I love Rodri Mendez. Well, I love his wines, OK? I was recently talking with my good friend Beti about wines (what else) and we arrived to the topic that in some wine regions in Spain they call “author wine”. There are wineries producing a young red wine, then one with a bit of ageing in oak, then the Crianza, the Reserva and the Gran Reserva. At the top of this pyramid there is still another wine that many wineries call an “author’s wine” and in some cases it is just an excuse for charging you with more dollars for yet another wine. Yes, this one is more special than the others, coming either from a particular plot, a particular blend or just producing a handful of bottles. But its author is the same as the other wines, so that naming lacks a bit of content for me.
In our conversation we commented that an “author’s wine” must be a wine you refer to by the name of its producer, because he is the one producing this wine. Then you add the name of the wine, something as you do when buying a book: ‘Hey, do you have Moby Dick? Herman Melville’s book?’ Same here: ‘I would like to have a Rodri Mendez’s wine. Do you have O Raio da Vella?’ And that’s where we got to talk about “authors.” I also brought up this topic with a group of friends and it was pretty cool. Friends I have lunch, dinner or tastings with, who have more or less this same criteria. Of course, none of them, not even me, refuse to drink one of those wines I was talking about at the beginning, but at least in my case, my preferences go in the direction of drinking a wine whose producer I know.
These steps took me to these lines. I think I have already commented on this issue on some occasion, so now we will go a bit deeper on it. For the record, to identify which authors or producers I favor, the most important thing is having tasted many wines and many vintages. If not, there is not a body of work to choose from. It is not worth saying that this producer is your favorite because that 2010 that you tried the last New Year’s Eve was fabulous. Same thing if you have only taste eight or ten of his wines in a tasting (well yes, I do tastings with more than six wines). I require to have at least tasted everything or almost everything they do and also several vintages of almost each wine they do.
Under that premise, and speaking exclusively of Spanish producers, I have created a somewhat special podium. The first place is occupied ex aequo by three winemakers. We have already spoken about Ricard Pasanau and also conducted an interview with him in my other website www.miamigoelvino.com. Ricard is a great producer from Priorat whose wines have fascinated me for almost twenty years. Finca La Planeta is the wine I have most tasted, practically every vintage except perhaps one or two, but it is still a work in progress. Everything I’ve tasted of El Vell Coster is a luxury, as well as Los Torrents, with just seven years of history, or the incredible Les Myriams/Dànae, whose 1998 is one of the best white wines I’ve ever tasted. La Morera de Montsant has mythical vintages, such as 2003, 2006 or 2012, and Ceps Nous is a blast when it is made without oak ageing, such as 2017.
David Sampedro shares that first place of my podium. Everything I have tried of his work also drives me nuts. All of his Rioja’s Phinca reds are frankly good; his whites Rías Baixas, especially the one aged in oak for two years, Costa de Santa Mariña, is a wonderful wine. Phinca Durmiente, the Rufete Blanco of the Sierra de Salamanca is amazing. The Rioja whites are unbelievable; I’m dying for them. Thousand Mils is a great wine and Phinca La Revilla, well; there are no words to express the way this wine makes me feel. And then David shows up with an unlabeled bottle of a white wine that he is doing as an experiment and I would buy all the bottles he would make of this wine. No questions asked.
Finally, and the reason for writing these lines today, the third person sharing the first place of my particular podium is Rodri Méndez. I have tried many of his wines and also many vintages. Rodri makes wine in Forjas del Salnés, a winery located in Rías Baixas where he produces different labels: Goliardo is a series of red single-varietal wines elaborated with native varieties (Espadeiro, Loureiro, Caíño). Using Albariño, there is a white Goliardo called A Telleira, and then we also have Leirana Albariño, Genoveva, María Luisa Lázaro, Cos Pés, A Escusa, among others.
Under his own name on the label (Rodrigo Méndez and also Rodrigo Méndez Bodegas y Viñedos) he produces Cíes (white and red), O Santo Do Mar (white and red), O Raio da Vella (white and red), Tras da Canda(white and red) and also Bastiónde la Luna and Sálvora, all of them in Rías Baixas.
El Barrero is a red wine made in El Bierzo using Pinot Noir and Mencía. Then, along with Raúl Pérez, he also produces As Covas in Rías Baixas, a fabulous and rather special single-varietal Pinot Noir.
Rodri produces many more things, but for the sake of this article, the mentioned wines will be enough. What is of interest here, at least to me, is that the wines I have tasted of his have always made me enjoy a lot. And destiny has led me to be lucky enough to get in touch with Tensi López from Vigo, who has recommended me and provided me with some of Rodri’s hidden treasures and vintages that made me discover a new world.
Giacomo told me once that I should talk about wines, express what they make me feel. Let’s see if I get it done. If I had to choose my preferred Rodri’s wines, I would start with the white wines, which on the other hand are the ones I treasure most. Among them, (though I like them all) I remain faithful to Cos Pés, a wonderful orange wine made with Albariño. Depending on the vintage, it takes more or less time of maceration with the skins but in cases it has reached up to two months. It is one of those wines that make me put my left elbow on the table (I am right-handed), lay my head on my left hand, while with the right hand, I dedicate myself to smell the glass and taste it sip by sip. Smell, sip, smell, sip, if possible without removing the nose from the glass and trying to block any external interruptions, such as sounds or conversations.
Cos Pés is a great wine that, along with David’s La Revilla, sits atop of the best orange wines in Spain.
María Luisa Lázaro is another incredible wine. Five years of aging for this Albariño that we are enjoying now the 2013 vintage. We have had to wait a long time to taste this wine, since the previous vintage was 2005. This wine is a silky experience, with an elegant body and complexity, intensity and aromatic. A fine experience.
O Raio da Vella and O Santo do Mar are also wonderful Albariños with a limited production. The best buy whites are Leirana Albariño and Cies, wines that even though they are very affordable, they will make you enjoy a lot. Rodri, incidentally, is the guilty part of my beginning to enjoy Albariño wines, since virtually everything I had tried before, save for a few exceptions, smelled of pineapple juice, and that’s something I cannot stand.
Among Rodri’s red wines, I will settle with El Barredo and As Covas. I enjoyed a bottle of As Covas 2017 with Giacomo this last Christmas that was amazing. I have enjoyed 2010, 2013 and 2015 of El Barredo. Goliardo are also another wonder, with a very cool rustic character. The Caíño is brutal, with 2010, 2014 and another unidentified under my belt. I have also tasted Espadeiro 2009, 2010 and 2014. Another beautiful wine.
Because all these wines and vintages, I consider David, Ricard and Rodri (in no particular order) my favorite Spanish authors. I always know that a wine of theirs is going to be a sensorial pleasure and also, what the hell, very enjoyable. That’s the reason we drink wine: to share and enjoy them.
Before wrapping up these lines, I also want to name other wine authors that I like very much, though unfortunately I have not yet been able to try many labels or many vintages. As I said, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I do not consider these authors of a lower than the previous ones, but I have not tried as many of his wines as of the three mentioned above. I have an enormous respect for their work.
In the second echelon of my podium, also ex aequo, I have Sara Pérez, Melanie Hickman, Javier Arizcuren, Orly Lumbreras, Daniel Ramos, Teo Legido, Raúl Pérez, Juan Piqueras and Pepe Mendoza. And I don’t want to forget Juanjo Moreno.
The third place on my podium would be for those of whom I have tried around five or six wines but who have a style that I like very much. Here there are many more authors than in the two previous places. Any of them could be higher, there is only one reason for this place: I have not tried enough of their wines yet. I intend to do so. Since this category is open for many producers, I will only mention a few whose wines made me experience a lot of emotions: Laura Lorenzo, Germán Blanco, Marcial Dorado, Rafa López, Alberto Nanclares, José Crusat, Rubén Salamanca, Goyo García Viadero, Pepe Raventós, René Barbier, Juan Carlos Sancha, among others.
All of them are people who give me the required guarantees to order a wine that I haven’t tasted beforehand. Just because they are all authors of great wines, or if you prefer, authors of wines that have made me and will make me enjoy the experience of drinking and sharing them. Because there is a source from which a little happiness comes, and that is to share their wines with my family and my friends.