Nov 30, 2020

Tesalia is the wine project of Richard Golding and his family in the vicinity of the Sierra de Grazalema (Cádiz), where they grow 12.5 hectares of vineyards with whose grapes the wines Arx and Tesalia are produce, two reds of different profile that aim to make a hole among the great wines of the world scene… And this is just the beginning. 

We tried it a few months ago and it excited us. Elegant, complex, amalgamated and at the same time powerfully structured, Tesalia 2016 transported us from a sip to the right bank of the Garonne. Whose wine is this? What else have they done? Is it really made in a warm area? Our curiosity grew at every drink as we contemplated that thick Burgundian bottle photographed with a centaur on golden letters. So, not knowing anything about the project, we planned a trip around Cadiz in which this winery was going to be the first stop. 

TESALIA: the Golding Family Winery 

The narrow CA-6106 road, linking La Perdiz and Las Abiertas, two hamlets of Arcos de la Frontera, runs parallel to the western edge of the Sierra de Grazalema as it leads us sinuously to an impressive 106-hectare estate, the estate where Richard Golding and his family develop their two great passions: horses and wine. 

Bodega Tesalia. Logotipo de centauro. In the logo of the centaur are represented the two great passions of the Golding family: equestrian and viticulture. 

Richard Golding welcomes us at the same entrance that gives access to the farm, the Cortijo de Torres. There is nothing, from the outside, that makes us think that inside we will find 22 hectares of vineyards and winery,  and that discretion accentuates its image of exclusivity, although, in reality, the winery is so new that it is still unfinished, and the Tesalia project is now taking its first commercial steps. 
Richard, a successful entrepreneur, bought the property in 2007 with his retirement in mind. The horse stud, which occupies 20 hectares of the estate, arrived a few years before the vineyard, while the winery, a modern semi-buried concrete building on a hillside that rises to the west, is the last piece of a property where there is also room for the house, six hectares of forest with “cultivation” of truffles, an olive grove and some work land. 
“When we bought it there was none of this; just “that” tree there,” Richard points out as we tour part of the vineyard, and “that” another… We had to rebuild the whole estate. 

Bodega Tesalia. Finca Cortijo de Torres y Sierra de Grazalema.

Panoramic view of the farm, with the Sierra de Grazalema in the background 

Richard tells you everything naturally, with a touch of humor, speaking almost bilingual Spanish while, with his eyes, he scrutinizes you, tries to connect with his interlocutor, listens to what you say and responds intelligently, without going around the bush or stalling. His speech is fluid, and transmits hope and confidence; much trust. He handles data to support his thesis, resorts to cultural references and at the same time is close, and in a short time you realize perfectly that his decisions are always considered, and that Tesalia has not been considered as the whim of a wealthy man who loves wine, but as a business really intended to make a profit. 

– In all my projects I have always tried to surround myself with those who knew the most, with people who really know more than me. So, when we decided to take this forward, I contacted José Ramón Lissarrague, Ignacio de Miguel and Cees Van Casteren so that they would be part of the project –Richard tells us. 

Bodega Tesalia. Viñedo.

Detail of the Bodega Tesalia vineyard, made up of plants that are still very young, which does not prevent their wines from having enough complexity. 

José Ramón Lissarrague, expert in viticulture, professor at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agronomos de Madrid, full professor and director of the Master’s Degree in Oenology and Viticulture of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM),was the one who raised the vineyard from scratch, analyzed the soils, chose the optimal varieties, the planting framework and the conduction system that has been applied to each variety, one of the most unique characteristics of the winery. 
Ignacio de Miguel was one of the first fly winemakers in Spain, an external consultant who advises several prestigious wineries such as Martúe, Dehesa del Carrizal, Dehesa de Luna,Dehesa de los Llanos, Carabal… and Tesalia  itself. 
As for Cees Van Casteren, suffice it to say that he is a Master of Wine, journalist and consultant, with clients such as the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Canadian yeast giant Lallemand; That’s nothing. 

Bodega Tesalia. Richard Golding en la mesa de catas. Richard Golding is our host throughout the tour. You can’t hide your passion for your winery, which contrasts with your analytical and thoughtful mindset. 

However, Tesalia would not be possible without Valle Lozano, Agricultural Engineer and Master in oenology by the UPM that takes care of pampering wines day by day in the winery and dealing in the shade with everyday problems. 

Unusual driving systems 

Thus, with such equipment and starting from a blank leaf, very little was left to chance when considering the vineyard. The varieties and even the graft holders were meticulously chosen after having performed a thorough analysis of the soil (a base of clay with calcareous substrate), and from the first moment we are striking that the vines are guided by driving systems not usual in the Old World, with a very high trunk as a common pattern in all plots to reduce the heat received by the grapes radiated by the soil. 

Bodega Tesalia. Viñedo con conducción en Sprawl en Y. Driving systems powerfully draw our attention in the vineyard of Tesalia. The idea is to take advantage of the plant’s own foliar surface to protect the grapes from excessive sunstroke, also separating the soil clusters to minimize the influence of the heat reflected by it. 

From here, there are basically three driving systems in the Tesalia winery vineyard: pergola, sprawl and semi-sprawl. Depending on the slope of the slope, exposure and variety, it is applied one or the other, always seeking that the foliar surface receives sunlight but that the clusters are protected from direct light. Richard tells us that his vineyard is prepared to face the challenge of climate change, as these conductions make it possible to compensate for the time of sun exposure, while the drip irrigation system allows to control water stress. 

Bodega Tesalia. Cepa de Cabernet Sauvignon. Half a plot of Cabernet Sauvignon with some over-ripe grapes is the only thing left to harvest in the vineyard Tesalia during our visit. 

The harvest, manual, takes place over a month. On our visit it is almost over, and only half a plot of Cabernet Sauvignon is about to be collected. The health of the plants and the neatness with which they are pruned is a constant along a vineyard in whose soil you can observe the remains of a distant clarification and the most recent selection of grapes of the harvest itself. 

A semi-buried winery overlooking the Grazalema Mountains 

And so, speaking of the two new hectares planted of Petit Verdot, the rafts that collect the rainwater, the peculiar names with which the workers of the farm have baptized each of the 10 plots, how the Taberner, of Huerta de Albalá, opened the way of the great reds in the area… speaking of a thousand things as time flies, almost without realizing it we have reached the very gates of a winery fully integrated into the landscape, semi-buried taking advantage of the unevenness of the westernmost slope of the Cortijo de Torres, trying to hide under a vegetable blanket that still has a few months to show itself in all its splendour. 

Bodega Tesalia. Zona de recepción de uva. Despalilladora y bomba peristáltica. A large trench formed by a wall containment of the hillside and the winery itself allows to work extensively. The inertia destemmer delivers the grapes separated from the scrape to a mobile selection table, and from this the grapes are passed to a peristaltic pump that will introduce them with the utmost care into the winery. 

After having passed through the chamber for a couple of days, the grapes are received in the back of the winery, a diaphanous area, very wide, bounded by the building itself and a thick retaining wall that form a huge trench in which a modern destemming machine separates the scraper by inertia and places the grape on a mobile selection table that leads the grains to a no less avant-garde peristaltic bomb than the it will carry through a corrugated pipe into the cellar to fill the fermentation vats. 

Bodega Tesalia. Zona de elaboración. The construction of the semi-buried winery allows the reception of the grapes by gravity. 

Already inside, we check the first benefit of the semi-buried construction. The grapes fill the deposits by gravity. Everything is vinified by plots and by varieties, in stainless steel conical vats, with the controlled temperature. There are also several “always full”, smaller ones, containing both leftovers and some other experiment, and five large French oak foudres in which, in addition to the fermentations, the wines already bred sometimes pass a season after leaving the barrels. And on this same floor are the laboratory, the administration and the social area, where we will finish the visit. 

Bodega Tesalia. Foudres de elaboración con bomba de remontado. At the end of the harvest, several vats and foudres contain musts in full fermentation, ratted by the pumping pumps. 

On our way to the breeding area, at the bottom of the building, we check the good functionality of what surrounds us. We are surprised by its size adjusted to the needs of the production. We have seen some megalomaniacal wineries where there is plenty of space, everything is a long way away and real fortunes have been squandered, and in Thessaly you can move from one end of the building to the other in a couple of minutes; there is even an elevator, although it has not yet been put into service. This is the first harvest in which Thessaly carries out all the processes in its facilities, since the investment in the winery did not receive the green light until the economic viability of the project could be verified. 

Natalia Golding, director of Bodega Tesalia 

And although the original idea is of our host, at the head of Thessaly is not Richard, but Natalia, her daughter, who in addition to her degree in Marketing and ADE, has completed the famous master’s degree in viticulture of the UPM, and has left her side of horse sportsman parked to focus on making a wine of the highest level and the even more difficult challenge of putting it on the map. 

Bodega Tesalia. Embotelladora. The bottler rests in one of the storage rooms of the Thessaly winery. 

At the moment, Spain is still its main market,  with 16 distributors, and there are a dozen countries where you could meet some bottle of Tesalia,  several of them from Europe, but also from Asia (Malaysia) and South America (Peru). 
We left the production area on the way to the aging room, leaving behind the huge pneumatic vertical press, a bunch of new bordelesas barrels and a couple of pumps to make pumping’s. Richard doesn’t hide some discomfort so for him it’s an unwarranted mess (although we think everything is spotless), and confesses that there are small storage rooms discreetly hidden next to each work area. 
The barrel room is perhaps smaller than we expected, again adjusted to the real potential of a project in which the goal is not to flood the bottle market, but to make the product increasingly valued. There, in the heart of the winery, embraced by the hillside on which it is buried, the west wall exhibits the backlit silhouette of the centaur, the logo of Thessaly, a figure that combines Richard Golding’s two great passions: wine and horses. 

Bodega Tesalia. Barricas. Medium-roasted French oak barrels from four different barrels are responsible for the aging of the wine. 

In the room we find Bordeaux French oak barrels at two and three heights from the Saury, Surtep, Boutes and Saint Martin barrels, as well as two foudres. Every year a quarter of the barrel park is renewed, and Richard tells us that they are already working on a third wine, which will use third and fourth use barrels, and also in project there is a rosé, a market in which, certainly, there is a lot of room for a more serious wine than usual. 

Bodega Tesalia. Jaulones botelleros. The bottle botellers line up at four heights in a well-cooled room. 

A quick look at the bottle rack (a well-cooled room where four heights of metal haulones accumulate) and the bottling train allows us to conclude with the lower area. Upstairs a different world awaits us, a fully glazed plant, prepared to host events, even equipped with a complete professional and furnished kitchen with exquisite taste. 

Bodega Tesalia. Sala de catas. The impressive walnut, glass and iron root table takes center stage in the tasting room and the events of Tesalia. 

But not even the particularness of the walnut root table imported from Bali where we will taste the wines of Thessaly can compete with the panoramic viewpoint that shows us the vineyard, in the foreground, and the silhouette of the Sierra de Grazalema in the background. Richard laments the cloudy day that has touched us, but for us it is the perfect excuse to promise that we will return. We seal the promise in the solemnity of the tasting room, trying for the first time Arx 2017,the “second wine” of the house, a surprise that we will soon talk about in more detail in Vamos de Vinos, but of which we can comment, without fear of spoiler,  which is a second wine but that of “second” has rather little. 

Bodega Tesalia. Cata de Arx 2017. We tasted Arx 2017, for now “other” wine (which did not “second” wine) from Tesalia 

And we ended up with “The Jewel of the South,” that 2016 Tesalia that, somehow, it was the wine that made us enjoy and learn today in the bowels of this semi-buried winery of Arcos de la Frontera, this modern tribute to the centaurs of ancient Greece that would surely gladly change the caves of the Thessaly mountains in which they lived and drank wine watered by this avant-garde cavern in the vicinity of the Grazalema mountain range full of bottles and barrels of excellent wines. 

  • Bodega Tesalia. Laboratorio. Laboratory 

Bodega Tesalia. Zona de elaboración. Detalle. Detail of the production area, with new barrels new arrivals. 

  • Bodega Tesalia. Foudres de elaboración y ensamblaje. Foudres used to make and “rest” the wine. 
  • Bodega Tesalia. Cata de Arx 2017. Etiqueta trasera. Arx 2017 Rear Label. 
  • Bodega Tesalia. Cata de Arx 2017. Cápsula. Arx 2017 capsule. 
  • Bodega Tesalia. Zona social. Social area  


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