Le Banda del Argilico
Ismael Gozalo makes no more than 45,000 bottles a year in his small winery opposite the church of San Esteban in Nieva. “I’m downsizing,” he says with a broad smile. Quantity is irrelevant to him.
Visitors enter directly to the fermenting room, a mish-mash of barrels, foudres, glass demijohns, stainless steel tanks, full and empty bottles and two presses: a pneumatic press for his entry-level wines and a vertical press for his special wines.
Gozalo is not afraid of oxidation. “The must sometimes turns brown, but what is oxidized at this stage won’t be oxidized later,” he points out and reminds that premox issues in Burgundy were due to the use of modern technology that replaced traditional presses.
A staunch advocate of light pressing, his wines are outlined at that early stage in the winemaking process. His natural wines are pressed with whole bunches, whereas those that include a small amount of sulphur prior to bottling —as in the excellent Sin Nombre— are destemmed or partially destemmed.
With yields of about 250 litres per 450 kg of grapes, the leftovers that don’t fit into a 225-litre barrel are put into 16-, 20- and 54-litre glass demijohns that are left to age underground. “A demijohn is like a big grape,” says Ismael. This wine is eventually bottled as Frágil (fragile), one of Ismael’s rarest and most expensive whites —his particular quest to achieve Verdejo’s purest expression “so that nothing stands in between the terroir and the bottle”.
In a tiny loft in the fermenting room Ismael keeps small tanks containing either early or late harvests which are used as “natural correctors” to add extra acidity or volume or to improve textures. “Volatile acidity is one of my favourite tools, explains Ismael. “Freshness is lost when you harvest late, but volatile acidity can help to revive acidity”.