Camponaraya), the Harvest Festival (Cacabelos), the Garlic Fair in San Miguel de las Dueñas (Congosto), the Summer Festival (Fabero), the Procession of Our Lady of the Rosary (Igüeña), the Procession of Our Lady of Peñafurada and Our Lady of the Flames (Igüeña), the Procession of Our Lady of Sorrows (Molinaseca), the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows (Páramo del Sil), the Procession of the Virgin of Trascastro (Peranzanes), the Wine Fair (Ponferrada), the Procession of Ferradillo (Priaranza), the Feasts of the Assumption and Saint Roque (Puente de Domingo Flórez), the Feast Day of Saint Roque and the Great Fair (Torre del Bierzo), the Festival of Saint Mary Magdalene (Vega del Valcarce) and the Fair of the Way of Saint James (Villafranca del Bierzo). In September you find the Intercultural Market (Bembirre), the Feast of Saint Michael (Cacabelos), the Crafts and Antique Furniture Fair (Camponaraya), the Ceramics Fair and Fair of the Holm Oak (Ponferrada) and the Feast of the Holy Christ of Hope (Villafranca del Bierzo).
In the final quarter of the year, in spite of the arrival of the cold weather, the region of El Bierzo continues its activities and festivals. In October there is the Procession of the Guardian Angel (in Balboa) and the Fair of the CooperaLeón Cooperative (Camponaraya). In November they celebrate the Fair of Slate (Puente de Domingo Flórez) and in December the most important festivities are the Fair of Associations (Camponaraya), the Solidarity Street Market (Fabero) and the Craft Fair (Ponferrada).
A blend of the traditional and the modern
The added value of the cuisine in El Bierzo is the perfect synergy of traditional methods, passed down from generation to generation, with the most modern practices.
Its most famous product is undoubtedly the Botillo del Bierzo, governed by the Regulating Council for Protected Geographical Indication. This is a unique sausage, with an unmistakable flavour. The Gastronomic Guild of the Royal Botillo of El Bierzo holds many festivals promoting this product, known locally as “Botilladas”.
Here you will also find delicious eatables like the russet apple, the conference pear, the El Bierzo pepper, cherries, morello cherries, honey and walnuts. Lastly, chestnuts, once used as food in the area with their Certification Mark, a sign of quality of origin.
Wine-linked tourism activities
El Bierzo is a great area for wine tourism: guided visits to wineries and vineyards, tasting courses, sampling of local wines and produce etc. There is also an immense cultural and natural heritage, including the world famous Way of Saint James.
But once here, you should try not to miss the innovative Mirada Circular walk, an initiative of intelligent and sustainable tourism so typical of El Bierzo, with a total of 330 km spread over 15 different path walking routes.
HOW TO GET THERE
The El Bierzo region is located in the north-west of the province of León
The A-6 dual carriageway crosses El Bierzo from east to west, the main Madrid to Galicia route. There are also daily railway connections with all the main Galician cities, and others to Barcelona, Irún, Madrid and León.
León Airport has daily flights to Madrid and Barcelona. Further away, Valladolid, Asturias airports and Lavacolla international airport in Santiago de Compostela, less than 250 km from Ponferrada, provide access to major national and international destinations.
Telephone: 987 049 480