Bargota is a pretty hill village in the province of Navarra, an hour southwest of Pamplona or half an hour northeast of Logroño.
With a population of just under 300 souls, it is on the Pilgrim’s route to Santiago though paradoxically its most famous son was Johanes el Brujo, the local parish priest, who doubled as a warlock. He was eventually denounced to the Inquisition in 1599 and is the inspiration of Bargota Witchcraft Week each July.
The village’s financial motor is its vines, which are grown on slopes varying in height from 600 to 750 metres – about as high as one finds in Rioja, for Bargota is one of 12 villages in Navarra whose wines qualify as Rioja.
These produce dark, fresh, and vividly fruity reds mainly as a result of the major day/night temperature differentials in the summer and are in stark contrast to most of the paler though no less attractive offerings from neighbouring Rioja Alavesa to the immediate west.
The other local mainstay is agriculture, mainly wheat and barley but also cardoons, borage, chard, escarole, artichokes, chickpeas, beans, olives, peppers and maize – most of which are grown in more fertile soils at around 400 or 450 metres altitude. The local pork in particular, but also lamb, is much prized and the strictly monitored and humane rearing methods employed have resulted in national acclaim.
The history of Biurko Gorri, loosely translated as Red from the Place of Two Waters, goes back to around 1890 when grandfather Lloréns, in addition to farming, made wine in an old underground facility from 5 hectares of his own vineyards. These were primarily for family consumption but even at this stage there were two important wholesale customers in Logroño; and not until around 1940 was a local Cooperative constituted in order to centralise and professionalise local wine production.
By the time, however, that the current generation of the Lloréns family had finished its studies and returned home, circa 1986/7, said Cooperative had packed up as there were simply too many members (over a hundred) and the Spanish wine industry was embracing private enterprise.
The two dynamos of the family – quietly spoken, intense and very switched on Ramón, who is the public face and does all the travelling; and jollier, lighter, and more voluble, hands-on Fernando who is the winemaker – therefore essentially decided to start from scratch with a new winery and, while doing so, reasoned that given such excellent natural conditions it made sense to go organic.
Their first vintage was in 1990, full organic certification followed just a few years later, and today, with the help of their three brothers and four sisters, they produce five excellent wines from their own 40 hectares of vineyards which consist primarily of Tempranillo, Graciano, a little recently planted Sauvignon Blanc, and some old vine Garnacha.
Further, given the splendid primary fruit flavours of their grapes, their use of oak is most judicious indeed and a far cry from the lazy vinos carpinteros/exercises in carpentry that many of the large industrial producers still churn out.
Equally, as they maintain the family tradition of growing so many other agricultural crops on the land they deem too fertile for grapes and still keep pigs and goats, an invitation to lunch is an absolute delight for those of us who also relish fresh, exuberant and naturally produced food!
Biurko Blanco 2015
Simple, fragrant and admirably restrained Sauvignon Blanc with a pronounced lemon character and depth. A most refreshing contrast to the plethora of tropical syrupy styles coming out of New Zealand though rounder and with less acid than one gets in the Loire.
Biurko Tempranillo 2015
Unoaked, lush, fresh, leafy blackcurrant, purple plums, and black cherries vie with a touch of chocolate. Round, ripe, and exceptionally fruity; try it slightly chilled with barbecues.
Biurko Tempranillo-Graciano 2014
Awesomely dark with inky purple fruit and an attractive slightly vegetal, green pepper twist, pronounced minerality, and elements of very subtle oak.
Biurko Crianza 2011
Most alluring, with refined crunchy, black fruit imbued toasty vanilla and overtones of green peppers.
Pagos de Arbanta 2011
A single vineyard cuvée made from old, low-yield vines planted on stony soils with significant elements of chalk. Densely textured and characterised by dark chocolate and dark plum. Good tannins but very silky.
Words Carlos Read / Photography courtesy of Biurko Gorri