The Uriondo winery is located in a rebuilt house outside of Zaratoma. The name Uriondo comes from the local dialect for ”first from” and signifies that the cottage was the first building one would come across after leaving the village.
On these lands wine has been made for over 200 years, but it was only in the mid 80’s that the family living there began to bottle and sell on their own. The vineyard (for there is only one) is located across the road from the house and contains three grape varieties;
Txori Mahatsa (sauvignon blanc) – translated loosely into the grape that birds eat.
Mune Mahatsa (folles blanches) – traditionally used to separate lands.
Hondarrabi Zuri – the most typical grape of Basque Country.
The vineyard covers a mere 2,5 hectares and the entire production consists of 5800 vines and a good deal of apple, plum and pear trees that line the vineyard and distract visiting animals.
And there are a lot of those. Both wild pigs, badgers, roe deer and of course birds come to feast in the vineyards, but as long as the trees bear fruit and the grapes don’t become over-ripe the animals leave the vines alone. Luckily, they never have problems with hail or strong winds. The vineyard is completely surrounded by mountains and hills and is well protected.
There is no use of herbicides or pesticides in the vineyards, although sometimes fungicides are presented to combat the ever present oidium threat (we are in an extremely lush and humid part of the world after all). In the winter sheep graze in the vineyard introducing their own fertilizers, and the pips from the grapes are also spread among the vines. The entire vineyard has a southeast exposition and most of the vines were planted in 1986, except for the Hondarabbi Zuri which was introduced in 1980. The soil, heavily influenced by the Atlantic climate, is predominantly a clay and sand mixture allowing for a good retention of nutrients.
In one corner a group of hazelnut trees stand. They bear nuts every year Isabel explains, but the squirrels eat them all and leave nothing for the workers.
Harvest is usually done in the middle of September. During harvest everything is hand-picked into small baskets and carried across the road to the house, where the majority of the must is extracted without pressing. ”We make harvest early because we don’t want over-mature grapes. We prefer grapes that are green, not yellow or brown.” The top wine spends 8-9 months in oak, then one year of aging in bottle before release. The rest is fermented and matured in steel tanks and bottled upon demand.
As we walk back down through the vines and back to the house for tasting Isabel stops and kneels to pick up some leaves. It’s wild garlic, which can be found in abundance in the vineyard during spring.
”It’s our big garden.” she says and smiles.
2015 Uriondo Txakolina
Pale, almost transparent color. Aromas of wild pear and white currant. Good acidity, with a kick in the finish. Very linear and direct without being memorable.
2014 Cuvée Particular
Pure Txori Mahatsa aged for 8-9 months in oak casks. The oak is quite well integrated and the wine has a good length, rich mouth feel and vibrant acidity.