An unusual and unique character, Emilio Rojo is behind one of the most sought-after white wines in Spain of which roughly 5,000 bottles are produced each year. He trained as an engineer and worked for Siemens for a time until he decided to make a living from wine in Ribeiro, his homeland. An unconventional and rather eccentric character, he crafts a sole wine that bears his name which he has managed to sell for a long time at more than twice the price paid for other wines in the appellation.
Grapes are sourced from a small vineyard in Ibedo, an ancient rural settlement close to the town of Leiro which was abandoned 40 years ago. The 1.2 hectare plot facing east was formerly attached to the monastery of San Clodio. Vines are grown in terraces built with stone walls locally called socalcos. Plantings are midway up the slope, as it was the case in traditional sites, fully protected from frosts as the cool air drops to the bottom of the valley. Soils, locally known as sábrego, are shallow granite, with sandy texture and varying quantities of gravel.
Emilio Rojo is a vigneron on top of his game. “I’m always here, at my headquarters”, he says. Vines are planted so close to each other that all the work must be done by hand. Yields are significantly lower than the area’s average and the goal is to leave just five to six bunches per vine to maximize concentration. The harvest takes as long as it’s needed and grapes are picked at different times, depending on ripeness levels. Vines set to be harvested are individually marked with lime. Late-ripener Loureira is usually picked in October.
Emilio Rojo is a colleiteiro, a Galician term used to describe producers who only use their grapes to make wines and keep production under 60,000 litres a year. His white wine (around €36 in Spain, 5,000 bottles) is made mostly from Treixadura, an indigenous white grape which accounts for 65% of the blend. The rest are small amounts of Loureira, Albariño, Lado, Torrontés and Godello. Treixadura provides structure, with Loureira adding acidity. Albariño is pretty interesting in the area as it ripens nicely and is botrytis-resistant. More importantly, winemaking has recently changed and the wine has evolved from a complex young white to thoroughly being aged with its lees. Accordingly its release has been delayed several months.