Following a brief experience in Gredos in Central Spain, Madrid-born winemakers Curro Bareño and Jesús Olivares have been working primarily in Galicia, especially in Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra. In fact, the rugged, dramatic landscape of the latter won their hearts to the point that they launched their own project in the area. They joined forces with Luis Taboada whose family owned a vineyard and a pazo, a historic Galician manor house, in Abeleda, on the Ourense side of the river Sil.
2013 was the first vintage of Fedellos de Couto. Fedellos means mischievous in Galician and Couto is the name of the Taboada’s manor where the first wines were made. Winemaking largely follows the style of Gredos: spontaneous fermentations with indigenous yeasts, long, gentle macerations with very little extraction and aging in well-seasoned oak vessels to create expressive, subtle, refreshing wines.
The young Taboada vineyard in Abeleda, planted on gneiss soils with a high proportion of quartz, is destined to the red Cortezada (€16 in Spain, around 6,000 bottles). But Fedellos sources most of its grapes from the Bibei valley, in the eastern end of Ribeira Sacra where the river marks the boundary with neighbouring DO Valdeorras.
Due to the high elevation that extends the growing cycle, the Bibei helps the purpose of making fresh, elegant wines. This style is reinforced by the choice of vineyards with morning sun exposures which are cooler and healthier because dew disappears earlier.
White grapes, mainly Godello and Dona Blanca planted on the many small plots that dot this remote, uninhabited area of Galicia are destined to Conasbrancas (€18, 5,000 bottles). Lomba dos Ares (€18, 8,000 bottles) is the red version and blends one third Mencía, one third Alicante Bouschet and one third of other grapes. Finally, Bastarda (€28, 5,000 bottles) is a 100% Merenzao (Trousseau) which can include some small batches from Ribeira do Sil and since the 2018 vintage also from Valdeorras. Nevertheless, the aim is to produce a Bibei wine with grapes sourced from both banks of the river.
After Fedellos left the DO Ribeira Sacra (their 2016 wines no longer have the appellation seal) and started a new project from vineyards upstream beyond any appellation, they have changed their approach to the area. “We no longer look at both banks as different wine regions,” Bareño explains. Now they feel they have the freedom to blend grapes from both sides.
The new project tries to explore the vineyards around Viana do Bolo. This is an elevated (up to 850m), cool area but the landscape is less rugged since the river flows closer to the moorland. The main grapes found here are Mencía, Gran Negro, Mouratón, Alicante Bouschet and Bastardo in reds, and Godello, Dona Blanca and Palomino in whites. Small plots of head-pruned vines planted on bright, mica-rich soils are dominant.
The first vintage in the market of Peixes (the official name of the winery is Viños do Macizo Ourensán) is 2016. The range includes three red wines. The entry-level Lacazán (€12, 3,800 bottles, lacazán means “lazy”) blends 60% Sousón with discarded batches from the other two wines: Peixe da Estrada (€15, 10,000 bottles), a blend of 85% red grapes and 15% whites, and the refined Peixes da Rocha (€18, 3,500 bottles) made from their two highest vineyards on granite soils.
Some 30,000 to 35,000 bottles of Fedellos de Couto are produced and slightly over 15,000 bottles for Peixes. Since the 2019 vintage all the wines are made in an old underground cellar in Seadur’s old winery district in Valdeorras. Vintages are certified but they cannot do likewise with grape varieties since this is not allowed in Galicia when working outside DOs or IGPs.
Curro and Jesús have recently embarked on a new project in Gredos where they have partnered with Gianpaolo Armando and his wife Victoria in her hometown of San Martín de Valdeiglesias to develop Ca’di Mat (the name means “mad house” in Piedmontese dialect).