When it comes to winemaking, Xose-Lois Sebio is both an innovator and a traditionalist. Quite possibly one of the most knowledgeable winemakers in Ribeiro, Galicia, Xose-Lois draws from his extensive experience in both the theory and practice of winemaking. He was born and grew up in Vigo, Galicia, a coastal city in northwest Spain not far from where he now makes some of his Viños de Encostas. At the University of Ourense in Galicia, Xose-Lois completed a degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters in Oenology. He studied alongside some of Galicia’s greats and formed a strong bond with the entire winemaking community of the region, which he further solidified by working at various wineries in Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, and several other regions.
It was during his studies that he met Ricardo Carreira, the owner of Coto de Gomariz, one of Ribeiro’s top-rated wineries. In 2002, Xose-Lois began working with Ricardo and together they pushed the envelope; planting vineyards, bringing new wines to market, and completely revitalizing Coto de Gomariz. Together they modernized the winery and showed the world the true potential of Ribeiro wines.
In 2010 Xose-Lois began work on his personal project, Viños de Encostas. He became obsessed with the idea of creating honest wines with no makeup and a distinct personality. With Viños de Encostas (wines of the slopes), Xose-Lois focuses on forgotten locations, off the beaten path, areas that are difficult to cultivate, all the while practicing unusual winemaking techniques.
Of the 10 wines that comprise Viños de Encostas, some are traditional and others radically innovative, but they all display the finest aspects of the native grapes and their terroirs. The vines are low-yielding and costly to cultivate, which means they are anything but conventional. They are all small-batch wines, some of them cultivated organically, others biodynamically, and some more conventionally, depending on the location and the topography of each vineyard. Xose-Lois’ objective is to create wines that express the unique identities of Galicia’s native grape varieties and their terroirs. All of Xose-Lois’ wines are low-intervention, low-sulphur, and made without any unnatural additives.
93 Parker Points (2018 vintage) - Luis Gutiérrez Santo Domingo (Wine Advocate, Robert Parker)
The 2018 Salvaxe is now sold without appellation of origin, even if it's the same as previous vintages, a blend of local grapes from old vines in the Gomariz zone that finished fermenting in new and used 500-liter oak barrels, where it matured for 10 months, but didn't go through malolactic, which seems to be the way to keep the freshness when going with fully ripe grapes. This process delivers wines with a generous body and alcohol (close to 14%), a round and lush mouthfeel and some austerity and freshness to keep the balance. This should develop nicely in bottle. There were 2,818 bottles and 10 magnums produced, and it was bottled in September 2019. I tasted 2017 and 2015 next to it, and the wines are evolving at a slow pace, gaining aromatic complexity and polishing the palate, getting rid of the baby fat. I think they hit the sweet spot some five years after the harvest.