The Meín vineyard, in the village of Leiro (Ourense), appears in Galician history books as one of the first inhabited settlements around the San Clodio Monastery. As early as 1158, its abbot mentioned the outstanding quality of the grapes grown there.
As it stands today, Viña Meín contributed considerably to set the style of modern Ribeiro. The project dates from 1988, when indigenous grape varieties, notably Treixadura, were planted and recovered. Behind it were a group of friends and relatives led by Javier Alén, a lawyer and businessman deeply attached to the area -he used to spend his childhood summers with his grandparents in Leiro. In July 2019, Ribera del Duero producer Pago de Carraovejas purchased both Viña Meín and Emilio Rojo.
Located in Peñafiel, Pago de Carraovejas was the seed to build an impressive group of wineries now called Alma Carraovejas. It includes Ossian Vines and Wines (old vine Verdejo from Segovia), Milsetentayseis (a second venture in Ribera based in the village of Fuentenebro) and a new project in Rioja. Owned by the Ruiz Aragoneses family, they also run the renowned José María restaurant in Segovia.
In Ribeiro they took control of two of the leading producers in the area. Viña Meín was the first white ribeiro to make a name for itself in the competitive wine scene in Madrid, whereas Emilio Rojo conjures up the image of a devoted vigneron who makes just a single ageworthy premium wine in limited quantities. As part of the deal, Rojo continues to be involved in the winemaking.
Vineyards include the small, 1.2 hectare plot behind Emilio’s wine, plus 18 hectares of Viña Meín. All of them are located in the Avia valley. Rojo’s vineyard, which was formerly part of the monastery of San Clodio, is on the right bank, in Ibedo, an ancient rural settlement close to the town of Leiro which was abandoned 40 years ago, and faces east. Vines are grown in terraces built with stone walls locally called socalcos. They are planted midway up the slope, as it was done 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.
Viña Meín's vineyards stretch all along the left bank of the valley where the sábrego soils are also dominant. There are 14 plots, most of them in San Clodio, grown at an altitude ranging from 100 to almost 200 meters. The largest is the 2.5-hectare Meín estate, where the winery is located. The oldest plot was planted with Alicante Bouschet, in 1960. A Vilerma and Tega do Sal are in the neighbouring parish of Gomariz, their soils including various elements other than granitic sands: clay for Vilerma and pebbles and schist in the case of Tega do Sal, from which a single-vineyard white was formerly made. These grapes are now part of the Viña Meín cuvée. There are two other plots planted with red grapes in the hamlets of Ribeira (brancellao) and Osebe (caíño longo).
Winemaking takes place in various vessels: stainless steel tanks, foudres, 600-litre barrels and concrete to a lesser extent.
Carraovejas and winemaker Laura Moreno have decided to go back to essentials and reduce the range to just three wines (a barrel-fermented white was also produced in the past): two Viña Meín cuvées, red and white, and the single-vineyard Emilio Rojo as the top wine.
The main difference in the 2019 harvest, the first by the new owners, was the acquisition of a small press that allows to work separately by plots and grape varieties as well as isolating free-run juice from press wine. With such wealth of ingredients, Laura Montero aims to gain complexity by blending grape varieties and plots. Treixadura accounts for roughly 65% of Viña Meín white with Torrontés, Godello, Albariño, Loureira, Lado and Caíño Blanco adding nuances. Elegance over rusticity is the new goal for the red. As for Emilio Rojo, Laura says it has to do both with the vineyard and the man who has shaped it over the years.
Another novelty is that all the wines are expected to be released with some extra time in bottle so that they can show higher levels of complexity when they reach the market.