Unconventional in Castilla y Leon – Ismael Gozalo and MicroBio Wines #WorldWineTravel

The #WorldWineTravel group focuses on Spain this year and our March destination takes us to Castilla y Leon. The largest Spanish administrative community holding fourteen wine regions, it’s vast with history, castles and a wine culture that predates the Romans. I’m taking you to the Rueda area for an unconventional surprise.

Savor the Harvest is co-hosting this month with Allison and Chris from AdVINEtures. You’ll find us conversing on Twitter March 27th with several other group members who are listed below with their link and article information.

Segovia Nieve

Carboys of Verdejo aging at MicroBio Wines in Segovia. Photo courtesy of Ismael Gozalo

Rueda, A Story of One Grape

Two hours north of Madrid, the Rueda Denominación de Origen (D.O.) viticultural area is located in highlands 1,900 to 2,600 feet (600-800 meters) above sea level. It lies within Castilla y Leon and is roughly the same elevation as Mendoza, Argentina.

Map courtesy of Wine Scholar Guild (produced by Quentin Sadler)

Smaller family farms dot the dry and breezy landscape which receives minimal rain, gets very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. The higher altitude means huge diurnal shifts during the growing season (20 plus degrees Celsius differences) which helps grapes maintain higher acidity.

This intense climate is well adapted to more organic forms of agriculture without chemical use. Most growers always farmed that way, minus any certification.

Approximately 1,500 growers provide grapes to 67 wineries. White grapes dominate (98%) and of those, about 93% are one grape: Verdejo. Viura (aka Macabeo), Palomino Fino and Sauvignon Blanc, and a very small amount of red grapes- Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot- are also grown. Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah are newer additions permitted under D.O. rules.

“For centuries this region produced fortified, solera-aged wines from the Verdejo grape, but their popularity declined and a new approach was needed to rejuvenate the area’s wine industry. Salvation came in the form of Marques de Riscal, working with renowned French oenologist Emile Peynaud, who decided to investigate Rueda as a potential site to make a white wine to partner his red Riojas. Using the local Verdejo grape, and taking advantage of the region’s high altitude, its challenging climate and well-drained soils, Rueda was found to be an ideal place to make fresh, lively white wines.” Christine Austin for Decanter

Those fortified wines that were popular way back? They’re presently having a comeback, and I’m keeping my eyes and palate open!

A Different Way in Segovia

Grower and winemaker Ismael Gozalo was one of the first to be organically certified on the Segovian side of D.O. Rueda, although his family’s vines have not seen chemicals for five generations. His home base there is the town of Nieva in the south central part of Castella y Leon where the Verdejo grape is prominent. Some of his vines are pre-phylloxera ungrafted Verdejo. He works with a handful of red grapes from around Castel and Leon too.

Ismael Gozalo explaining his philosophy with Praying Mantis in hand.

Of the 30 hectares (74 acres) of family-owned vines, he works with just five, selling the remainder.

Some of them go to Ossian, a winery he co-founded and which put his work and name on the map. Gozalo moved on to focus on his MicroBio Wines project in 2004 (although he started it in 1998) with two wine lines: one more classic and the other more experimental. Based on reading about him, his work and methods, the classic might be considered experimental for many. They are natural wines.

When it comes to land and nature, he is an unwavering defender seeking pure expression of the grape variety and terroir from which it comes. To do this, he incorporates the philosophy of Biosinergias into his viticulture and winemaking, a movement predating Steiner’s biodynamics by 2,000 years. They believe in destiny and balance between soil, plant, and fruit… a sort of bio-synergy.

As far as vinification, Gozalo utilizes a variety of fermentation and aging methods and vessels: stainless steel, barrels, foudres (large barrels), amphorae, demijohns, skin contact, and lees and oxidative aging, plus others.

All wines are spontaneously fermented. None are fined, filtered, nor touched except for racking between the different vessels while aging. A minimal additional of SO2 (sulfur dioxide) occurs on very rare occasions. Sometimes this means the wines are a little cloudy, but has nothing to do with quality.

Here’s the unconventional part- Gozalo’s minimalist and non-intervention approach carries to his bottles; none of his wines are bottled under geographic indications. Not D.O. Rueda and not Castilla y Leon Vino de la Tierra (VT) but simply sold as Vinos de España (wines from Spain).

Why does one choose to bottle outside the appellation? It gives the winemaker room to experiment and try new things that might not be possible under appellation rules.

Gozalo does try new things. His projects include research of naturally occurring yeasts in various plots and massal selection of about 150 Verdejo vines which he then used to plant six hectares with different Verdejo biotypes. Did I mention any juice that won’t fit in his chosen aging vessel is put in demijohn and buried underground to age.

Gozalo is called “El Mago de las Verdejos” (the magician of Verdejo) in his native region of Rueda.

MicroBio Wines Correcaminos Blanco Verdejo

Microbio Wines Correcaminos Blanco 2019

I tasted one of Gozalo’s classic wines made from 100% Verdejo. The name, Correcaminos, translates to road runner.

It was cloudy, it was fresh, and it was bright! Serious crispness in the mouth, it races around showing off its mixed citrus, green pear and creamy white peach character, sliding past the stop line revealing a saline and fennel finish that doesn’t want to stop.

If you’re interested in knowing the vinification of this wine, click over to MicroBio Wines.

Retail price: $25 / 15.50€

Find #WorldWineTravel group on Twitter March 27th 11am EDT, 17:00 CET

 

28 thoughts on “Unconventional in Castilla y Leon – Ismael Gozalo and MicroBio Wines #WorldWineTravel

  1. Allison Wallace

    So much in this fantastic article and you nailed the unconventional part. While we started out as big spanish red fans, the whites blew us away from Rueda. We need to find the roadrunner!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I don’t know if it is available in Canada but will ask and let you know. Thanks for stopping by Allison!

      Reply
  2. Robin Renken

    I find this all so fascinating. I want to know more about “Biosinergias”! Steiner didn’t pull his ideas out of things air. They were assembled from generations of farming practices.
    I love that he ferments extra wine in buried demi-johns.
    As to those solera style Verdejos? I’m on the hunt too!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I read as much as I could find about Gozalo, his methods, philosophies, interests. It would be fantastically interesting to visit and learn more about Biosinergias. And who knows, perhaps he has a solera style Verdejo in the works!

      Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      This wine is made in the natural style, which can result in cloudiness for various reasons. The good thing is it’s still very high quality. Cheers to Verdejo!

      Reply
  3. Camilla M Mann

    Another Verdejo? I am definitely missing the boat on that variety. Keeping my eyes open after the inspiring posts from this event. Thanks for sharing and for co-hosting.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I’m betting you could find some MicroBio Verdejo in Northern California. Thanks for your comment Camilla!

      Reply
  4. David

    An interesting winemaker and wine! Fennel isn’t something I hear mentioned too often in tasting notes. Thanks for co-hosting!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I don’t get fennel often in wine either David but savor it when I do. I’m a fan of the vegetable. Another fun month!

      Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Gozalo’s projects definitely sound cool! He’s involved in others too that I didn’t list. Robin brought up the solera style Verdejos… I’ll have to see if that might just be a current of future project of MicroBio Wines. Wouldn’t that be fun?!?

      Reply
  5. Lauren

    This is a field trip I definitely want to make. I love the idea of biosinergias in the vineyards and experimenting in the winery. What fun you must have had, Lynn!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I’m hoping for a field trip to visit too, nothing like seeing experienments, etc. first hand.

      Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I hope you can find this or any of his wines Susannah, would love to compare notes. Fun and funky goodness!

      Reply
  6. Linda Whipple, CSW

    Three cheers for unconventional! I feel like I’m just learning about Verdejo and blown away by the region, climate, diverse styles and innovative spirit. Will be on the lookout for MicroBio and also the solera-style Verdejo.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I’m with you on this Linda. While I’ve been drinking it for years, it’s the region as a whole that is mind-boggling.

      Reply
  7. Martin D Redmond

    So much going on here Lynn. I find it fascinating the family’s vines haven’t seen chemicals in five generations. I love he’s committed to experimentation. That take some serious conviction when ti would be able to stay with the DO guidelines. Finally, the wine sounds amazing. I’m big fan of Verdejo and I need to take it down! Great post!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Appreciate your comment Martin. I’ve had some exchanges with Gozalo in email, he’s 100% serious about his philosophy and way he works. Hope you’re able to find any of his wines to try!

      Reply
  8. Lisa Denning

    Thanks for hosting, Lynn. I didn’t know that the elevations were so high in Rueda… interesting! Also, how great that most of the viticulture has been done organically for generations. And Ismael Gozalo’s wines sound right up my alley. I’m going to have to track them down!! Thanks for sharing all this great information.

    Reply

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