Some of the most authentic and delicious wines are born from the least expected places and most unlikely collaborations. In the rugged mountains of Mexico’s Baja California Norte, Bichi has put together one of the most exciting projects in the world of wine.
Spanish conquistadores first planted vines in Coahuila in the late 1500’s, pre-dating vine growing in both Chile and Argentina. The region was so well-suited and successful, that the Spanish Crown ordered production halted in fear of New World wine becoming more popular than their Iberian producers.
Bichi was founded in 2014 by the Téllez family, who moved to Baja from neighboring Sonora, hence the name Bichi, which means “naked” in the Sonoran Yaqui dialect. They bottled their first vintage that same year, and directly afterward Chilean natural wine trailblazer Louis-Antoine Luyt started collaborating with the Téllez family. Originally from Burgundy, Luyt worked in notable wineries in France before relocating to Chile in 1998, where he is now known for his work with the under-appreciated País grape, which so happens to be the same Misión grape that is found in Tecate. Louis-Antoine convinced Noel to seek out heirloom plantings of Misión, as he had done in Chile, and produce "vinos sin maquillaje" (wines without makeup) from them.
While Valle de Guadalupe has overall adopted a more technological and modern approach, Bichi adheres to traditional methods and minimal intervention. Bichi farms 10 hectares of their own Tecate vineyards biodynamically and collaborates with a growing family of organic farmers working vineyard land in Tecate and around San Antonio de las Minas (Valle de Guadalupe). Their work with Misión is notable, but you will also find Rosa del Peru (Moscatel Negro), Tempranillo, and in the case of the No Sapiens vineyard a mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified (possibly Carignan from the Spain, or possibly Dolcetto from plantings brought over from Italy in the 1940's). In the winery, grapes are destemmed by hand and gently trodden by foot, and fermentations are carried out by wild yeast in locally-made concrete amphorae. The wines are raised in a mix of neutral barrels and steel vats, with a minuscule 10 ppm of sulfur added at bottling to preserve the wine for travel, if needed.
Listan is produced from 100-year-old pie franco Misión (Listan Prieto) vines grown at 2,400 ft elevation on sandy loam and granite soils in the mountains of Tecate, Mexico, right on the California border. Because the grapes are dry-farmed, yields are very low here. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented without temperature control in 450-liter concrete tinajas. After fermentation, ½ of the Cuvee goes to stainless steel vats, and the other goes to half to used barrels for 3 months. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration and just 10 ppm of added sulfur.