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Ossian Vides y Vinos

Organic fusions of wines from Segovia

"Ossian is history through the vineyards, it is passion in its grapes, it is life in its soil and it is an illusion in its elaboration process" says Pedro Ruiz Aragoneses

Ossian’s ancient vineyards are located in the village of Nieva in the Spanish province of Segovia.

This particular part of Rueda is blessed with a seam of sandy soils that have protected the vines from the dreaded Phylloxera louse. The upshot is a wealth of incredibly old vine material which the team at Ossian farm with the sole intention of producing one of Spain’s great white wines.

Add in an altitude of around 900m, with the huge diurnal temperature swings that this brings, and you have some very interesting grape material coming off Ossian’s old bush vines.

Production methods are fully organic and fully manual – the old bush vines prevent any sort of mechanisation – and ageing takes place in predominantly old French 600 litre barrels.

Both Ossian and Capitel are whole-bunch pressed and fermented entirely with wild yeasts. The only grape variety is Verdejo, not generally a grape afforded the chance to reach greatness by others, but here produced with a singularity of purpose, from such old vine material, that the end result is varietal defying and capable of serious cellaring.

Also in the range is the great value Quintaluna, an amazing 60% of which now comes from pre-Phylloxera old vines, and the aforementioned Capitel, produced from a single plot of exceedingly old pre-phylloxera vines grown on a particular patch of sand over slate. These are undoubtedly some of Spain’s most interesting whites.

Ossian’s vineyards are located in the province of Segovia, northwest of Madrid, most of them in the village of Nieva where the winery stands. All of the vines are within the Rueda appellation but all the wines are sold as VT Castilla y León.

The project was launched in 2005 by local winegrower Ismael Gozalo and Javier Zaccagnini, former director of the Ribera del Duero’s Regulatory Board and partner at Aalto, one of the most successful bodegas within this appellation. The aim at Ossian was to explore the huge potential of extremely old Verdejo vines grown in this area of Segovia. The area’s sandy soils kept phylloxera at bay —it had a very small impact here. In fact this is one of the major spots for pre-phylloxera vines in Spain, with ungrafted plantings being the norm until the mid-20th century. Wines from this area tend to be less aromatic (expect white fruit and herbs in contrast with exotic fruit and herbaceous aromas), but in turn it offers structure and minerality.

Since January 2016 the Ruiz family, owners of Pago de Carraovejas in Ribera del Duero, is the only stakeholder after buying Zaccagnini’s shares and part of Gozalo’s in 2013 and recently those remaining in hands of the Nieva’s winegrower. Ismael nevertheless will remain as purveyor to Ossian. Former Vega Sicilia’s technical director Xavier Ausàs currently consults for both wineries in Segovia and Ribera.

From its very beginning Ossian stood out for its commitment to organic practices sticking to natural compost and plant extracts as its main winegrowing tools. In terms of winemaking, only natural yeasts are employed.

The range starts with Quintaluna (around €7 in Spain), made form 60% pre-phylloxera and/or ungrafted vines and 40% young trellised vineyards. The winery’s flagship wine —and for some time the sole wine produced at the winery— is Ossian. This Verdejo —which we suggest to lay down for two to four years— comes from pre-phylloxera and/or very old ungrafted vines and it is aged for around nine months in different types of oak vessels, from 225-litre barrels to vats. Capitel (around €40) is more exclusive and limited; it is a single-vineyard wine sourced from one of Ossian’s oldest plots with distinctive schist patches that result in a mineral (briny) character.

The “Verdling” range is a result of employing Verdejo and German winemaking practices. The very unusual outcome is a dry (trocken) Verdling made with the assistance of Klaus Peter Keller that retails for around €21 in Spain and a sweet version (€9.5 for 37.5 cl.) made with Nick Weiss as consultant.

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