Bodegas Bhilar is a small, boutique winery situated in Elvillar, Rioja Alavesa. Run by husband and wife team, David Sampedro Gill and Melanie Hickman, their aim is to create terroir driven wines with soul, primarily from native grapes.
Across their range of wines, they maintain three simple mantras; Village wines with a sense of place, Village Estate wines with an expression of character and for the Single Vineyards – provocative expression.
The jewels of Bhilar's production come from the vineyards that David finds truly unique and expressive. The Phinca Abejera comes from the biodynamcially farmed estate vineyard, La Abejera, which sits on gentle limestone slopes. Farmed in the same way, the grapes for Phinca Lali come from Tajo, a 54-hectare north facing plot of old, bush vines grown in clay and limestone soils. The resulting wines have great power, character and elegance, making for an exciting change in Rioja's usual style.
A commitment to the environment is incredibly important to Bhilar. David started to employ biodynamic practices in their estate wines back in 1999, changing how he cared for his vineyards completely. In 2014, he replaced tractors in his vineyards with horses. As his wife Melanie explains, "David allowed weeds to grow in between the vines and only worked the soils when he felt it was necessary. They looked wild compared to his neighbours." But in allowing nature to takes its course, David reinvigorated the overworked lands and brought back biodiversity. This sustainable approach also continues into their ‘off-the-grid’ winery – built in 2016, it uses solar power and is built partially subterranean to help control the temperature.