Spanish Wine With A Soul

Spanish wine with a Soul.

At the start of every week, the endless ritual of tasting wine with sales reps begins anew. It’s a continuous exercise in sipping, spitting and bullshitting, all in the hopes of possibly finding something special that will eventually make it to Swigg’s shelves and eventually into your glass. Finding wines that fits our philosophy, or our wine “Weltanschauung” can often be an arduous task. The practice of tasting with reps, suppliers and winemakers has become a cliché in our business, and often the products being presented can be forgettable.

I’m often reminded of a passage from Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. “(How many times had he made love in his life?) Only two or three were really essential and unforgettable. The rest were mere echoes, imitations, repetitions, or reminiscences.” This is the vinous dance marathon that takes place every week…romance is sadly sacrificed for mere exercise, often in the end leaving both participants more exhausted than elated.

However, sometimes you find some platinum amongst the plonk in these unfortunately essential affairs. I’ve been doing this for a while, but every now and again I find something new, something important. To quote a Devil Wears Prada, “There’s a scale. One nod is good, two nods is very good. There’s only been one actual smile on record and that was Tom Ford in 2001.”

Today I met with David Sampedro, winemaker at Bodegas Bhilar. David and his wines certainly had me smiling. David and his wife Melanie Hickman own Bodegas Bhilar, a supremely positioned boutique winery in the town of Elvillar in Rioja Alavesa, Spain. The lineup David showed me today included some of the most compelling and interesting wines I’ve found this year, radiating with personality, purity and an unshakable aura of place. David was also “super chill”, passionate, down to earth and carried himself with a quite intensity. David simply presented himself as a farmer, and said all he had to say through his wines.

In the vineyard David farms biodynamically, and in 2014 even replaced tractors with horses. According to his website,” When you witness horses working in the vineyards it’s truly transforming…you truly live in the moment.” In the winery he is a not an interventionist, “allowing the land to speak for itself.” You hear this last part a lot from wine makers, but David’s wines in the glass are simply beyond any form of cynicism.

I had purchased some of David’s wines several months ago, but had tasted the wines piecemeal and really never got to explore what he and his wines are all about, even though I was certainly moved and intrigued by the initial offerings I tasted.

I was tipped to Bodegas Bhilar by the great wine writing sage Matt Kramer, by one of his last writing assignments for the Wine Spectator, “The Last Postcard from Spain.” In Kramer’s brief article, he mentions only five producers of note, Bodegas Bhilar being one of them. Described as a “rabble-rouser from Rioja,” Kramer goes on to describe Bodegas Bhilar as “Biodynamically grown Rioja wines of exceptional quality for the money,” and after today’s tasting I couldn’t agree more. I am simply smitten with the wines from Bodegas Bhilar.