Pioneering Rías Baixas
The first wine made by Gerardo without labels was in 1973, with the first labeled, vintage wine from Do Ferreiro appearing in 1986. The Do Ferreiro house, Casa Grande, is located in Lores, at the foot of the Armenteria range where it is protected from the fog from the south, facing the Ría de Arousa. Directly in front of the house lies the famed Cepas Vellas vineyard, where each vine is uniquely pruned to suit the personality of these old vines, already documented as being old in 1850. Bottled exclusively from this single vineyard, which contains the oldest documented albariño vines in the world, Cepas Vellas has become a legendary, defining white wine of Spain for its intensity, transparency, and ability to improve with age for an incredible period of time. Gerardo’s achievement with Cepas Vellas put Rías Baixas on the map qualitatively.
In addition to his work in creating the denomination, Gerardo also began recovering old vineyards, introducing organic farming, and restoring traditional trellising methods. Gerardo is known for his absolute faith in the local emparrado system (pergola training), which he has adapted and refined over the years to allow more sun into the canopy, allowing for even ripeness and naturally lower yields. He lets his chickens roam through the vineyards the way his ancestors had done in the past, providing both natural pest control and contributing valuable nitrogen to the soil. Grapes are harvested by hand with great scrutiny, sorting happens in the vineyard, bunch-by-bunch, as opposed to ever using a sorting table. Such is the dedication to quality that the farming and daily tending to vineyards is where the time and investment is spent. The winemaking is straightforward with no makeup. Gerardo has always been a proponent of using the indigenous yeasts present in his vineyard for fermentation, long before it became a trendy marketing push. Here in Sálnes, that’s just the way his father Francisco (known locally as Pepe o Ferreiro or Pepe the Blacksmith, hence the origin of the Do Ferreiro name) made his wines to sell to his neighbors.
In the early 1980s, there were almost no dedicated wineries and all the wine was made in people’s homes for personal consumption or sold to the local cooperative. One has to understand what Galicia was like twenty years ago: it was (and still is) an extremely rural place where wine was food, afforded the same amount of glamour as carrots or potatoes. But like all Gallegos who take pride in their harvest, Gerardo realized that his grapes could be coaxed to produce something special, something extraordinary and world class. Before the 18th century, everything belonged to the monasteries until an extended economic and social process of selling the lands and property of the religious orders to private individuals resulted in the distribution of tiny parcels of land to many owners. This process is significant, as it explains the current landscape where the average vineyard in the region is 0.4 hectare and a winery like Do Ferreiro has to farm 175 different plots to survive. After the Phylloxera epidemic, crosses and high yielding grapes such as palomino were planted for weight. It wasn’t until the late 1970s and the 1980s that the first generation of quality growers began replanting with indigenous grapes like albariño, loureiro, godello, treixadura, caiño tinto, espadeiro, loureiro tinto, and souson, reclaiming the identity of the region.
Most of Gerardo’s neighbors in that era didn’t understand why someone would work so hard, risking their harvest by using indigenous yeasts and waiting to harvest until the grapes were perfectly ripe. Initially, they thought he was crazy, but as the wine started to achieve fame outside of the region, people realized that he had been a visionary all along. Aspiring growers began to seek his advice in both farming and winemaking. Do Ferreiro was born from incredible raw material and an uncompromising dedication to quality, a legacy that continues today with his Gerardo’s son, Manuel, and daughter, Encarna, all working together to craft Do Ferreiro.