Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas Albarino 2018
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The 2018 Albariño Cepas Vellas has to be one of the finest vintages of this old-vine (reaaaaally old vine!) cuvée, in a vintage where the wine reached levels of elegance and harmony that I don't remember before. After having the wine in the glass for almost two hours, the nose was explosive, and the palate felt like bottled electricity, with effervescent acidity that makes you salivate, and it had incredible depth and concentration. They now tell me they think the vines could have been planted in 1785, in a property that had been a granite quarry, so I don't need to tell you what the soils are like here. This is a zone with a lot of fog, and that brings intense salinity to the wines. I need to dig out some bottles of 2010 I have somewhere in my cellar and check the evolution, because they tell me, and I agree, that this is a modern version of the 2010. There are 8,000 bottles of this wine. It was bottled in September 2019.
Gerardo Mendez grows this fruit at a parcel of ancient pergola-trained vines directly in front of his winery in Meaño. He believes them to be more than 245 years old. They produce a concentrated albariño, taken through a five-hour cold soak, a fermentation started by a pied de cuve from the grapes, then 11 months on the lees in stainless-steel tanks. The broad, bitter leesiness is what comes first, the wine’s youthful power showing in the intense, oceanic flavors of a barnacle, the depth and richness structured by racy acidity. Put the bottle aside for a day, and then another, and the wine keeps getting better, its freshness expanding in waves of pale, savory fruit.
This winery, founded in 1973, is currently run by Gerardo Méndez. Gerardo owns 10 hectares, three of which are over 50 years old, and one of which is over 200 years old. The vineyards follow organic guidelines, avoiding the use of pesticides and non-organic fertilizers. In addition, Gerardo is devoted to the use of indigenous yeasts believing that through their usage the true qualities of his terruño can appear.
Gerardo farms over 175 plots of Albariño, all located in the sub-zone of Salnès. This valley’s proximity to the ocean and protection by mountain ranges has gained it the reputation for being the best area in Rías Baixas for viticulture and some of the best Albariño out there.
Named after the rías, or estuarine inlets, that flow as far as 20 miles inland, Rías Baixas is an Atlantic coastal region with a cool and wet maritime climate. The entire region claims soil based on granite bedrock, but the inlets create five subregions of slightly different growing environments for its prized white grape, Albariño.
Val do Salnés on the west coast is said to be the birthplace of Albariño; it is the coolest and wettest of all of the regions. Having been named as the original subregion, today it has the most area under vine and largest number of wineries.
Ribeira do Ulla in the north and inland along the Ulla River is the newest to be included. It is actually the birthplace of the Padrón pepper!
Soutomaior is the smallest region and is tucked up in the hills at the end of the inlet called Ria de Vigo. Its soils are light and sandy over granite.
O Rosal and Condado do Tea are the farthest south in Rías Baixas and their vineyards actually cover the northern slopes of the Miño River, facing the Vinho Verde region in Portugal on its southern bank.
Albariño gives this region its fame and covers 90% of the area under vine. Caiño blanco, Treixadura and Loureira as well as occasionally Torrontés and Godello are permitted in small amounts in blends with Albariño. Red grapes are not very popular but Mencía, Espadeiro and Caiño Tinto are permitted and grown.
Bright and aromatic with distinctive floral and fruity characteristics, Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity and an increase in plantings over the last couple of decades. Thick skins allow it to withstand the humid conditions of its homeland, Rías Baixas, Spain, free of malady, and produce a weighty but fresh white. Somm Secret—Albariño claims dual citizenship in Spain and Portugal. Under the name Alvarinho, it thrives in Portugal’s northwestern Vinho Verde region, which predictably, borders part of Spain’s Rías Baixas.