Leon, Spain

At a Glance
  • The white wines are made from Albarin and it has no relationship to Albarino.
  • The red wines are made from Prieto Picudo which is related to the Portuguese variety Alfrochiero
  • The single parcel reds see extended elevage in large format wood under flor.  Because the area is very cold in the winter and the wines have low pH malolactic fermentation can take a long time.  The flor allows for that long aging in wood without the need for added SO2 so the wines can finish malo.
  • The climate is continental.  During the growing season, it can get very hot during the day and there is little rainfall.  The tradition of a low-to-the-ground pruning method keeps the vines cooler and humid…mold and mildew are seldom an issue here.

In 1995, Eugenio Gonzalez and Raul Perez began a journey together to learn more about Prieto Picudo and Albarin and how to make wines from these grapes in Leon. After about 10 years of experimentation, they began to build Bodegas Margon in 2006. In 2006 and 2007 they purchased 75 plots, totaling 19 hectares of vineyards with vines aged from 90 to over 100 years of age in the area of Pajares de los Oteros south and west of Leon city.

The soils here are clay-based and in some areas, there is more sand or some limestone. The two varieties they focus on are a white called Albarin, and a red called Prieto Picudo. Albarin is typically confused with the similar-sounding and famous variety albariño, which it has no relation to as the two varieties are genetically distinct. To us, the resulting wines from Albarin have a very Chenin Blanc leaning characteristic. Prieto Picudo is a red variety that is the same as Alfrocheiro, found in Portugal, mostly the Dao but also a bit in Alentejo, and is also the same as Baboso Negro found throughout the Canary Islands. The variety is often confused with Trousseau (or Bastardo in Spain) and while it is genetically a very close relative, it is considered a separate variety. Prieto Picudo grown in Leon tends to be richly colored with aromatics and flavors of bright blackberries and strawberries. Because the variety naturally has a fairly acidic backbone to it, the wines have great lift and energy.

Raul and the team work the vineyards very responsibly – practicing organic and a viticulture style that maintains the local traditions of very low bush pruning techniques. In the winery, Raul works with native yeasts, no to low sulfur, and large old wood. Many of the reds see long aging in wood and, somewhat uniquely, in the cases of the single parcel wines, long aging under flor. This process he feels helps to refine the acids and tannins to produce wines of great complexity and elegance.

The range begins with the Albarin which is aged in large wood vats for 9+ months without malo. It displays Chenin Blancish notes of slightly green apple and pear with bright acids and drive. Next is the entry-level Prieto Picudo named Primeur which is fresh, bright, and easy drinking. Finally, there are three single-parcel wines made from amazing ancient parcels of Prieto Picudo and aged under flor – Paraje del Santo, Valdemuz, and Finca la Milano. These are super complex and age-worthy, not to mention truly unique expressions of this wonderful indigenous varietal.