Meet the New Visionary of Mexican Natural Wine

At Bichi, Noel Téllez brings a focus on terroir to Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe.

Noel Téllez
Photo: Michael Sager

Bichi, founded in 2014 by Noel Téllez and his brother, chef Jair Téllez, and now run solely by Noel, is one of the first natural wine labels to come out of Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe. Téllez is known for his rule-bending approach to wine, embracing unknown grape varietals and choosing idiosyncratic labels featuring colorful — and naked — luchadores. As a result, Bichi may be Mexico's first wine with a cult following.

F&W: What prompted you to become a winemaker?

NT: I was practicing law in my father's firm in Tijuana when he started making wine in 2005. My brother and I would help out. In 2011, I joined the winery. But in 2014, my brother Jair met Louis-Antoine Luyt, a French winemaker who produces low-intervention wine in Chile; that's when we started Bichi. It was out of excitement for our first wine done with that approach.

Do you think that one day Mexican wines will be as well known as French, Italian, or Californian wines?

Normally I don't like to compare Italian, French, Californian wines — they're different places, and each one has its own greatness. We're more focused on how we can transfer ... well, "transfer" is not the word, but how can we put what's in the soil, the terroir, into a glass of wine? You could say that really separates us from some other wineries here.

How so?

Not all, but many wineries in the Valle are more interested in varietals than terroir. "Well, we want to make the best Cabernet," and so on. They're not really interested in talking about terroir. But Cabernet from where? From Guadalupe? From San Vicente? From Tecate?

It sounds as though people aren't thinking about Mexican wine as regionally as they should.

Yes, exactly. At Bichi, we care more about the place, the soil, and the vineyards than the grape varieties. We're also very lucky to work with very old vines. In 2016, we bought an old vineyard in San Antonio de las Minas and were told that it was all Mission grapes. Turns out, it had some Mission, but most of it was something different, about four varieties total. We can't say with certainty what they are, but our Pet Mex, for example, is a mix of these grapes, and every year, the wine changes. We never know exactly what that mix is going to be.

What inspired your labels?

Bichi means "naked" in a native language of Sonora, where we come from. We wanted a label that was funny and whimsical. We also wanted it to have a naked luchador because luchadores are so immediately associated with Mexican culture.

What's next?

We're always in search of new projects. If we come across a vineyard that fits our vision of how to do things — especially if it's old and has interesting grapes — why not make wine from it?

Wines to Try

2019 Bichi La Santa ($28)

"La Santa comes from a 100-year-old dry-farmed vineyard in Tecate," Noel Téllez says. "It's a challenge to make this wine each year." Made from Black Muscat, it's a fresh, easygoing vin de soif (literally "a wine of thirst," because that's what it satisfies).

2019 Bichi Listan ($28)

"I love this wine because it is made from Mission grapes from our oldest vineyard, which is 100 years old," Téllez says. Low in alcohol (12.5%) and light ruby in hue, it's floral and gently peppery, full of tangy red-fruit flavors — and great lightly chilled down.

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