Bichi No Sapiens and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Is he an alien? An astronaut? A (thin white) duke? A Goblin King? David Bowie is shroud in mystery, a seductive force that the brilliant artist uses to take him to foreign places with his audience along for the ride. Perhaps the most iconic of his many imaginative and inventive personas is Ziggy Stardust. And since I’m feeling up for some adventure, I’ve got The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars spinning while sipping on a bottle of Bichi No Sapiens.
This wine has an allure and wonder to match that of Ziggy Stardust. For starters, it’s the first Mexican wine I’ve ever seen, even though vines were planted there originally by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, before both Chile and Argentina, the most well-known wine regions south of the U.S. border. Furthermore, this wine that comes from Tecate where Mexico’s oldest vineyards are located is made from an unknown grape that’s yet to be identified. Woah.
Bichi is a family winery run by brothers Noel and Jair Tellez with their mother Ana Montano. Bichi means “naked” in the Sonora dialect, from the town next to the Baja wine region where the Bichi vineyards are located. This name represents their style of winemaking which is producing natural wines with minimal intervention, even in the Valle de Guadalupe where the majority of Mexican wine is made using mostly modern and technological methods. Noel and Jair met and collaborated with French turned Chilean natural winemaker Louis-Antoine Luyt who encouraged them to revitalize existing old vine grapes in Tecate, like Pais (or Mision as it’s known there) and the mystery grape that makes up this bottle of No Sapiens.
Bowie and his character Ziggy Stardust are a bit of a contrast to Bichi in that their wine is stripped down with hardly any added sulphites or filtration and Bowie is made up in costume. Even though Bowie transforms into this fictional alien from another planet, he uses him as a vessel to express his true spirit and beliefs. Bowie is the godfather of glam rock and his creation of these androgynous, sexually ambiguous characters gives him a counter-culture platform that us weirdos, outcasts and anyone who feels like they don’t fit in can relate to.
Listening to this record and drinking this wine are both visceral experiences, so together it really pops off. Just on appearance alone, the wine is a beautiful cranberry color. The nose is amazingly unique and expressive. There’s a burst of raspberry sour straws, with some blueberry, a kind of straw or hay-like aroma, and a whiff of fresh soil after it’s rained. It is awakening and immediately I’m excited to get into this bottle. On the palate, it has tart acidity, again with the raspberry sour straws, some salinity due to the vineyard’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and moderate tannins with a rich texture that’s mouth-coating. The finish is earthy with traces of graphite pencil.
It’s hard to beat “Five Years” for an album opener. It’s a song about the beginning of the end of the world and people’s desperate reactions to it with an epic buildup and anthemic sound that’s thrilling. It’s just as arresting as the first smell and taste of the No Sapiens.
This could be said for several songs on Ziggy Stardust, but “Moonage Daydream” is one of the best rock songs of all time. Here, Ziggy Stardust is introduced, not by name but as a “space invader coming for you”. His piercing voice and the electric guitar on this song with the sharp wine is, well, intoxicating.
I nearly swoon out my chair every time I hear “Starman”. It’s so dreamy and magical and Bowie’s swagger and melody on this song is irresistable. The continuation of the outer space, extraterrestrial concept with the symphonic orchestration is transcendent.
“Star” embodies the spirit of this record and the gift of David Bowie. In it, he’s decided he’s going to save the world by becoming a rock and roll star. Bowie may not have saved our feeble world in his lifetime, but he 100% made it a better place.
The titular song on this album proves what an original creative genius this man is. “Ziggy Stardust” is from the perspective of the Spiders from Mars, his band. It’s a classic tale of a fatal flaw for many rockstars and just people in general - being consumed by ego. It also shows off Bowie’s comedic side, describing Ziggy with “god-given ass”. The Bichi brand also has a great sense of humor and whimsy. All their wines have some caricature of Mexican culture, like the luchador on the front of the No Sapiens label and a crude illustration of his butt on the back. They also made exactly 666 cases of this wine which seems way too good to be an accident.
“Rock and Roll Suicide” is a sad song for Ziggy. It’s his demise, and it signaled Bowie retiring Ziggy after just one year at the end of the tour which he announced right before playing this last song on the album. I am drawn to the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and David Bowie in general in the same way that I’m drawn to this under the radar Mexican wine and most of the wine I seek out these days. It’s these mysterious, different and strange discoveries that open up a whole new world to explore and cement themselves in your memory even after they're gone.