Some time ago, perhaps two vintages, we talked about Teo Legido and the work he is doing in a small corner of Ávila. It was a real discovery, both he and his wines, and without having any other reason to visit him than to spend a good time together, we saw each other on a quiet afternoon this past July.
We won’t speak specifically about his wines today, La Bovila and El Rosal, both red, or his Verdejo, which is a fabulous white wine. We won’t even talk about that 32-liter demijohn that he has in his living room with a Verdejo that is developing a velo de flor. Today we will talk about his winemaking philosophy. Teo works his vineyards, barely four hectares (both his and one of his cousin’s), organically. He also works biodynamically and last year he was accepted by one of the, in my opinion, groups of most exclusive biodynamic producers. Maybe not very exclusive, because if you meet their requirements, they can accept you as a member. Firstly, you must be certified as working following the biodynamic principles at least for three years and then your wines have to go through a tasting panel. I consider this group exclusive, or perhaps rather prestigious, because it is Le Rennaissance des Appellations, the group created some years ago by Nicolas Joly. This group emerged as a handful of French winemakers who defended the organic and biodynamic farming and nowadays it has already surpassed two hundred members worldwide. In Spain, the producers part of this club are just a dozen.
Teo comes from the world of artistic jewelry so, with this background, it is not surprising that Teo conceives wine as an art. But rather than being me talking about it, I think it is better for him to share his thoughts.
Good morning, Teo, and as always, it is a pleasure to be able to talk with you. What made you jump from the world of jewelry to making wine?
There was a period in my life when I did both at the same time, both artistic jewelry and winemaking, but slowly and for different reasons, I ended up dedicating only to wine. Possibilities for further working on jewelry were becoming scarce, due to reasons like the increasing price of gold and the changing culture of artistic jewelry losing its importance.
What do jewelry and wine have in common?
Both professions share artistic and creative elements. Wine for me is a work of art, and I completely moved to understanding the creation of wine, not seeing it only as a production. I cannot understand wine in any other way than as a work of art.
What elements do you consider crucial when making wine?
There are several fundamental aspects for understanding wine, all of which are interconnected. They are the pillars on which my way of understanding great wine is founded, the one that is at the top, the quality wine that when it is in a glass tells its story.
Mastering the oenological and viticulture technique leads you to obtaining a good raw material that you can work with without defects.
The organoleptic construction of the wine is the second important aspect for me: that it has structure, intensity, balance and length, basic principles of wine tasting.
The culture of wine includes the place where the vineyard is located, how vines have gone through times.
Finally, the intellectual or creative scheme of who makes the wine, those creative principles that you follow when making a wine. What steps do you want to follow, what style do you intend to look for, how do you deal with the personality of the wine. I believe that the personality of the creator is represented in the wine. Wine terroir has four pillars: the soil, the landscape, the culture of the place where it is made, and the length of the wine, not only when tasting but also its longevity. The ageing capacity of a wine is very important to consider that a wine is well made.
How important is the style of wine for you?
Style must be defended for a few reasons. You can copy a style, such as Bordeaux, but you have to be clear about why you copy it and how you adapt it to your wine. If that doesn’t work, the wine won’t work, and it will show up quickly.
You work your vineyards organically. Why?
For me, organic farming started when I was working with my father in the vineyards. We did not use oenological products, or any chemical product. My decisions have always gone this way.
In my area, all this organic and biodynamic work was left behind, it was abandoned, being replaced by the pressure from the agricultural and cereal industries. Since nothing of this exists anymore, I had to learn everything on my own, looking how viticulture was working at the end of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, all the way to the 1930s, which is when everything started to change.
And from working organically you also stepped onto biodynamic farming.
This has been a cornerstone in the way I work. Right now I am at the beginning of my way of working this type of agriculture. It is a constant learning and I am still taking my first steps in biodynamics.
What has it been like to being accepted by the association of Nicolas Joly’s?
I sought to enter it because of the benefits of biodynamics and wanted to delve deeper into that philosophy, to learn more. I found people with more than 40 years of experience working this way. It required having a natural grape that reflected the soil it comes from, where this grape is grown. And biodynamics was the way for me to achieve this. Searching everywhere I could, I found that the members of this association were doing what I wanted. I tried to get to know them, knocked on their door and struggled to meet the conditions they asked me to do. Once admitted, and with years of work behind me, I see the results in the vineyard, obtaining a more natural grape. From the point of view of positioning myself in the market, for me it has been a lifesaver, because I have been able to reach European markets that I would not have had access to otherwise.
Your production is around 2,000 bottles per year nowadays.
My long-term goal is to reach 5,000 bottles per vintage. It always depends on access to more grapes. Currently I have a vineyard of just two hectares of Tempranillo,Syrah and Verdejo, and I have a vineyard of my cousin two and a half hectares planted with Garnacha. One day at a time we will take the necessary steps.
How do you see the future of wine and what surrounds it?
I believe that the future of winemaking involves reaching the level of artistic conception that gastronomy has. Now we can see that a chef obtains a national award for the artistic quality of his plates. Nobody disputes that gastronomy is an art anymore. When we will have achieved that the winemaker also reaches this recognition, everything will change a lot. But first we need to understand that the fundamental basis of every creation is the pursuit of beauty in the end of the road. This road, this path, is inalienable for me. Harmony, balance of a wine, must be put on value. We have to find a narrative scheme to make it understandable. We as winemakers must be very clear that we travel in this path, to be measured by our creation. Let a glass of our wine explain what we want to tell about our work.
Thank you very much for your words, Teo. It has been a pleasure talking with you.