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. As a matter of 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 7.5Ha of vineyards in the villages of Meaño, Sanxenxo and Barro; four of them are their own; the rest are rented to local growers. One of the latter is an ancient property located in Barro planted with hundred-year-old Albariño and red Caíno vines whose grapes go to the two outstanding white and red Finca Genoveva single vineyard wines (around €17 in Spain). The red is a 100% Caíño fermented with whole bunches and sold without the appellation's seal.
All plots are fermented separately to assess their behaviour in terms of soils, altitude and vicinity to the sea. Some stainless steel tanks are used, but most wines are fermented in foudres and large used barrels. Albariño must be fully ripe to bring down the high level of malic acid. The style of the reds looks to Burgundy; extraction is very light and the focus is on aromatic depth and persistence.
Production stands at around 45,000 bottles distributed in almost 15 different wines although some of them are not produced on every vintage. The vibrant, mineral Albariño Leirana (around €13 in Spain, between 20,000 and 30,000 bottles) is the flagship white, a blend of vineyards from different villages fermented in stainless steel vats with no malolactic fermentation. Goliardo A Telleira (€34, 1,000 bottles) is a single-vineyard Albariño with more ripeness than Finca Genoveva and Cos Pés (€18, 1,200 bottles) 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 stand extended aging times. This wine was first released in the 2005 vintage and the next one in the market will be 2013.
Apart from Finca Genova Caíño, the range of red wines include Bastión de Luna (€17, 4,000 bottles), a blend of Caíño, Loureiro and Espaderio 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 1,000 bottles for Loureiro and Espadeiro. There’s still a red rarity made from Pinot Noir which is not allowed to carry the appellation seal.
In 2011 Rodri started a separate project under his own name with two Albariños named after local islands: Cíes (€16) uses grapes from the village of Meaño whereas the single-vineyard Sálvora comes from vines formerly destined to a barrel-fermented version of Leirana. On a second stage, Rodri is making wines from high-altitude vines planted by him in a mountainous area with lots of eucalyptus trees. Here red grape varieties Caíño, Espadeiro and Loureiro and whites Albarín and Caíño have been planted with a particularly high density. The first wine to reach the market was Tras da Canda (€27) white Caíño; two more, an Albarín and a red blend, are in the pipeline. El Barredo Pinot Noir (€27 in Spain) made in Bierzo with the help of Raúl Perez is also part of Rodrigo Méndez’s portfolio.
Always looking for new challenges, Rodri announces a new tiny project in partnership with a friend to show the best out of a singular property by the sea. Called O Raio do Vella (literally “the old woman’s ray”), it will include a 100% Albariño and a red blend of Caíño and Espadeiro with a grand total of 500 and 300 bottles respectively. None of the wines will be in the DO.