Ladeiras do Xil
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. Here the Bibei River forms a dramatic valley which marks the natural border between the southwestern tip of the Valdeorras zone in O Bolo county and the eastern portion of the Bibei subzone of the Ribeira Sacra region. The valley goes by different names, but the term Falcoeira is used by many locals, due to the presence of falcons soaring high above the vineyards. Truth be told, the grapes in this valley do not know the wine zone in which they are planted and fantastic, old sites cling to vertiginous cliffs on both sides of the river. It’s not beyond reason that this microclimate will be a gran cru all to itself, twenty years in the future.
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 decades 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 doing 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. 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 of 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; and 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. It is hard to overstate the importance of this valley’s terroir and the Ladeiras do Xil project to understanding the greatness of Galicia.
Gaba do Xil serves as the village-level Valdeorras introduction to the gran cru single vineyard wines of Ladeiras do Xil. Experienced clients may remember the Gaba do Xil wines from many years ago, which Telmo sourced from vineyards throughout Valdeorras to gain an understanding of the complexity of the region. Utilizing that experience, they purchased the new Gaba do Xil vineyards near the village of Larouco, 5 kilometers from the Bibei River. The new Gaba do Xil is now entirely a field blend from organic estate-fruit, utilizing indigenous yeast for fermentation.