To link in with this month’s blog about natural wines, we have chosen Bodegas Piqueras Wild Fermented Verdejo from Spain as our Wine of the Month.
Think of Spain – eastern Spain – but leave the sun, sea, and swimming of the Costas behind for a while. Venture about 100km inland from Alicante and Valencia and you’ll come to the winegrowing area of the Almansa which is characterized by its low fertility and low rainfall. This, together with the semi-arid climate, combine to create the ideal conditions to produce richly aromatic wines.
Here you will find the organic vineyards of Bodegas Piqueras which was established over a hundred years ago in 1915 by Luis Piqueras. It has been in the family ever since.
The family’s passion for both winemaking and the environment is obvious. As they themselves say: “Our main aim is to provide extremely high-quality wines, by taking the greatest care with every aspect of winemaking, from the choice of the individual vine to the design of the labels, while remaining true to our roots and our history. We grow our grapes in harmony with nature, in a natural micro-environment in which wildlife, plants, sun, earth and air combine in perfect synergy to create ideal conditions for grapevines.”
In fact, all viticulture at Bodegas Piqueras is done by working with nature, not against it, and biodiversity and sustainability are actively encouraged. For example, sheep graze the vineyards to keep surrounding plants in check, and their manure is a natural fertiliser.
On the cooler, higher altitude patches of the Piqueras estate, the Verdejo grape reigns supreme. The Verdejo grape is actually the quintessential white grape of the Rueda region which is a relatively less well-known area, north-west of Madrid. The Verdejo grape has been cultivated here for ten centuries in high altitude vineyards where the soils are calcareous and well-drained – similar conditions to Almansa.
Once the Verdejo grapes at Bodegas Piqueras have reached their ideal ripeness, in about the second week of September, they are picked at night when they are at their coolest to preserve optimum freshness and to prevent premature fermentation.
Once back at the winery, the grapes undergo fermentation – with wild native yeasts occurring spontaneously on the fruit – in stainless steel tanks before being transferred to spend three months in specially-selected, 300-litre, casks of fine-grained, lightly toasted, French Allier oak. This adds a little structure, rather than an overpowering oaky taste on the palate.
The wine is subsequently aged for a further three months in small stainless steel tanks, staying in continuous contact with its lees and undergoing a regular bâtonnage (the stirring of the settled lees) before a light filtration and bottling.
The result is a superb wine that exhibits complexity on the nose and palate. Intense exotic and tropical fruit vie with ripe apples and pears with a touch of both minerality and creaminess and just a nuance of oak. It’s unctuous and elegant with great natural acidity, balance and a persistent finish.
Try it on its own or with a wide variety of dishes such as grilled fish, pasta, and salads.