The 'Txakoli: Legacy of Balmaseda' project has been developed within the framework of the comprehensive management process Ondare Bizia Ernalduz promoted by the Balmaseda City Council, the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Landscapes and Heritage of the UPV/EHU, the Basque Government and the OREXINAL Association. Said process has as its final objective the recovery, socialization, and reactivation of the cultural and landscape heritage of the castle and its extensive associated heritage, which extends and integrates the entire town.
As a whole, the project encompasses a series of interventions which include: the planting of vines for the recovery of the wine-growing landscape on one of the slopes of Cerro del Castillo; the recovery of a historic building in Balmaseda and its subsequent conversion into a community winery for the production of txakoli; and, the enhancement and promotion of the transmission of traditional knowledge about the production of Txakoli. In this initial stage, we intend to start the first of these interventions by planting vineyards on the southern slope of Cerro del Castillo de Balmaseda on an approximate surface of 2,150 m².
Our project seeks to recover the landscape and cultural memory of the hillside inside the walls of the castle associated with the traditional wine culture of txakoli. The recovery of the space of Cerro del Castillo and its associated heritage entails a memory of the place that speaks to us of a winemaking tradition inherited from, at least, medieval times, as is stated in various documents of the time that refer to this customary practice of its neighbors since at least the 13th century, and which has been occupying the southern slope of the terraced hill until the end of the 19th century. . A large part of those terraces that have been deteriorating and are progressively being lost to the change of exploitation or land use, still preserve some surviving vines as a vestige of that past.
This extensive tradition of 'Txakolí encartado', so deeply rooted in Balmaseda, still endures thanks to various small producers, who, traditionally, still jealously guard the "know-how" of good txakolinero work in the area, together with some of the autochthonous varieties already on the verge of being lost. Tradition, culture, and gastronomy can be seen as necessary ingredients in a process of recovery of the cultural landscape linked to the collective memory of the place, in a process that tries to combine the traditional artisan production of local wine with a process of recovery of autochthonous varieties and the historical uses of the hillside of the castle.
This project seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a high-quality txakoli through a reduced production model with emphasis on the quality of the grape, cultivation methods based on biodynamics, and the production of wine naturally without additives, with the added value derived from its historical location. In addition, it is committed to promoting this model to encourage the production of txakoli in the region and encourage the reactivation of that heritage in the local community.
Description of the project. Main features, strengths and differentials.
The project is social in nature and, broadly speaking, proposes a production model that the local community can emulate to encourage increased production of txakoli in the area and the reconnection with that intangible heritage**. This first small plantation would be the first step in the future recovery of the red txakoli characteristic of the town, but which has little representation in current regional production.
OBJECTIVE 1: Start the recovery process of the txakolinero cultural landscape with the planting of 1,400 vines on the slope of Cerro del Castillo de Balmaseda.
In this initial phase, we intend to carry out a plantation of 1,400 grape plants on an approximate area of 2,150 m² on the southern slope of Cerro del Castillo in Balmaseda at the foot of it.
The grape variety with which the initial planting in Cerro del Castillo will be carried out is Cabernet Franc (or Berdexaria), recognized in the new regulations of the Denomination of Origin (D.O.) Bizkaiko Txakolina since in 2021. It is a grape with a more than proven quality for the production of both young wines and aged wines, it is cultivated in almost the entire wine world, and produces wines of a particular vegetable and peppery character. Under good maturation conditions, they become structured and balanced wines, highly adapted to fermentation and/or aging in wood.
Regarding the wine-growing aptitude of the hillside of El Cerro del Castillo, it is practically virgin land that for many years has not been cultivated or received any pesticide or herbicide. Its south orientation, steep 50% slope and cayuela subsoil indicate maximum quality in terms of the parameters that a red grape vineyard in Bizkaia must meet. If we add to this that the plantation will be carried out with a high-density framework of 1.20x1.20m (almost 7000 plants/Ha) and with vertical conduction of the vegetation in which each plant will carry its own stake (without the existence of wires or trellis), the forecasts regarding the quality of the grapes to be obtained are maximum.
Cultivation methods are intended to be as respectful of nature as possible, applying biodynamic viticulture and phytosanitary treatments with very low doses of copper (organic product) against mildew, and some application of sulfur (ecological) against powdery mildew. The rest of the treatments will be based on phytotherapy applications of decoctions of horsetail and nettle. The wines are made naturally, that is, without the use of sulfites, enzymes, selected yeasts, clarifiers, etc. Since the wines ferment and evolve with the microorganisms that the grape itself carries from the vineyard, respect for natural cycles and minimal intervention with regard to both the application of synthetic products in the vineyard and additives in the wine, are understood as essential for obtaining natural wines that express the true character of the vineyard from which they come.
OBJECTIVE 2: Connect the project with the community and socialize it.
To achieve this objective, two different approaches will be carried out:
- The promotion of the dissemination of the proposed production model and the viticultural "know-how" through a series of workshops framed within the concept auzolan - community voluntary work. Through these workshops, the community would participate actively in the different phases of this stage of the project (clearing and cleaning of the land; planting txakoli; and care and maintenance of the vines) and, in the process, acquire a series of technical knowledge that they can transfer and implement in their vineyards.
- Startup of the Balmaseda txakoli archive with the collaboration of the public. In this case, the aim is to give prominence to those same small producers who have kept the txakoli tradition alive in Balmaseda, transmitting their knowledge from generation to generation. In principle, the aim would be to document and register this intangible heritage and the various forms it acquires to make this knowledge easily available to the community itself for its use and facilitate its survival and dissemination.
Why this is important
If we truly want to see the slopes of Cerro del Castillo covered with vineyards as before, the support and inclusion of the local community in the development of the project are essential. That is why this project is initially intended for them: the residents of Balmaseda and the region. We propose the development of a pilot txakoli plantation and production project that the local community can use and take advantage of in the future to plant their own small vineyards.
With the recovery and conservation of the building in a winery that would come in the next stage of this recovery process, the possibility of producing their own txakoli in a community winery would be added, either for own consumption or as a boost to small local producers to its marketing. In this way, they would be actively participating in the recovery of the historical-cultural landscape and promoting the durability and appreciation of said cultural heritage.
Team and experience
UNESCO Chair in Cultural Landscapes and Heritage (UPV/EHU): Project managers.
On June 5, 2013, a collaboration agreement was signed in Vitoria-Gasteiz between the General Administration of the Autonomous Community of Euskadi and the University of the Basque Country / EuskalHerriko Unibertsitatea for the creation, development, and maintenance of the “UNESCO Landscapes Chair Cultural and Heritage» of the UPV/EHU. The Chair, within the framework of training and research, promotes the renewal of the conceptual bases of the order, betting on the integral valuation of the elements that articulate the landscapes. Its fundamental mission is to promote coordination and comprehensive management of cultural, natural, and intangible heritage and processes of social participation.
Orexinal: Association in charge of the social revitalization of the project.
The OREXINAL association was born in January 2018 but it was unintentional. We are Orexinal because we decided in unison that Balmaseda's heritage should be defended, valued, and exported wherever it was received, putting our effort and work at the service of Balmaseda. And one happy day, our actions related to the Cerro del Castillo facilitated a large-scale agreement between the UNESCO Chair of Cultural Landscapes and Heritage of the UPV/EHU and the Balmaseda City Council whose results have filled headlines and put Balmaseda, back in the spotlight. Now we create informative comics for schools, we organize talks, we promote annual research grants, we celebrate popular meals, we promote our intangible heritage and we participate together with other associations to claim the attention and affection that our past deserves.
Alfredo Egía: Winemaker and expert producer of biodynamic wines and txakoli from the area.
- He has extensive professional experience and since 2001 has been working on his four-hectare vineyard in Balmaseda where he has been applying these methods with great success for over six years. He has offered his Egia Enea wine and a series of guided tours with tasting included exclusively for the rewards of this crowdfunding campaign. In addition to being responsible for managing the vines for this project, he will also be the one who will give the viticulture workshops for the local community.*