2016 Bichi Tinto
Region: Tecate < Baja California < Mexico
Grapes: Nebbiolo + Tempranillo
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: organic farming, dry-farmed, 100 year-old vines, sandy, granitic soil, co-fermented in 450L concrete ‘tinajas’ (amphora), then ½ aged in stainless steel and ½ in old barrel, no added SO2; 378 cases; 12.5% ABV
Winemaker: Jair Téllez and Luis-Antoine Luyt
NEW VINTAGE ALERT: Jair Téllez, chef of the progressive Laja Restaurant in Ensenada, Mexico, is the guy behind Tecate-based Bichi, the only known natural winery in Mexico. A few years ago, he left his post as chef at a Top 50 San Pellegrino Restaurant to resurrect old vines in Baja and make delicious, authentically made wine from grapes suited to the climate, with awesome label art (bonus!). In the meantime he’s also opened a casual dining spot in Mexico City with an entirely natural wine list – one of the few in the entire country. Jair’s winemaking partner in crime is Luis-Antoine Luyt, pioneer of natural winemaking in Chile, so of course they’re working naturally: organic farming, native yeasts, and as of the 2015 vintage, no so2 whatsoever. These are Mexican wines of the future! And in our opinion, some of the best wines made in Central America today.
Jair’s Tinto is a field blend of Nebbiolo and Tempranillo from his father’s house vineyard. Why these Italian varietals in Mexico? Apparently his dad loved to drink Barolo and Chianti, so he decided to plant these grapes at home in the 1970’s. One might think these Northern Italian grapes would bake in the hot Mexican sun, but with Bichi’s light-handed, old-school treatment (early pick, amphora and used barrels, nothing but minimal SO2 added at bottling) the wine manages to be bright, lifted and perfectly balanced – and still only 12.5% ABV. Pleasantly rustic and crunchy, with a strong chili pepper vibe and some dusty rose notes (Nebbiolo’s trademark), this tastes like juicy chipotle-infused cherry-berry soda. The best Ital-Mex mashup you could imagine! This one shines brightest with a slight chill.