This humble garage winery collaboration, Forjas del Salnes, came to life in 2005 when vineyard owner and winemaker Rodrigo Mendez began to revitalize a little piece of Galician history that was quickly fading. Red wine in Rías Baixas was the way of the land back in the early 1900s. In the 1970s, when surrounding farmers were uprooting their less productive, less desirable red grapes in favor of planting increasingly popular Albariño grapes, the Mendez family was planting them. It all began in the early 2000s when Rodri's mission became clear: to execute his grandfather’s lifelong dream of grafting and replanting the nearly extinct, ancient coastal red vineyards in Val do Salnes and revive the nearly forgotten wines of his family’s history. Rodri is intent on pursuing this shift in the Galician trend. With his winemaking and vineyard knowledge and skill rooted in the past, Rodri remains conscious of the present while having a vision for the future, and is producing some of Spain’s finest Albariños and rare Galician reds.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? The unique winemaking techniques and talents of lifelong viticulturalist, Rodri Mendez, make for a very interesting project. Rodri extracts single vineyard selections, old vines, coastal vines and red varieties in the subzone Val do Salnes. Wines are fresh with balanced acidity, and low in alcohol (12.5%). This is a red wine that undergoes a process of whole cluster fermentation in a 12-year-old foudre.
RATING HISTORY: 2015 90 W&S, 2014 90WA; 2013 91WA; 2012 90JS; 2010 92WA; 2009 93IWC
GRAPE: 100% Loureiro. Vines planted in 1972. Tended in sandy and granite soil at 5 m (16 ft) elevation
PRODUCTION: 125 cases (4 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: Rías Baixas is tucked into the green rolling hills of the northwest corner of Spain, just above Portugal, hugging the deep blue Atlantic coastline. It is a breathtaking region overall, and the sub-region of Val do Salnes, the birthplace of Albariño, is no exception. Within the five unique subzones that fall under the D.O. Rías Baixas , Val do Salnes’ prime location is the coolest and most fertile area of the D.O. on the Atlantic coast of Spain. In fact, there is more Albariño vines planted there than any of the other four sub-regions sharing its Rías Baixas name. The soil here is pure granite with top layers of rocks and alluvial soil, perfect for the fresh, Albariño expression. With average temperatures of approximately 60F (16C) between April and October, Rías Baixas is also one of the rainiest areas in Spain with median annual rain falling 63inches (1600mm). This can often cause difficulties in reaching optimum sugar levels during the last few, very vital, weeks before harvest, often resulting in vintage variation.
TASTING NOTES: It has a fresh nose of brambly dark fruit, hints of black tea and undergrowth that are very well-defined. The palate is medium-bodied with bell pepper infusing the red fruit profile on the entry. There is a crisp seam of acidity that leads it to a harmonious, almost Chinon-like finish that could do with just a little more persistency. But that is a minor quibble for what is a very fine, pure Loureiro. Drink now-2018.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold