Alfredo Egia, Bizkaian magic bottled in a Txakoli
There are wineries that invest big chunks of money in building tasting rooms. Large oak tables, high chairs, lighting that favors tasting, background music, expensive glasses, the kind that make you cry if they get broken… Alfredo Egia considers all this, and rightly so, superfluous and focuses on what really matters: enjoying a glass of wine where it tastes best. And that place is the vineyard where the grapes come from. The slopes of a mountain located on the outskirts of Balmaseda, Bizkaia, is the site chosen for this, just where Alfredo has a vineyard surrounded by oak groves, pine groves and meadows. The most important characteristic of this vineyard is that Alfredo works it following the principles of biodynamic agriculture. There are 4 hectares in total, 1.8 of them following these biodynamic principles. One hectare goes to make one of their wines, Hegan Egin, and the remaining 0.8 goes to Rebel Rebel. The other 2.2 hectares are to produce Egia Enea, its highest production wine.
But I was talking about the location of his tasting room, and it is right in this vineyard where Alfredo has placed a table and four chairs around it. And it is precisely here where you sit at seven o’clock in the afternoon of a September afternoon and one sip at a time you enjoy the wines that Alfredo makes, while we embark on a conversation about biodynamics, the treatments that are made in the vineyard in a place with as much rainfall as Balmaseda and with the occasional fog in the Cadagua river valley.
Alfredo cares his vineyards tenderly, talks to them, he feels part of a whole with them. The vines and their fruit feel how Alfredo feels and Alfredo feels the way the vines feel. That’s the way you work to get the best possible fruit. Biodynamic preparations 500P and 501, some essential oil of lavender, decoctions of horsetail and nettle, hummus with worms, very low doses of copper and occasionally sulfur. Herbicides or pesticides, nothing at all. Working organically so far up in the north of Spain is very complicated but it is how Alfredo wants to do it. For him, vineyard and winegrower are a whole that shares feelings, sensations, plans for the future. The vines give life to those days when things are not going well. Alfredo allows himself to be surrounded by them and everything changes, the energy flows again.
Sitting at that table and those chairs, memories of childhood, of the high school days and the first years in the university flourish, while a curious phenomenon occurs. Slowly you stop seeing Alfredo without stopping listening or speaking, and not because of some paranormal phenomenon related to the starry sky above our heads, but because the day is slowly going into night. You can distinguish his silhouette by the little light of the village that peeks out from behind, but the vineyard, the table and the chairs are enveloped in the darkness of the night. Egia Enea 2018 is his entry-level Txakoli. About 12,000 bottles made exclusively with Hondarrabi Zerratia.
This wine leads to the next one: Lexardi 2013, a wonder that Alfredo produced that year with Hondarrabi Zerratia and Petit Manseng in the same proportion. Lexardi conveys the aromas of grapes that bring memories of the wines of the French Jurançon, but while still providing the personality of a Txakoli. These two wines are made in Bizkai Barne, a winery of which Alfredo is a partner and whose facilities are in Orozko, Bizkaia.
Biodynamic bottled in the form of Txakoli is called Rebel Rebel and it is a wine that Alfredo makes on his own. The name comes from the time when Alfredo followed rockers who never died. The label is his design, a girl playing on a swing. 785 bottles of both the 2017 vintage and 690 bottles of the 2018 vintage. In 2019 it will show a slight increase coming a notch over a thousand bottles. But while we wait for that vintage, we enjoyed the previous two. 2017 is a complex wine, with a very special aromatic soul that slightly reminds me of some Jura wines that I have enjoyed on more than one occasion. 2018 does not have those notes but it still has a complexity that I have rarely found in a Txakoli. Both vintages are made with Hondarrabi Zerratia and a little bit of Petit Manseng, with a 80-20 ratio. This wine is aged in barrel, amphora and part in a stainless steel tank.
The night was closing in and we were embraced by the cool of the late summer while occasionally a plane from Loiu (Bilbao’s airport) overflying us. Strobe lights added magic to the sounds of nocturnal birds and occasional crickets and peppered our wine anecdotes. And then Hegan Egin 2018 arrived. Wine made by Imanol Garay, with the collaboration of Alfredo and Gile Iturri, Bizkai Barne winemaker. Exceptional wine. Here I would like to turn things around. Normally I would say that it is an exceptional Txakoli, but I see it more as an exceptional white wine protected by DO Bizkaiko Txakolina. A wine that competes with any other white wine from anywhere you can think of. Higher proportion of Hondarrabi Zerratia than Petit Manseng made by the hands of three artists and aged in used barrels and amphoras. The grapes grow on a 1-hectare plot separated by a stream from the 0.8-hectare vineyard where Rebel Rebel originates. Like this one, it works following the principles of biodynamic agriculture.
I had to choose a time to leave, although the night was offered to continue tasting and enjoying Alfredo’s wines until dawn. But above all to continue enjoying his company because Alfredo is electric, full of inexhaustible energy. He talks and flows like a torrent and that makes the conversation have endless dynamism. Laughter, anecdotes, stories, jokes, wine…
Our cell phones showed us the way to our cars to leave this spectacular tasting room behind. We will return without a doubt, because the conversations brought up names of wines that we had to share. And that cannot be forgiven. After all, what are wines but a perfect excuse to share?