"Cepas Vellas" 200+ year-old Albarino Vines at Do Ferreiro
In 1973, Geraldo Méndez’s father purchased a plot of land in Rias Baixas that became Do Ferreiro. “They really bought it because of the house,” said Manuel Mendez, who now works with his father Geraldo. “When they began to clean the whole area, they realized that they had those great vineyards. They didn’t know that. It was very lucky.” Very lucky indeed, as the tiny plot besides the house turned out to be Cepas Vellas ("Old Vines"), 1.5ha of 200+ year old Albariño vines.
“It’s special,” Manuel continued. “The soil is very good. It’s only granatic stone and the parcel is very near to the winery and house. It’s ungrafted and the roots are very, very deep in the soil and it has good balance. Albariño is a very big varietal. It has vigor. But these vines are so old and the roots are so very deep.”
Fermented with indigenous yeast and aged for 11 months on lees, the “Cepas Vellas” 2013 shows this depth in soil and time. Creamy and minerally with lime pith and bracing acidity, while not shy in the glass, “Cepas Vellas” is inviting by way of subtly. Like the soils from which it stems, it gives as much as you’re willing to receive.
Coming from a family of blacksmiths (Do Ferreiro means blacksmith), Geraldo chose vines over iron. And though he founded Do Ferreiro in 1973 with this single plot of vines, the family’s holdings has grown to 7ha, which they farm alongside a number of nearby rented plots that they’ve been farming themselves for over 20 years. “They’re like our plots,” said Manuel.
Iría Otero of Dominio do Bibei & Manuel Méndez of Do Ferreiro
Growing up at the winery, Manuel joined his father in the cellar in 2013, when he was 22-years-old. “2013 was my first vintage,” he said. “I’m the winemaker and then I work a lot in the vineyard. I prefer to work in the vineyard because this is the way to do a very good wine. The most important part of the wine is in the vineyard.” Practicing Environmental Viticulture in a region that is traditionally cold and wet, Manuel aims for low yields, working with defoliation and pruning to avoid any reliance on treatments in the vineyard.
When Manuel was in town a few weeks ago for a luncheon at Blue Ribbon Bakery with Iría Otero of Dominio do Bibei, he spoke about the challenges of the 2014 vintage, while we tasted through the results. A cold and wet year, 2014 yielded 40% less fruit than 2013, due to vineyard selection. “We decided to better select the clusters to look after the high quality,” said Manuel. “2014 is a very nice vintage. I think it’s one of the top vintages in our cellar. It’s like 2012 and 2008, it was a very, very cold vintage. It’ll be very interesting to age. The 2014 can age between 15 or 20 years. It’s very similar to 2001 or 2002.”
The Do Ferreiro Rebisaca 2013 showed wet stone and lime, but the 2014 by comparison revealed sailinity and citrus, with strata of mineral flavors that will continue to reveal themselves over the years.
Now that Manuel has found his place in the vineyard and cellar, he is thinking of how he might improve upon vineyard expression. “I want to separate the five kinds of soil that we discovered in Salnes,” said Manuel. “We found granitic stones and granite soils, clay, red slate and compound granite. In these kinds of soils we grow vines, and the aromatics and the palate are very different. I want to separate a little bit and understand better Do Ferreiro, because Do Ferreiro is a blend of parcels. I made a little quantity this year, of the 2014 on red slate only and it’s incredible. It’s the same variety, different soil and a pretty different wine. It’s very good.” However, he added and laughed, we won’t be seeing this wine any time soon, because he produced only 1,000 bottles.