A day in the world of ‘El Mozo Wines’

El Mozo Wines includes Itxaso Compañón, Gorka Mauleon and their two children. Theirs is a story of revisiting roots. Due to certain life circumstances, they had to return to Lanciego in order to maintain the legacy that Itxaso’s father, Félix, left.
They have nine hectares of vineyards planted in bush vines, divided into eighteen plots located in different places in Lanciego and Viñaspre, all maintained in an environmentally friendly way. The main variety planted is the Tempranillo, but they also have Malvasía Riojana and a little Garnacha and Viura.
Our intention was to carry out an interview and see the vineyards and the winery. It was cold and grey on the day in Lanciego, as if it was autumn suddenly on the 17th September. We arrived at around ten in the morning and arranged to meet in the bar next to the church. While we were eating our breakfast, Gorka came in with a smile, as always. In the bar, there was some data on ageing provided by the Diputación Foral de Álava for different plots in Viñaspre and Lanciego.

Gorka, when are you going to begin the harvest and how is the vintage going?
I think we’ll start the harvest in a week, this year looks like it is going to be very good, with a slow maturing process, the grapes have a good state of health and a good acidity.
Come on, let’s go to the vineyard.

The day being as it was, we couldn’t visit any more than two vineyards; it had also rained in the days before and the paths and the vineyards were quite muddy. We arrived at the first vineyard ‘Monte de Viñaspre’, planted in the 1940s by Gorka’s grandfather, Teodoro Mauleón. It is a sloping vineyard planted with both red and white varieties, among which were Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura, Malvasía Riojana and some others. It is planted in bush vines and with various Morgones (Acodos in other areas), an ancestral practice to replace dead vine shoots. We climbed to the top of the vineyard and kept talking while we observed the vineyard and its landscape.

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What was it like at the beginning, an IT Engineer coming home with your wife to manage nine hectares of vineyards?
In 2010/11, we had to come back to Lanciego to take control of the winery. Compañón Arrieta, as the winery was formerly known, used to make wine using the traditional method with carbonic maceration and bulk harvest. In 2011, the whole harvest had to be sold the same way.
In 2012, we bottled the first Herrigoia vintage, we took this step to add value to the wine and, of course, the winery.
And how was it?
Bad. We fell flat on our faces with the wine market and with the word Rioja. We tried to sell our young wine at what we thought was a suitable price, but people didn’t understand it. There are some prices set by the market for different types of Rioja wine (joven, crianza, reserva…) whichever vineyard it comes from. This vineyard produces about 1000 kg per hectare and the average in our other vineyards is 5500 kg/ha, when the DO allows up to 7500 kg/ha. It was a turning point for the following vintage. Roberto Olivan gave us some advice about starting to make single-estate wines and therefore be able to raise the value of the vineyards. We decided to make Malaspiedras in 2013, a wine produced with grapes from the best micro-plots and we aged it for 10 months in 500 litre barrels.
So your opinion on the DOC Rioja…?
For us, as a small producer, the Rioja brand doesn’t help. The market already has set prices for Rioja, which the large wineries sell at lower prices than what we are able to offer. The problem is that it is not the same product, therefore we have to start increasing the value of the towns and subzones.
Do you think the DOC will produce a plan of the new classifications?
I think it’s difficult, but it would be best. It has spent years defending this type of classification, but it seems the DOC management is finding it difficult to take the plunge.
And the latest controversy between ABRA (Asociación de Bodegas de la Rioja Alavesa) and Rioja?
It was a vote between the members of ABRA about abandoning the DOC Rioja and right now, it has a list of conditions for a new DO presented to the Basque Government.

It started to rain harder and we decided to head towards the next vineyard. We passed through beautiful old vineyards on the hillside before reaching the road. Meanwhile, with the main conversation centering on meteorology, it begged the question:

Do you have a passion for weather and meteorology?
(Laughs) From a young age, I had a weather station and I liked writing down all the information about how the temperatures, rains etc were developing… I am all about writing everything down, Excel is essential in my life. It has helped me to have an exhaustive control over what happens in the winery.

We arrive at the next vineyard, a younger one, destined to produce Herrigoia, their wine produced by carbonic maceration. A vineyard planted in bush vines with the Tempranillo variety and a small amount of Viura, cultivated in an environmentally friendly way and with a yield of 5500kg per hectare.
Our last stop was the winery. It is a typical winery in Rioja Alavesa with two large cement vats where the grapes ferment (carbonic maceration). Underneath, there were cement tanks where the wine finishes fermenting. Simple and with enough space, they were preparing it for the introduction of the new vintage grape. When we entered, his wife Itxaso was labelling the last bottles of the new Malaspiedras vintage.

02

Where do the new wines and the name Cosmonauta come from?
Cosmonauta is the character that comes down from the sky in the patron saint celebrations in Lanciego. Every patron saint celebration in the towns in Álava has a character, here we have an astronaut. This is where the name of the two new wines we have produced comes from.
The Cosmonauta en el Barranco del Agua, a Malvasía Riojana (90%) and Viura (10%); the Cosmonauta en el Viaje del Tiempo, the first vineyard that we visited. Only 212 Magnums produced, as if it were a Claret, without the intervention of oenological products. We have already run out.
Which wine do you like the most from the winery?
The Herrigoia is our favourite. To think of the wine Félix produced, we are positioning it so well and selling it in places that he could never have imagined. This is what fills us with pride and satisfaction.
And the style of Carbonic Maceration with banana aromas?
When we released our first Herrigoia, we didn’t encounter this problem. People associated this type of wine with very prominent fruity aromas like banana, pear etc, but our Herrigoia didn’t have it. This type of aroma is not typical of carbonic maceration, but of the yeast that they used to sell during that period. However, nowadays, the concept of this type of wines is changing.
Which wines do you like in the area?
They coincide with the people that produce them in the vineyards, with maximum respect for the environment and the landscape such as: Abel Mendoza, Roberto Olivan, Tentenublo Wines, Oxer Bastegieta, Vinos Subterráneos etc.
How do you see the future of the area?
Well, don’t think I see it so promising. It is true that there is a current of vine growers that defend the landscape and the old vines, but we also have a problem with convenience and production. People that uproot an old vine to plant a trellised vineyard and a productive clone, that don’t go beyond and sell their grapes to the large cooperative wineries. It is a problem that is not only going to have an effect now, but will be harmful to coming generations.
But, regarding us, we are more and more happy. Things are starting to set off, if we compare with our first vintage in 2012. There is a larger segment of the market that is interested in knowing where wine comes from.


And lastly, will you continue to attend some of the town fairs explaining your wines?
Of course! It is something we will continue doing. If we want to bring wine closer to people, we shouldn’t keep it away from them.

Finally, we climbed to the winery’s txoko (an area where people come together to cook, eat, drink and socialise) to try the wines and enjoy Saturday. Many thanks, Itxaso and Gorka, for your hospitality. It was a pleasure!

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Herrigoia 2015: Mainly Tempranillo with a little Viura. A wine made with carbonic maceration, a classic method of the Rioja Alavesa. Its best vintage up until now. Fresh and vibrant.
Malaspiedras 2015: Nothing more open, toasty aromas from the barrel. After five minutes, it changed completely, giving some very pronounced Violet notes that provide it with a very good complexity. A wine which the passing of time in the bottle will make it great.
The Cosmonauta en el Viaje del Tiempo 2015: We tried the wine from the first plot we visited. A wine made the old-fashioned way, like they used to before the clarets in the area. The wildest wine of the whole range.

  • Herrigoia 2015

    Red wine Carbonic maceration. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: El Mozo Wines. Production area: Rioja. Grapes used in this wine: Tempranillo and Viura and Malvasía.

    • Decántalo 90
    • Parker 89
    5,20 IVA inc.
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    ¡Disponible sólo en Internet!
    Herrigoia 2015

    Red wine Carbonic maceration. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: El Mozo Wines. Production area: Rioja. Grapes used in this wine: Tempranillo and Viura and Malvasía.

    • Decántalo: 90
    • Parker: 89
    5,20 IVA inc.
    ¡Disponible sólo en Internet!
  • Malaspiedras 2015

    Red wine Barrel. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: El Mozo Wines. Production area: Rioja. Grapes used in this wine: Garnacha Tinta and Viura and Tempranillo.

    • Decántalo 93
    12,25 IVA inc.
    6x
    11,65 €/u
    Unidades
    Comprar
    ¡Disponible sólo en Internet!
    Malaspiedras 2015

    Red wine Barrel. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: El Mozo Wines. Production area: Rioja. Grapes used in this wine: Garnacha Tinta and Viura and Tempranillo.

    • Decántalo: 93
    12,25 IVA inc.
    6x
    11,65 €/u
    ¡Disponible sólo en Internet!
  • El Cosmonauta en el Barranco de Agua 2015

    White wine Young. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: El Mozo Wines. Production area: Rioja. Grapes used in this wine: Malvasía and Viura.

    • Decántalo 92
    14,50 IVA inc.
    6x
    13,75 €/u
    Unidades
    Comprar
    ¡Disponible sólo en Internet!
    El Cosmonauta en el Barranco de Agua 2015

    White wine Young. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: El Mozo Wines. Production area: Rioja. Grapes used in this wine: Malvasía and Viura.

    • Decántalo: 92
    14,50 IVA inc.
    6x
    13,75 €/u
    ¡Disponible sólo en Internet!
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