Abadía da Cova Organic Mencía has a prominent place in the history of Adegas Moure for having been the first of our elaborations to obtain the EU organic product certificate. But its significance goes further: it went down in the annals of the history of viticulture in Galicia for being the third organic wine to be bottled in the community.
It was 2010. The organic wine market had not stopped growing since the beginning of the millennium and, while consumption grew, all the wine regions of the world increased the area devoted to its cultivation.
Or rather, all but one. In a small, peripheral and humid corner of southwestern Europe, winemakers were reluctant to move to the rhythm of the times …
One of the underlying issues that explain this resistance is the Galician weather. The high percentage of humidity makes it extremely difficult for winegrowers, who have to deal with fearsome pests without being able to resort to many of the phytosanitary products used in conventional viticulture. In addition, there are pests that become so strong that they can not only destroy the harvest, but also cause significant damage to the plantations.
It´s logical that not everyone is willing or able to take the risk.
Maintaining a "healthy" vineyard with sustainable methods involves performing the usual practices of aerating the soil, proper pruning, manual performance of all the work … But the ban on the use of systemic products, herbicides, pesticides and, in general, any chemical product, while taking care of the environment and the health of consumers, multiplies the uncertainty for the winegrower.
The phytosanitary treatments authorized for use in organic farming mainly contain sulfur and / or copper. The phytosanitary treatments authorized for use in organic farming mainly contain sulfur and / or copper. In a year in which the weather is not particularly adverse, it may be enough to use them as preventives. However, a year in which humidity spikes at key times is probably not enough to keep the harvest from being affected by pests and diseases.
Our project as winemakers sought and seeks to gradually reduce the impact on the environment and the negative effects on people's health, so it had been a few years since both the agricultural practices and the production processes had been adapted to the principles of sustainable agriculture.
All our vineyards are cared for in the same way. Pesticides and chemicals of any kind have long been eradicated in Adegas Moure. In fact, we had previously decided that the time to make an organic wine would come when we felt we were ready to face the challenge.
When that moment finally arrived, we faced the dilemma of continuing with the goal we had set for ourselves as winemakers or, on the contrary, putting on the business suit and postponing the decision while the activity had not yet settled in the community. And, as in Adegas Moure we have always liked to make our own way, we got down to work.
Of course, complying with the demanding EU regulations is not exactly the same as practicing sustainable viticulture.
The first complication was finding land that met the requirements, because to achieve certification it is not only necessary that products not authorized by organic farming are not used in the own vineyards, but it is also essential that the neighboring farms are free of these products. Or that there are no neighboring farms ...
In either case, the predominance of the smallholding as a form of distribution of the agricultural surface, especially in denominations of origin located in historically "humble" areas, such as the Ribeira Sacra, complicates, on the one hand, finding plots that meet the aforementioned requirements and, on the other hand, triggers production costs, both for "traditional" viticulture and for ecological or sustainable, which in itself tends to be more expensive for the viticulturist.
In the chosen vineyard, located about 450m above sea level, mencía vines of about 15 years grew, perfectly adapted to the place. This variety has the advantage of being especially resistant to inclement weather and dangerous pests.
Mencía was already present in several of our elaborations. A priori, the fundamental difference with any of these elaborations, lay in a mere formalism: while Abadía da Cova Mencía Ecológico would be added to the labeling the organic product seal, to the other elaborations, no. The care received, the products added during the different phases of the process, the tanks used for fermentation and storage in the cellar, are the same. Even the sulfur level, one of the most controversial issues in organic wines, is similar.
Therefore, the challenge had not ended when obtaining the seal: it needed to give it its own personality that would really differentiate it from the others.
So we decided to return to the origin, to the times when guarantee stamps were not necessary because everything was ecological and all the houses on the ribeira made toxic-free wines, because they did not exist. The grapes arrived at the winery in wicker baskets and, after being stepped on with relative delicacy by their future consumers, they rested on a large part of their lees until they reached alcoholic fermentation. All jobs were done manually and without haste.
This procedure gave rise to natural, unrefined, authentic wines. Like the people who made them. Wines that contained aromas that today are known as rustic and harsh and marked taste notes.
Abadía da Cova Mencía Ecológico had to be a tribute to the people who made and drank those wines. To all those who made the Ribeira Sacra throughout the centuries.
Today it wouldn´t be practical to use the methods of yesteryear. Technology, in addition to facilitating work, allows guaranteeing optimal sanitary and hygienic conditions.
The grapes arrive at the winery in the plastic boxes authorized for collection, go to the sheller and then, by gravity, are transported to the corresponding tanks. All the elaborations of our young reds begin like this.
The evocative qualities of those wines are acquired during the maceration process. Pumping over, more common because they favor homogenization, are replaced by punching (pigeage in French), which increase the structure of the wine and endow it with more rustic aromas or, as they say around here, enxebres.
The result is a wine that is balsamic on the nose, with a lot of presence of fresh red fruit, mountain herbs, spices ... and that has very good acidity in the mouth. It is an honest wine, without refinements, simple, but balanced and friendly.
Recognitions such as the 91 points awarded by the Peñín Guide 2018, the 92 points by Decanter 2019 and the Acio de Ouro received in the same year or the Gold by the Paadín Guide 2021, represent confirmation that we were right when in 2010, despite the uncertainty, we decided to chart our own path.
Each achievement of Abadía da Cova Mencía Ecológico is also a bit of those anonymous winemakers who were building the Ribeira Sacra without being aware of it. Those in which we are inspired to evolve as winemakers and build the future without losing sight of the past.