Ladeiras do Xil

(lah-dey-rahs doh sheel) | Valdeorras – Galicia

  • Rare, complex single-vineyards

  • Grand Cru Galicia from Ladeiras do Xil
  • Unbeatable value from Gaba do Xil
  • Recuperation of ancient sites, organic
  • Telmo, Pablo & Jorge: dream team

It is an understatement to say…

that Galicia is one of the most compelling and complex cultural regions for wine and gastronomy, not only in Spain but in the world. Up until recently, the conversation in this region has been all about rebuilding what was lost in the last century and the future potential of this enchanting land. With its remote location and rugged, natural beauty, Northwest Spain is just beginning to be understood by the pioneers who work there daily. Here the future lies in the rediscovery and refinement of the past. In Ladeiras do Xil, the potential has become a reality.

The vineyards of Ladeiras do Xil lie in the eastern part of this region near the village of Santa Cruz and monastery of Las Ermitas. This valley is among the most important and exciting areas for the potential of world-class viticulture in all of Galicia, as it lies in the southern part of Valdeorras, on the border of the Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra. The valley goes by different names, but the term Falcoeira is used by many locals due to the presence of falcons regularly soaring high above the vineyards. In reality, the grapes in this valley do not know which wine zone they belong to. Fantastic old sites cling to vertiginous cliffs on both sides of the river. It’s not beyond reason that this microclimate will be a Grand Cru all to itself twenty years down the line.

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This region is exceptionally rural and biologically diverse,

where ancient vineyards developed by monasteries exist in harmony with dense forest and animal life. As a rule, Ladeiras do Xil uses only indigenous grape varieties which are bush trained and follow the natural contours of the land, mindful of the history of the vineyards and ecology of the surrounding area. Vineyards have existed in this valley since the Roman era, being further refined and perfected by members of the Cistercian monasteries, for which the area is famous. The soils here are shallow, acidic, and coarse-textured due to varying proportions of decomposed granite with naturally low fertility.

Ladeiras do Xil takes its name from the hillsides of the Sil River, which is the lifeblood of the region. The pioneering duo of Pablo Eguzkiza and Telmo Rodríguez started working here in 2002. Recognizing the potential to make world-class wines in this incredibly important valley, they began a project that would take more than a decade to come to fruition. The philosophy of their company has always been vineyard first, winery second. The most important piece of the puzzle is the vineyard, and we are now just beginning to see the unfolding of the grandeur of their vision. They have been quietly conducting heroic work in the face of incredible obstacles, as the climate in Galicia is unforgiving:

“It’s been an emotional experience reliving how our ancestors worked the land, moving tons of earth and stone, shaping the landscape and carving out plots and terraces that now lie practically abandoned but which could become some of the best vineyards in the world. We have learned how they used endless combinations of different varieties to adapt to the diversity of the land and climate.

We have learned a lot. We have reflected and understood that respect for this heritage will be the foundation of all our work for the future” – Telmo Rodríguez

Since 2014,

the project has been led in the vineyard by the young vigneron Jorge Saa. He and his team have been quietly working, restoring the centuries-old terraces and replanting indigenous varieties as they were in the past: a diverse field blend, near the ancient village of Santa Cruz. Co-planting is essential in this region, and they are cultivating a number of varieties including merenzao, sousón, mencía, godello, treixadura, godello tinto, brancellao, doña blanca, garnacha, and palomino. 

In one of the most natural polyculture settings possible, only the traditional bush-trained vines are used. The wines of Ladeiras do Xil are produced by natural principles. Viticulture is strictly EU organic and indigenous yeasts begin a spontaneous fermentation once the grapes are hand-harvested. Minimal intervention in the winery is evident in the haunting elegance of the wines. 23 hectares of stubborn and difficult vineyards are a testament to their dedication to this magical place.

Ladeiras do Xil produces a highly coveted collection of extremely low-production, single-vineyard red wines: Falcoeira, As Caborcas, and O Diviso along with one white village wine called Branco de Santa Cruz: all field blends. The crus reflect the purity and transcendence of one of the greatest terroirs in Europe.

Gaba do Xil: Village-Level Valdeorras White and Red 

Gaba do Xil serves as the village-level Valdeorras introduction to the Grand Cru single-vineyard wines of Ladeiras do Xil, offering exceptional value and an entry point to world-class winemaking, produced from organically farmed, indigenous grapes from estate vineyards: mencía and merenzao for the red, and godello for white. The primary vineyard lies inland at 400-500m in altitude, near the town of Larouco, which has an Atlantic influence due to the location in a valley that forms an outlet to the sea. The blend for Gaba do Xil also contains grapes from estate vineyards in Santa Cruz and Las Ermitas which did not make it into the single-vineyard wines.

Ladeiras do Xil: Galicia’s Grand Crus 

Branco Santa Cruz  

Branco de Santa Cruz is an authentic Galician single-village wine, in its concept and expression of its rugged mountain terroir. “Branco,” which means white in Gallego, comes from vineyards scattered throughout the village of Santa Cruz, in the southern part of Valdeorras. Branco is a blend of the indigenous godello, treixadura, doña blanca, and palomino varieties from traditional co-planted, bush-trained vines. The village of Santa Cruz is located in O Bolo county with terraced vineyards perched between 400 to 600 meters above the Bibei river, on steep slopes facing south, west, and northwest. 

Branco de Santa Cruz is fermented and matured in large oak foudres and 600-liter oak barrels. The wine is open and expressive, with white flowers and a touch of honeycomb. It exhibits exceptional intensity and purity. Production is very limited, with less than 5,000 bottles produced. 

As Caborcas

As Caborcas is the first of Ladeiras do Xil’s three single-vineyard red wines that explore the singular expressions of the remote and ancient Bibei valley, located on the border of the Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra subzones in Galicia. The vineyard is a 2.5ha, mostly northwest-facing plot, below the village of Santa Cruz, located directly above the Bibei river. The name As Caborcas means “vineyard by the little river.” 

The undulating Bibei river valley has many expositions, but As Caborcas is one of the most prized positions by the older generation of Galician farmers. As such, it was the first single-vineyard selected by Telmo Rodriguez and Pablo Eguzkiza in 2010. As Caborcas is a unique vineyard, full of different varieties, of different ages, from different strains, growing at different altitudes and exposures. The vineyard has two parts, one younger parcel and another, which is more than 80 years old. Among the native grapes planted are mencía, merenzao, sousón, godello, and brancellao. The wines of Ladeiras do Xil are strictly produced by natural principles. Viticulture is EU organic and the grapes are hand-harvested. Indigenous yeasts cause spontaneous fermentation in small wooden barrels of various sizes with light foudre aging for 12 months to preserve the “Atlantic” delicacy of this wine of inland Galicia. 

The resulting wine speaks to the grand cru nature of the plot, being at once both elegant and powerful, with a very Galician feeling running through the wine. True to the origins, As Caborcas could be made nowhere else. As Caborcas is extremely limited, with less than 3,000 bottles produced in a good year. 

Falcoeira a Capilla 

Falcoeira a Capilla, in the village of Santa Cruz, is thought of by locals as one of the very best grand cru vineyards in the area, displaying the fantastic depth and finesse of which the finest vineyards from Galicia are capable. Falcoeira a Capilla is always a richer wine compared with its siblings, As Caborcas and O Diviso. This southwest-facing slope with a 150m drop was totally neglected and it took over a decade to pull out the wild vegetation, rebuild the terraces, and re-plant 2.75ha of vineyards. Vines are now around 20 years old, planted with biologically diverse heritage clones from ancient vineyards of mencía, sousón, merenzao, and caiño tinto. Falcoeira sits at an elevation of 400 to 600 meters on narrow, vertiginous terraces clinging to steep slopes oriented to the south. The vineyard is split in two, with fruit from the top of the road planted to red grapes for Falcoeira; the bottom closer to the Bibei river is planted to white grapes that go into Branco Santa Cruz.

The soils here are coarsely textured decomposed granites. It is an intense and profound wine, like the place it comes from. Winemaking is simple: indigenous yeasts begin a spontaneous fermentation in small wooden barrels of various sizes, the wine is then aged in foudres for 12 months. Falcoeira keeps freshness and poise within its riper character, with a delineated palate and a wild, stony feeling echoing the granitic slopes. With time in the glass, Falcoeira unfolds and displays the power, finesse, and elegance, which makes it one of the most exciting wines in the world. Falcoeira is extremely limited, with less than 3,000 bottles produced in a good year.