About the Producer
“The wine is in the cheese and the cheese is in the wine”. That’s what I tell everybody when we taste this wine and they look at me like I’m crazy. They’re right, I might be a little crazy but in this particular case I’m making a pretty logical statement. Let me explain…
Ulibarri is their last name and Artzaiak means “the shepherds” in Basque. Before anything, these brothers consider themselves shepherds. As the name implies, they herd sheep. Those sheep make cheese. Not themselves but you know what I mean. Those sheep also graze the vineyard and compost the soil. You see where I’m going with this? It’s a circle of life. Both the wine and cheese are a product of the sheep and therefore, “the wine is in the cheese and the cheese is in the wine”.
Let me continue this ramble with a description of Iker. Did you know stone lifting is a traditional Basque sport? We’re talking big effing stones. Well the first time I saw Iker, that’s the first thing that came to my mind. Not because we were in the green rolling hills of Gordexola, but because the dude looks Basque. I would have thought that anywhere else even if he wasn’t wearing his txapela. That said, it’s impossible for a guy so authentically Basque looking to not make authentic Basque wine!
Speaking of stones, 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. So what? 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.
“The wine is in the cheese and the cheese is in the wine”.