Winery Oxer Bastegieta | Spanish Wine Lover

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A new player in Rioja, Oxer Bastegieta is a Basque producer who divides his time between the family winery in the Bizkaiko Txakolina appellation and his highly personal wines in Rioja.

A seasoned traveller, Oxer got into wine in 1999 when his father asked him to make a txakoli to be served in the family restaurant in Kortezubi (Bizkaia) from a one-hectare plot he had planted nearby. Bastegieta discovered Rioja soon after, when he took a master's degree in Wine Growing and Oenology in Laguardia, in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. He was captivated by the striking landscape set against the imposing mountains of Sierra Cantabria and decided to move to this picturesque village in 2009.

The following year he bought his first vineyard. Called El Artillero (The Gunner), it is a very old plot located at 600m in Elvillar, also in Rioja Alavesa. Oxer currently grows 4.8 hectares divided in 16 plots in the villages of Leza, Navaridas, Elciego, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Laguardia and Elvillar. One of these plots in Laguardia was planted using a keyline design, a landscaping technique used in permaculture to optimize resources. It is here where he plans to build a winery in the future.

In his early forties, Bastegieta’s approach to wine is unconventional and personal and this is visible in his striking, unique wine labels. Taking inspiration from poems, songs and images, these labels are the result of working closely with the award-winning design agency Calcco from Logroño.

In the Bizkaiko Txakolina appellation, Oxer makes the family white Marko (€12) whose label features the rock paintings found on the nearby Santimamiñe Caves. His own wines start with Marko Gure Arbasoak (“our ancestors” in Basque, €28, 8,000 bottles), a vibrant, sharp blend of almost equal parts of Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbou) and Hondarrabi Zuri with 20% of Izkiota ttipia (Petit Manseng). Fermentation starts in stainless steel tanks and ends in 400-litre and 500-litre oak barrels where the wine stays for 8 to 9 months -no doubt it sets new heights for oak-aged txakoli in the area. Marko Late Harvest (900 bottles, €30) is an interesting sweet wine made with grapes that were picked in mid-November. Labels are inspired by the large colony of birds in the natural enclave of Urdabai where the vineyards are located. While Gure Arbasoak includes a quote from a Basque song, the sweet wine features a verse from The Crown, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

Production in Rioja is slightly below 10,000 bottles, although Oxer plans to make 20,000 bottles in the future. The range starts with Iraun (“to endure” in Basque, 1,300 bottles, €40), a blend of Viura, White Garnacha and Malvasía made with the white grapes from El Artillero vineyard. Winemaking is similar to txakoli except for the fact that amphorae are used for fermentations -Sherry butts might be added in the future. The fresh, almost electric red El Artillero (just under 2,000 bottles, €40) is fermented in various vessels and is later aged in used casks. The cannon on the label was replaced by a more seductive image after Oxer learnt that El Artillero was one of the sexual positions described in the Kama Sutra.

Suzzane (3,000 bottles, €40), intentionally spelled with two “z”, has a label that evokes Oxer’s relationship with women and quotes the foreword of The Inhabited Woman, a novel by Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli. Inside the bottle there is a wonderfully vibrant, deep and mineral Garnacha from Cárdenas (Alto Najerilla valley). Lastly, Kalamity (around 2,000 bottles, €100) combines the best from El Artillero and Cárdenas. “I wanted to mix the chalky, inky notes of Rioja Alavesa with the floral, mineral style you get on the right bank of the Ebro river in Rioja Alta,” Oxer explains. The label was inspired on Mexican folklore celebrating the Day of the Dead. “There is calamity inside all of us,” he says. The quote in this case comes from Shakesperare’s The Raigne of King Edward the Third.

TASTING NOTES

Gure Arbasoak 2019 Blanco

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