Gaba do Xil: Village-Level Valdeorras White and Red
Gaba do Xil is named for the hillsides of the Sil River, which is the lifeblood of the region. They are the estate-grown red and white village wines, an introduction to the limited production single cru wines of Ladeiras do Xil. Gaba do Xil offers the drinker an incredible value for handmade Galician wines for everyday drinking, which rival the wines of similar quality in Burgundy and Beaujolais. The wines are produced from godello, mencía, and merenzao grapes grown in estate vineyards. The primary vineyard lies inland at 400-500m elevation, 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 also contains grapes from estate vineyards in Santa Cruz and Las Ermitas. Viticulture is certified organic, and the grapes are hand-harvested. Wines are made with low intervention and minimal sulfur at bottling.
Ladeiras do Xil: Val do Bibei Grand Crus
Branco Santa Cruz
Branco de Santa Cruz is an authentic Galician single-village wine. “Branco,” which means white in Gallego, comes from vineyards scattered throughout the village of Santa Cruz in O Bolo county, located in the Val do Bibei in the southern part of the Valdeorras appellation. A blend of old godello, treixadura, doña blanca, and palomino varieties from traditional co-planted, bush-trained vines on granitic soil, locally called sábrego. Terraced vineyards perched between 400 to 600 meters above the Bibei river are planted on steep slopes facing south, west, and northwest. Branco Santa Cruz shows off godello’s textural similarities with white Burgundy; however, it comes across as more Mediterranean, with aromatic herbs, white flowers, hay, and honeycomb, with good volume and balanced acidity. Viticulture is certified organic, and the grapes are hand-harvested. Wines are made with low intervention and minimal sulfur at bottling. Branco de Santa Cruz is extremely limited.
As Caborcas was the first of Ladeiras do Xil’s three single-vineyard red wines to 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, and located directly above the Bibei river. The name As Caborcas means “vineyard by the little river.” As Caborcas tends to be incredibly aromatic, with silky tannins and wild fruit character, speaking to the grand cru nature of the plot, being at once both elegant and powerful, a very Atlantic Galician feeling runs through the wine.
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 certified organic, and the grapes are hand-harvested. Wines are made with low intervention and minimal sulfur at bottling. As Caborcas is extremely limited.
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 this interior part of Galicia are capable. Falcoeira is always a richer wine compared with its siblings As Caborcas and O Diviso. Falcoeira sits at an elevation of 400 to 600 meters on narrow, vertiginous terraces clinging to steep slopes oriented to the southwest. The vineyard 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.
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. Falcoeira is an intense and profound wine, like the place it comes from, which makes it one of the most exciting wines in the world. Viticulture is certified organic, and the grapes are hand-harvested. Wines are made with low intervention and minimal sulfur at bottling. Falcoeira is extremely limited.
The O Diviso vineyard, located near the village of As Ermitas on the Bibei river, has always been unique for its high green slopes and slightly hidden location among chestnut trees, it’s high altitude of 700m and northwest exposure. Telmo and Pablo first began the painstaking work of recovering the vineyard in 2011. They feel that O Diviso is probably the most authentic expression of Valdeorras on the slopes of Bibei and that the cru has limitless potential.
In total, the vineyard is 2.9ha, of which they are farming 1.2ha of old vines of mencía, garnacha, merenzao, mouratón, and caíño tinto. They are still in the process of recuperating the other 1.7ha from the forest, which has swallowed the ancient vineyard. This is their highest-altitude vineyard and the one they harvest last. The soils of granitic origin are shallow, acidic, and coarse-textured, known locally as sábrego. Wines from O Diviso are ultra-ethereal and graceful, with great tension and subtlety. O Diviso is refined and serious, with the finesse and length that only the world’s greatest vineyards are capable of. Nuanced and complex wine which speaks of the mountainside river valley, and maritime influence from the nearby Atlantic. O Diviso is always the last of the Ladeiras do Xil vineyards to be harvested, which lends added sophistication and complexity. Viticulture is certified organic, and the grapes are hand-harvested. Wines are made with low intervention and minimal sulfur at bottling. O Diviso is extremely limited.