One week of drinking (soy) milk with dinner and one day after I saw the bottle of bourbon-barrel Mondavi in the fridge, it was time to get the hell out of what – if you’re the volatile lookin’, gun n’ cuffs n’ taser totin’ border control officer handling my passport – I’ll call “home for the holidays, sir”; but in terms of potable wine and personal space, could more accurately be called a desert.

Time for a little trip to Santa’s storeroom of sanity-restoring potions more commonly known as Chambers Street Wines, New York, from Connecticut via Mexico by way of Brooklyn for a book reading by Alice Feiring that in the end I mostly missed.

I didn’t even know Mexico made wine, which it does – and has done for longer than any of the other ‘mericas.

After the reading there were bottles open to taste: three from Bichi Wines, Mexico and one – and I mention this merely for the sake of accurate reportage – that I’m pretty sure I’d already drunk from when we bottled it with Ènek Peterson. But enough of Georgia. What does anyone know about Mexico?

Bichi Wines is the domaine name of the Téllez family who live and work in Tecate, Baja California which is actually Mexico. They’re the only domaine known to make vinos sin maquillaje (without makeup) but con magico and con little-known varieties; namely the Misión grape (Listan Prieto), although saying so sounds a bit too holier-than-thou considering I didn’t even know Mexico made wine, which it does – and has done for longer than any of the other ‘mericas, too.

It was a far more serious case of holier-than-thou than my own, though – that of the Spanish conquistadores in the 1500s – that brought the Vitis vinifera to Mexico in the first place. Unhappy with the indigenous species they found in their brand spanking newly-seized territory and running low on their bottle stash, the Catholic missionaries wrote home for vines. This was a new civilisation after all, and wine is central to Catholic hoo-ha. The vines were sent by ship to be planted by the holy padres in ‘New Spain’s’ new missionaries – 1,000 for every 100 natives under their land-owning Spaniard’s control. The first sacrament-lubricating harvest came two years later, in 1524.


Bichi’s first vintage came 490 years later, in 2014 – the year the Téllez brothers (Noel and Jair, one of Mexico’s big deal chefs) fell under the influence of native Burgundian, but longtime working in Chile natural winemaker (and Lapierre disciple), Louis-Antoine Luyt; himself under the influence of the neglected Paìs grape (the Chilean name for Misón). They teamed up and followed Luyt’s lead: seeking out and reviving heritage Misión vines and honouring traditional, non-interventionist practices in a country dominated by industrial producers. Buenos dias Bichi: ‘naked’ in (Sonoran) dialect, and the name of their game.

Bichi dry-farms its 10 hectares of biodynamically-treated (but in conversion) vines in the sandy-granite mountain soils in Tecate, topping the low-yields up with the organic grapes it buys from local farmers. Their grapes (Misión, Rosa del Peru, Tempranillo and some unidentifiables) are hand-harvested, foot-crushed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete tinajas before elevage: half in old oak barrels and half in stainless steel. There’s no fining, filtration nor further alteration but for a dripple-dropple of sulphur at bottling where needed.

The Bichi wines were a discovery for me, the last thing I’d expect to come from the Americas. Bienvenido vin de soif à la qvevri. Hasta la vista Mondavi!


‘La Santa’ 2016 (Rosa del Peru / Moscatel Negro)

Looks like a turbid Ploussard. Smells like a blood orange smashed on slate sprinkled with dried rose petals. Like Mariam Iosebidze’s Tavkveri. Opens to become more aromatic, more herbaceous; like Ricola throat candies with their 13 mountain herbs. Tastes of rhubarb grenadine and crumpled laurel and a Barberry-rimmed tequila shot sucked down with salty limes. Santa Maria this is ¡sa-sour! Light bodied, although its fruit focus muddied slightly with air. From 100 year-old vines grown at 730 m.


‘Listan’ 2016 (Misión / Listan Prieto)

Colour of roiled rubies in the glass. Smells like Hubbabubba bubblegum floating in a cranberry ocean filled qvevri. Tastes like shards of slate mined from dark cacao earth sparsely grown with twists of green; like raw radish and spicy pink coral. Lightweight and similarly tightly-knit with strung out sours. Mucho thirst quenching. 100 year-old vines grown at 730 m.


‘No Sapiens’ 2016 (unknown)

The heftiest of the three but by no means a hulk. Colour of plum-ink. Tastes of electrified velvet, dark fruit and sugar-dipped cherries under a Patagonia night sky. Voluptuous while vibrant. Sultry and structured, its weight punctured with pinpricks of starlight acidity. Made from unidentified grapes from 69 year-old vines grown in San Antonio de las Minas in Ensenada, Baja California.