Vivid Producer of the Month: Bodegas Bhilar
'A sense of place, an expression of character, and provocative expression' are the three main goals of David Sampedro Gil's personal philosophy when it comes to producing the unique-tasting Rioja wines of Bodegas Bhilar.
With husband and wife, David and Melanie, at the helm, Bodegas Bhilar has firmly established itself as a pioneering boutique winery in terms of both sustainability and expressivity. Located in the outskirts of Elvillar (otherwise named Bhilar in the Basque language), a small village located in one of the higher areas of Rioja Alavesa, the winery is home to beautiful scenery, from the Sierra Cantabria mountains to the River Ebro. Here, the distinct presence of the limestone soil that traverses the region allows for an organically rich and diverse viticultural landscape.
Bhilar's philosophy extends to biodynamic farming, something that David and Melanie have been following for more than 20 years. The winery has eradicated the use of chemicals, and instead only sulphur and milk whey is used to tread its plants. This continued endeavour for naturality led to Bhilar's elimination of the use of tractors in 2014, replacing them instead with horses to farm the vineyards. David maintains that the use of horses to travel enabled him to see 'the health of the vines, the soils, the ecosystem - whereas riding inside a tractor, you can't even see the grapes'.
David alongside one of the horses he uses to farm his vineyards
Expressive and bursting with flavour
Bhilar has built up a reputation for allowing the uniquely diverse essence of the Elvillar vineyards to translate through the provocatively expressive range of flavours that Bhilar's wines possess, with David believing that "minimal intervention allows the land to speak for itself". Whether that is the multitude of rich, juicy flavours of the Thousand Milks, labelled as 'a provocative wine of a thousand varieties, a thousand sensations', due to its infusion of almost every fruit imaginable. Or perhaps the Phincas instead... heralded as 'a seductive expression of the land', this powerful, spiced wine showcases the best of all the single vineyards, all encompassed in one bottle. Overall, the immense diversity of Bhilar's collection ensures that there is something for everyone within this nature-loving community.
Everything at Bodegas Bhilar is done by hand
A sustainable future
What makes Bodegas Bhilar truly is amazing is that not only are they able to produce a variety of wines with personalities as bold and strong as their flavours, but they also manage to do all of this whilst maintaining a sustainable design for their winery. Utilising solar power is just the start in their new minimal intervention winery, finalised in 2016, as it also boasts a partially subterranean design with concrete fermentation tanks to help to regulate the temperature in the winery. The 'off the grid' layout ensures that they will remain eco-friendly for many years to come. Their unique flavour individuality, coupled with their organic intimacy with the land they farm on, means this is a winery to watch out for!
The winery is designed to operate with minimal intervention