Emilio Rojo

(eh-mee-lee-oh roh-hoh) | Ribeiro – Galicia

  • Ribeiro pioneer
  • Galicia’s original cult producer
  • Iconoclastic, ageable white wine
  • Unforgettable unicorn wine
Press

It is impossible to understate the importance and outsize impact that Emilio Rojo has had,

not only on white wines from Ribeiro but on fine wine from Galicia and greater Spain in general. Emilio Rojo has been a trailblazer and iconoclast who has shown his country and the world the extraordinary possibilities for greatness his tiny 1.5ha property in the historic heart of the Ribeiro region holds. Emilio is directly responsible for showing an entire generation of new viticultors and colleiteiros the blueprint for restoring not only their ancient vineyards and native grapes but also their rich cultural heritage. 

Emilio Rojo is an eccentric former engineer who started his personal project in 1987. He moved back to farm his vineyard in Ibedo, a former Roman settlement in the historical Avia Valley of this native Galica, which belonged to his wife’s family.  His goal was to restore the ancient vineyard site that had been abandoned for 40 years, using the winemaking traditions of his ancestors. The site is located on a terraced hillside in the heart of the Ribeiro appellation, which is based around the historic vineyards of the monastery of San Clodio. The tiny parcel is planted on soil known as sábrego in Galicia, consisting of decomposed granite and sand with some gravel. The northeast-facing vineyard is surrounded by oak and chestnut trees, protecting the grapes from the intensity of the sun. This allows for a slower ripening and maturation period which builds complexity in the grapes, as well as retention of acidity, which is key to the structure and complexity of the wines.

Emilio replanted the site with the indigenous varieties that once grew on this same plot,

including treixadura, loureiro, lado, albariño, godello, and torrontés. Plantings are midway up the slope, as was the custom for traditional sites, fully protected from frosts as the cool air drops to the bottom of the valley. Vines are planted so close to one another that all of the work must be done by hand. Yields are significantly lower than the area’s average; the goal is to leave just five to six bunches per vine to maximize concentration. The vineyard is farmed with organic principles, without the use of chemical inputs, which would run counter to the human-scale philosophy of the project. The harvest is driven by the ripening cycle of each of the individual varieties. Various varieties are hand-picked at different times, depending on ripeness levels.

Only one wine is made, the namesake Emilio Rojo. It consists mostly of treixadura, accounting for approximately 65% of the blend, with small amounts of loureiro, albariño, lado, torrontés, and godello. After fermenting with native yeasts in stainless steel, the wine is kept on its lees for one year before bottling to develop complexity, allowing Emilio Rojo to improve in bottle for ten years or more. We recommend a minimum of at least five years of cellaring for the wine to show its immense complexity.

Finally, after working his vineyard solo for the last 32 years, Emilio decided it was time to start his transition to retirement in 2019. He brought in the help of the talented Laura Montero Rodil, who is part of the excellent winemaking team of Alma Carraovejas, who bought a majority share in Emilio Rojo’s project. Rojo is still fully involved and continues helping make the wine for the next couple of years during the transition. Laura, a Galicia resident, has extensive experience making fine wine throughout Spain and France, as well as a deep respect for each terroir with which she works. Emilio is still close to the project, ensuring his deep knowledge and understanding of his famous vineyard is passed on to the next generation. Calling Emilio Rojo a “unicorn wine” is an understatement, as those who are able to secure a few precious bottles consider themselves extremely lucky. We are thrilled that Emilio’s legacy and contribution to Spanish viticulture will live on into the future.

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Emilio Rojo bottle image

Emilio Rojo