The Ulibarri family has a long history in the Basque country, primarily as shepherds and cheesemakers (Artzaiak is the Basque word for shepherd). They also have vineyards planted to the traditional grape of the region – Hondarrabi Zuri – and have existed as a bodega since the 18th century. Farming is certified organic (extremely rare for the area – they might be the only ones!) and the sheep play a major role in the vineyards, handling weed control and providing natural fertilizer. In an area where winemakers harvest early and often inject the wines with CO2 to make them a bit fizzy (a characteristic associated with the wines – think Vinho Verde), the Ulibarri brothers harvest at full ripeness, allow indigenous yeast fermentation, and let the wines age on the lees.
-Chamber St. Wines
Their cellar is an extension of their stone home and their backyard is covered with 2 hectares of hondarrabi zuri grapes. The rest is green forests leading to the Cantabrian Sea about 15km away. Their soil is a mix of clay, sand, slate and schist. They’re one of the few, if not the only, certified organic producers in the Bizkaiko D.O. Simply put, their sheep add more to the vineyard than they do. In the cellar, they’re not making the type of Txakoli I think most people are accustomed to. Ulibarri is fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees with almost daily stirring. Artzaiak is done the same way except barrel fermented in french oak. Both of which are still wines bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 added, making it hard to preserve the natural CO2 from fermentation as they require patience in the making.
No fizz. No flute. Does this mean it’s not Txakolí? They definitely have the acidity. They’re still highly drinkable and refreshing. On the other hand, they’re more complex and structured than the rest. We tasted ‘12, ‘11, 10, ‘09 and they kept getting better and better. Drink them now or put them away for a couple of years. This is something I had never experienced with Txakoli before so yeah, I guess they are different from the rest.
-Selections de la Viña