Ignacio Gonzalez, who goes by Nacho, used to work as a fruit and vegetable farmer and gardener on an organic farm in his region of Galicia in Spain. When his grandmother passed away, leaving him a parcel of old vines, he instinctively felt that it was his duty to take care of them. This meant farming them organically just as his grandmother had, and just as he had learnt on the farms. The notion of selling the plot or of working with chemicals never even came into the equation.
"They have been working in tropical agriculture in this way for years… We are seeking protection and fertility with mountain microorganisms, acidolactic bacteria, bacillus subtilis, chelates and bio fertilizers."
People: Nacho Gonzalez
Place: Valdeorras DO, Galicia, Spain
Varieties: Palomino, Doña Branca, Godello, Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet), Garnacha, Mencía, Sumoll, Mouratón
Did You Know? Nacho is one of a number of fortunate growers who work with Juan Padilla, a famous fifth-generation potter from Albacete who, rumour has it, only communicates via fax machine. He first discovered his tinajas - round amphorae - through Rafa Bernabe, a winemaker in Alicante. On reading further about making wine in clay, he discovered Georgia’s history with their qvevri clay vessels, and he liked the idea of working with natural materials such as clay and wood. Thus, his cellar is lined with these vessels today, as well as old barrels, although he still uses a few stainless steel tanks for some fermentations.
Many of the parcels Nacho farms are field blends; planted to many different varieties. In the old days, almost all vineyards were planted in this manner; firstly it minimised risk in case a variety was lost to disease or didn’t ripen properly; and secondly this added many different aromatic qualities to the wine. They are planted as bush vines (literally resembling small bushes), which was the historical method of planting, before wires were introduced in the region in the 1980s.
The most prominent varieties in Nacho’s parcels are the red variety Garnacha Tintorera and the white variety Palomino, despite the fact they are not the most common in modern day Galicia. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the region took the brunt of phylloxera - the root-eating, plant killing louse that invaded Europe in the late 1800s - which meant that nearly all vineyards here were wiped out. This brought financial ruin for the growers of the time. This, combined with the development of clonal propagation, meant that vast swathes of vineyard land was replanted to dependable, high-yielding varieties. This might have seemed ingenious, but in the name of quality it resulted in fairly dull and monotonous wines.
Secondly, some varieties fell somewhat out of fashion as the world seeked techno-made entry level white wines. The black variety, Garnacha Tintorera (also known as Alicante Bouschet), an offspring of the varieties Garnacha and Petit Bosuchet, is red-fleshed, known as a teinturier variety. This is a rarity in the world of wine grapes given that 99% of wine grapes are clear-fleshed (this explains how white wines and sparkling wines can in fact be made from black grapes). Historically, the red-fleshed teinturier varieties were used to darken red wines which were otherwise pale, and to give them a little extra tannin. Therefore, they’ve often been unfairly perceived in the past as “filler” varieties, and often haven’t been given the chance to produce quality wines. However, in the hands of the right farmers and winemakers, Garnacha Tintorera can produce some of the most vibrant, crunchy red wines that are similar to Garnacha but with a little more depth.