Cultivated since Roman times, Ribeira Sacra’s steep terraced vineyards are some of the most picturesque and treacherous to work in the world of wine – think Douro, Cote Rotie, or Mosel. Like those most dramaticterruños, winegrowing here is not for the faint of heart; it takes spirited determination, unwieldy optimism, a sense of tradition, and a willingness to collaborate. All of these qualities are embodied by the young Pedro Rodríguez of Guímaro, our colleteiro in Ribeira Sacra.
Pedro descends from a long line of colleteiros working in the Amandi area, Ribeira Sacra’s most prime subzone with south facing vineyards planted on slate, called Losa locally, just above the river Sil. His parents Manolo and Carmen still work the vineyards daily. They also maintain a small finca of mixed agriculture, very common in Galicia, raising chickens, rabbits, pigs, and cultivating a sizable vegetable patch. The culmination of the family’s agrarian traditions manifested with the establishment of their adega, or winery, in 1991.
Before 1991, Pedro’s family produced small quantities of wine for their own consumption and sold their wine in garrafones -20 liter glass containers- to local cantinas. It was an enologist from León and soon to be a close family friend, Luis Buitrón, who was instrumental in the creation of the Ribeira Sacra D.O. and helped the Rodríguez family begin estate-bottling their wines. They named their winery Guímaro, which means “rebel” in Gallego, a nickname of Pedro’s grandfather. Guímaro was one of the first adegas to join the appellation in 1996.
In the beginning the wines were simple jovenes, young wines that showed the slate-infused freshness of lush red fruit and supple texture, the kind of wines the area of Amandi was known for. They continue that tradition with their un-oaked Tinto, an amazing value year in and year out.
In the early 2000’s Luis Buitrón introduced Pedro -who by then was in charge of his family estate– to the great winemaker Raúl Pérez of Bierzo. Raúl helped Pedro see the potential of his old vine holdings to produce profoundly expressive and age-worthy single plot wines. This led to significant improvements in the vineyard, such as reducing yields of the commonly over-cropped Mencía grape, eliminating chemicals in the vineyards, and paying attention to the different plots’ expositions, which greatly helps to preserve natural acidity in the grapes.
Old-fashioned winemaking methods were reclaimed as well: wild yeast fermentation, foot treading in open-top vessels, raspón (stems) inclusion, working with low sulfur, and aging in used barrels. This approach gives us Finca Meixemán, Finca Capeliños, and the new Finca Pombeiras, some of the most distinctive and age-worthy wines being produced today on the “Sacred Banks”.
Never resting on his laurels, Pedro is leading his estate to organic certification. He has undertaken a massive project of planting heirloom grape varieties at the highest elevations in Amandi. Grapes like Caiño, Merenzao (Trousseau), Souson, Albariño and Treixadura will soon be part of Pedro’s never-ending search for authenticity in his native land. With this ever-evolving approach, no doubt, the future is looking bright at Guímaro.
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