The work of Rodrigo Rodri Méndez in the Salnés valley has been an exciting source of inspiration in Rías Baixas since its launch in the mid-2000s. The nephew of Do Ferreiro's Gerardo Méndez, another notable Albariño producer, Rodri named his winery after the iron business that his grandfather Francisco Méndez had set up. He lovingly tended and planted many vineyards in the area with both white and red grape varieties.
Resolved to produce red wines in a region almost exclusively devoted to whites, Rodri sought the help of Raúl Pérez, a key producer in Bierzo and other Galician regions, who encouraged him not to leave aside the distinctive Albariños of the area. In fact, Raúl makes in Forjas del Salnés his highly original Sketch, probably the first Spanish wine to be aged under water. Both producers share a project in Ribeira Sacra, in the subarea of Chantada, called Castro Candaz.
Forjas del Salnés sources its grapes from 12Ha of vineyards in the villages of Meaño, Sanxenxo and Barro in the Salnés valley. Some of their own and others rented to local growers. One of the latter is an ancient property located in Barro planted with 180-year-old Albariño and red Caíno vines on granite soils whose grapes go to the two outstanding white and red Finca Genoveva single vineyard wines (around €40 for the red and €27 for the white in Spain). The red is a 100% Caíño fermented with whole bunches.
Stainless steel is limited to blends and to 80% of Leirana, the winery's flagship wine and an excellent introduction to the Salnés region. It is a vibrant, salty Albariño without malolactic fermentation (around €16 in Spain, between 25,000 and 30,000 bottles) made from a variety of vineyards in the different villages where they are present. In Leirana, Méndez ages the wine in 20% oak with a view to increasing this percentage in the coming years. The rest of the wines are made in large wooden casks and some barrels. This producer likes its Albariño to be fully ripe to reduce malic acid. The style of the reds looks to Burgundy; extraction is very light and the focus is on aromatic depth and persistence.
Total production stands at around 70,000 bottles in around 20 different wines, although not all are produced on every vintage. Other Forjas del Salnés wines are Goliardo A Telleira (€34, 1,200 bottles), a single-vineyard Albariño with more ripeness than Finca Genoveva (5,000 bottles) and Cos Pés (€22, 1,200 bottles), which is fermented with its skins. On occasional vintages Rodri makes three special wines: Bastión de Luna Albariño with batches excluded from Leirana, the off-dry A Escusa and Leirana María Luisa Lázaro (an homage to Rodri’s grandmother), a brand reserved for those wines that can withstand extended ageing times. Only three vintages of this wine exist: 2005, the current 2013 vintage and 2019 which is ageing in the winery.
Apart from Finca Genova Caíño, the range of red wines include Goliardo Tinto (formerly Bastión de la Luna, €17, 4,000 bottles), a blend of Caíño, Loureiro and Espadeiro and three single-varietal reds made from these three grapes. All of them come under the Goliardo brand with prices ranging from €24 to €35 and production between 4,000 bottles in the case of Caíño and around 1,200 bottles for Loureiro and Espadeiro. There’s still a red rarity made from Pinot Noir. Called As Covas (€44, 700 bottles), it comes from a vineyard with sandy soils in Meaño and is sold outside the DO. Arenas de Arra, an old vine Albariño planted near Montalvo beach, which Méndez defines as "very special", will soon be on the market.
In 2011 Rodri started a separate project under his own name with two Albariños named after local islands: Cíes (€16, 5,000 bottles) uses grapes from the village of Meaño whereas the single-vineyard, whereas Sálvora (€29, 2,000 bottles) comes from old vines in a plot next to the vegetable garden grown by Méndez’s parents. Tras da Canda are wines that come from a vineyard planted by Rodri himself in a mountainous area, at an elevation of 230 metres with sand and quartz soils. It is a high-density trellis vineyard surrounded by eucalyptus trees where red Caíño, Espadeiro and Loureiro grapes are grown. Albariño and Caíño Blanco are pergola-trained. Two vintages of the white Caíño (€27) as well as an Albariño and a red have been released. All of them have a limited production of about 700 bottles (€21). El Barredo Pinot Noir (€27 in Spain) made in Bierzo with the help of Raúl Perez is also part of Rodrigo Méndez’s portfolio.
With young vines planted near the sea on granite and kaolin (white clay) soils, Rodri Méndez makes O Raio da Vella, in white (Albariño) and a red (Espadeiro and Caíño) with productions of 2,000 and 1,500 bottles respectively (between €25 and €30).
On the other side of the Pontevedra estuary, in Morrazo, Méndez works in two historic vineyards on sandy beach soils. He makes two fresh, vertical wines called O Santo do Mar, an Albariño (250 bottles) and a Tinta Femia, a strain of Caíño (700 bottles). Neither of them are sold in the recently created Ribeiras do Morrazo PGI because they are made in Méndez's winery in Cambados.