In the heart of the heart of Spain lies Quero, a small town whose largest and closest city is Toledo, some 100 kilometers north; this is an extremely arid and hot climate, a place where any organic agriculture – let alone viticulture – seemed largely impossible. After a few successful harvests of organic melons and peppers, Julián Ruiz Villanueva had convinced his family and fellow local farmers alike that it was indeed possible to work here organically. That was back in 1998. Ever since, he has amassed and trained an amazing vineyard of old bush vines of local varieties, un-grafted and un-irrigated. Cultivated biodynamically, Ruiz Villanueva employs a host of non-interventionist winemaking techniques, such as utilizing buried amphorae where, during longer macerations, a thin veil of yeast (known as flor) will form on the top of the fermenting must and protect the wine. He refers to this as a “natural self-defense.” Ruiz Villanueva, in this particular bottling, works with the local grape “Airén.” Long taken as a grape for distillation in the production of Brandy de Jérez, Airén gets the spotlight here and is macerated for 4 months. A central-Spanish wine aged underground that glows in the glass with its sunny verve.
Vinification: 100% Airén hand-harvested from pre-phylloxera vines, grown in sandy-calcareous soils outside the municipality of Quero in Castilla-La Mancha, Central Spain. The grapes are de-stemmed before a 2-month maceration in stainless steel tank where spontaneous fermentation takes place, in addition to a secondary malolactic fermentation, before pressing into earthen jars where the wine ages underground. Bottled unfined, unfiltered, with no additional SO2. 13.3%ABV
Tasting: This zero/zero oddball is surprisingly understated, despite the rarity of the grape and long maceration in the cellar. Densely cloudy in the glass and luminously orange in color. Medium bodied on the palate, rich with tangerine, lemon and vanilla custard. Give it a shake and serve at cellar temperature.