This winery is known by two names. One is Compañón Arrieta, the surnames of sister and brother Itxaso and Unai, who manage the business together with Gorka Mauleón, Itxaso’s husband. The second name is El Mozo, the nickname of their grandfather, who started the business and later passed on the name of “El Mozo” to his son.
Getting to where they are today was not a bed of roses. The project was set up in 2010 after the death of the parents, grandfather and uncle of Itxaso and Unai -the family had to decide between selling or focusing on the wine business. «We threw ourselves into the project and decided to move here,» explains Gorka, who used to earn a living as a computer specialist.
They live in Lanciego, an eminently wine-growing village in Rioja Alavesa where land consolidation was not carried out, hence the wealth of small holdings in the area -Compañón Arrieta’s 10 hectares are spread over 21 different plots). There are over 20 producers working in the village, but only seven of them bottle their own wine; most of them are “cosecheros” producing young wines that are sold in bulk. In fact, the first wine made by Compañón Arrieta in its modern period was Herrigorria (€8), a traditional, concrete-fermented carbonic maceration red with some white grapes in the blend.
Both Itxaso (who takes care of winemaking) and Gorka (in charge of sales) are very grateful to their neighbour Roberto Oliván (Tentenublo) who helped them in their early days.
Current production stands at about 55,000 bottles. The range of wines continue with Malaspiedras (€12 in Spain), a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Viura made with the family’s oldest vineyards. Each variety is fermented separately, often with stems.
Perhaps the most interesting and original wine is El Cosmonauta y El Viaje en el Tiempo (literally “The Cosmonaut and The Journey Through Time, €14, 1,500 bottles). Grapes are sourced from an old plot planted in 1930 with almost the same amount of red and white varieties. To a certain extent it is a tribute to the ancient fermentations made in stone wine presses that used to be found in the vineyards where mixed grapes were trodden on site and the must before carrying the must to the winery. It is similar to a «vin the soif» with more depth and character. There is also an explanation for the cosmonaut on the label: this is the character that features in the local festivities in Lanciego following a tradition started in the early 1970s just after man set foot on the Moon.
A second single-vineyard wine, Cosmonauta Barranco de Agua (€14) is an unusual white blend of Malvasía (90%) playing a dominant role over Viura (10%). Creamy and with toasted notes on the palate, only two barrels have been produced.