Forjas del Salnés
For years, Rodrigo Méndez's family has cultivated grapes on the Atlantic coast in the village of Meaño, in the heart of the Salnés region. Although Rías Baixas is especially known for its white wines, it was Rodri's dream to produce red wines. Atlantic red wines are not the wine style most sought after by the international wine audience, but the locals have always enjoyed them. However, the growing demand for Albariño has caused many winegrowers to graft Albariño onto their old red vines, as a result of which the areas under cultivation for red varieties have shrunk to a minimum and some of the historical varieties have almost been lost. In 2005, when Rodri started his Forjas del Salnés project, he produced one white wine and three red wines. With this, Rodri especially wanted to honor the work done by his grandfather in the area, as he had already planted red varieties, Caiño, Loureiro and Espadeiro in Salnés in the 1960s. Rodri's grandfather Francisco Méndez was also one of the founders of the Rías Baixas appellation in 1980.
Rodri met Raúl Pérez through mutual friends while Raúl was looking for a new place to make his famous Sketch wine. The gentlemen decided to join forces: Raúl would help Rodri make red wines, and Rodri's uncle's 0.3 hectare vineyard would be used for the production of Sketch. The Rodri family owned some very fine and old Albariño vineyards, so naturally Forjas del Salnés started producing Albariño as well. However, the idea was not to make wines with the same recipe as many others in the region, so cool fermentations, selected yeast strains, giant steel tanks, additions of tartaric acid and quick post-fermentation bottling were abandoned at the very beginning. Rodri's goal was to produce white wines with the same aging potential as German Rieslings classified as Grosses Gewächs. He had learned from his grandfather how wines could be made in barrels made of Galician chestnut wood and he wanted to produce wines that tasted like Albariño without the influences of modern winemaking.
The focus of Forjas del Salnés production is limiting the amount of harvest in the orchard. The Rías Baixas region allows Albariño yields of up to 12,000 kg/ha, but the estate limits the amount of bunches produced by the vines with severe cutting and green harvest, resulting in a harvested yield of around 6,000 kg/ha. The soil in the nurseries consists of granite and sand, and the fertile topsoil is thin. The oldest nurseries on the farm are up to 175-200 years old, so they are ungrafted and the rhizomes can reach tens of meters deep. The Atlantic climate is very prevalent in the gardens of the villages of Meaño, Sanxenxo and Barro, because the closest of them are only about 10-25 meters from the sea. Due to the proximity of the sea, the area is very humid, so downy mildew and gray mold constantly threaten grape production. Rodri's family's 5-hectare nurseries are managed according to the Lutte raisonnée principle, and work is also done on contract nurseries covering about 2 hectares by Rodri and his father.
All plots used for production are always vinified separately, so the cellar contains only small steel tanks, old oak vessels and oak barrels. White bunches of grapes are pressed whole, and red grapes are generally used as whole bunches. No added yeast or enzymes are used in winemaking, only a small amount of sulfur dioxide. The wines mature on the lees for a very long time, but the lees are never turned or the wine is moved, the wines are allowed to mature over time. During bottling, the wines are not clarified, but filtered through a large-pore filter.
Winemaking started in a small Meaño garage and in the first year only around 5,000 bottles were produced. Year by year, production increased and the family orchards began to be used for Forjas del Salnés wine production. By 2010, production volumes had tripled, but the wines were still made in the same garage.
Today, Rodri makes about ten different wines and the total production is 90-100,000 bottles per year. About 3/4 of the production is white wines and the rest red.