Forjas del Salnés
In the 1970s, most vintners in Rías Baixas were pulling up their old red grapevines to make way for the more productive, more en vogue, Albariño. Thankfully, the Méndez family was doing the exact opposite, planting more traditional vines, such as Caiño, Espadiero and Loureiro Tinto, in a successful attempt to preserve and revive this central element of Galician heritage.
This mission of preservation was kick-started in earnest during the early years of the 21st Century when Rodrigo Méndez and respected winemaker Raúl Pérez joined forces to produce not just some of the most astonishing Albariño available, but also the rare Galician reds that just a century beforehand were the pride of the region. Using traditional methods learnt over generations, Forjas del Salnés was born in a garage winery in 2005 and named after the ironworks set up by his grandfather, Francisco Méndez. Here they work the fruits from just 7.5 hectares of vines, grown in the villages of Meaño, Sanxenxo and Barro.
No amount of words can adequately describe the wines from Forjas del Salnés. To taste them is to taste true examples of Galician history, with the slight bite of Atlantic salinity reminding you of the coastlands from which they originate.
Today, Rías Baixas is still mostly synonymous with white wine, the vast majority of which is from cloned Albariño, but Forjas del Salnés is a unique jewel on the landscape, with its elegant, light reds.View Wines
Rodrigo’s history in the area has been vital to the success of Forjas del Salnés. He was able to find and secure the use of ancient plantations, some of which were long-abandoned, and bring them back to life. He was also unafraid to innovate with Albariño and was perhaps the first in Spain to age it underwater.
The philosophy of the project is to respect the authenticity of the regions traditional varieties and winemaking process. To nurture small plots resulting in wines that are a true reflection of the land, a testament to the age-old processes of natural winemaking and respect for the environment.
Listen to Stefano, Rodrigo Méndez & Jörgen Gunnarsson’s interview with 67 Pall Mall, where they discuss the historical traditions of Forjas del Salnés.Read More
The vines are grown in the cool climate of the Salnés Valley, just a short distance from the Atlantic coast. It is one of the wettest parts of Spain, with a median rainfall of around 160 centimetres. The rain can cause significant variances between vintages, influencing the sugar levels in the grapes. The vines are made to work hard. The soil is poor, with a thin layer of hummus spreading over granitic sands resting on granite bedrock, and water drains away quickly. This has an added bonus for the vines as phylloxera, the vine blight responsible for devastating harvests over the centuries is unable to grow here, allowing vineyards here to reach several hundred years of age.
Rodrigo's oldest vineyard site, Finca Genoveva, is home to vines of 150-200 years old. You can read more about the ancient vines of Finca Genoveva in a free article written by Salvator Vandewalle for JancisRobinson.com, where he explains how "the story of Finca Genoveva is in a certain way the history of Rias Baixas - a link to a different era, a heritage to treasure and learn from for the future".
The vinification process also embraces natural techniques. Grapes are fermented by plots to ensure quality. The Albariño grapes, from vines an average of 40 years old, are only harvested when fully mature, to limit the level of malic acid. They are left to mature on lees for months, resulting in a full-bodied style of wine. No yeasts are added, nor enzymes and temperature control are also avoided when possible.
Large, old oak barrels, foudres, and sometimes stainless steel vats are used to preserve the flavours and aromas of the grapes themselves. The reds are only lightly extracted to ensure a depth of aroma.
Get these wines while you can as they are meticulously produced in small quantities, around 45,000 bottles in total annually, not mass-produced for the international market.Location