Microbio: The Wines of Ismael Gozalo

8/9/19 -

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.

-Ben Fletcher

(Information for this article courtesy of the MicroBio Wines website)

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