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Ismael Gozalo is renowned for his work with the Verdejo grape, native to his village of Nieva, in the province of Segovia in Castilla y Leon. This is the land of industrial Verdejo production, and Ismael's commitment to producing genuine and exciting wines with the traditional local grape makes him an outlier: while other vineyards have focused on intensive agriculture and mechanization, the vines that produce the grapes for the MicroBio wines are from 5 hectares of organically farmed old vines on the most prized sites. Some of these vines, on sandy soils, include old ungrafted vines that have never been subjected to industrial agriculture or chemical treatments. These ancient vines (some up to 200 years old!) are truly a rarity in Rueda, which was almost entirely replanted between 1890 and 1922 owing to the arrival of phylloxera. Both of the still white wines on this offer are drawn wholly from Ismael's ungrafted vines.
These are Verdejos unlike any you've experienced. The vines that supply these grapes are necessarily sandy (as the phylloxera louse, which threatens all own-rooted vines, cannot bear sand), but are studded with argilic clays. These sandy soils are difficult for grapes, and the struggle of the vines produces uniquely balanced wines: freshness and acidic structure are in tension with fullness of fruit and length on the palate.
We have two expressions of old vine Verdejo available from Ismael: the Banda Argilico and the Sin Nombre. Banda Argilico, from two vineyard sites with clay-banded sandy soils, is a perfect expression of the balancing tension of Ismael's Verdejos. Ismael's approach to preserving freshness and expressing the full character for Verdejo is to harvest in two separate passes, one early and one much later. The first and smaller pass is done to preserve the bright acidity and minerality of early harvested Verdejo, while the second, larger harvest is intended to showcase the fruit and length that comes from fully ripened grapes. Sin Nombre, coming from similar plots, is made in an extremely low intervention style without filtration, sulfur, stirring, or other intervention.
While Verdejo is the main grape variety of the region and forms the core of the MicroBio wines, Ismael also makes exciting, eminently drinkable red wines from both Tempranillo and Rufete. The Rufete comes from a small enclosed plot near Salamanca (about 150km from Ismael's home in Nieva), planteed in 1951 on decomposed granite and slate. Bright, pretty, and floral, this is a light to medium bodied red wine at home with summer foods, a slight chill, and warm days outside. The Correcaminos Tempranillo comes from a vineyard in Rueda planted on decomposed slate, and it is slightly fuller, riper and fruitier than the Rufete, but similarly a great option for chilling with barbecue this summer. And, certainly, Ismael's fun, fresh pet-nats are great choices for the last month or so of summer heat: both the white and the rose are outstanding with a good chill, friends, and a warm evening.
(Information for this article courtesy of the MicroBio Wines website)
All Verdejo from ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines of 200 years-old at 900 meters altitude, planted on mixed soils of sand, clay and gravel, the wine is fermented and aged on the lees for 10 months in 1,200 liter oak barrels, and an additional 10 months in stainless steel tanks, with no fining or filtering, and minimal addition of sulfur at bottling. Partial maceration with the skins gives this wine a little extra texture and subtle grip. Ethereal would be a good word for this one. Eben Lillie
This is Ismael Gozalo's wine of 100% Rufete, a light bodied and lightly colored red grape found mainly in northern Spain and Portugal. The grapes for this wine come from a 1.16 hectare vineyard on decomposed granite and slate in Salamanca planted in 1951. In the cellar there is no mechanical pump-over, only manual pigeage, and the wine is aged in old barriques for a relatively short 9-10 months. The 2017 is pure-fruited, and fresh. Bold enough to satisfy that red wine drinking friend of yours, and ready for a chill at your next BBQ! Eben Lillie
Ismael Gozalo of MicroBio is a force of nature. His importer's amusing introduction to his wine is, "Welcome to the República Independiente del Verdejo under President Ismael Gozalo." Ismael's range is dizzying, while his production is tiny, all wines joined by uncompromising standards and depth of experience with the Verdejo grape. La Banda del Argilico is named for the important moisture-retaining bands of clay in his sandy vineyards of old, own-rooted Verdejo. This is the most elegant of the MicroBio Verdejo offerings, with fantastic mineral length, and a bit of mid-palate weight. Should age beautifully if not rapidly consumed with zeal this summer. Eben Lillie
A fresher style of Tempranillo from winemaker Ismael Gozalo , the red Correcaminos comes from a vineyard in Rueda planted on slate soils. This wine goes through a short period of semi-carbonic maceration (8 days) before resting in stainless steel tanks. The 2018 vintage of Correcaminos has medium body and ripe red and black fruit on the palate, and is still fantastically chillable. A perfect, satisfying red that can take a light chill during the summer. Eben Lillie
Tempranillo and Verdejo Pet-Nat from MicroBio. Super fresh, light and easy drinking: a great pet-nat for outdoor drinking or cracking open before dinner. This is perhaps even lighter, fresher, and brighter than the white: a great, very dry, introduction to the world of natural sparkling wines. Ben Fletcher
No one understands the Verdejo grape as well as Ismael Gozalo, and no one makes more beautiful and unusual Verdejo wines. This pet-nat is 100% Verdejo, and compared to the Nieva York Rose has a bit more texture and body. Nieva York is a Pet Nat made exclusively for our market (please note the cheeky amalgamation of the Manhattan Bridge with the Aqueduct of Segovia on the label). Ben Fletcher