As we speak, the white
wine region of excellence in Galicia is D.O. Rías Baixas.
In fact, it’s more of a conglomerate of various
sub-regions, each contributing suggestive nuances. Rías
Baixas is made up of tiny vineyards nestled in the lower
hills and countryside along the southern inlets of the
Galicia, where the vines are mounted high up on stone
posts, kept safely away from the damp ground to avoid
mildew. Rías Baixas is the capital of albariño, possibly
Spain's most famous white in the world. It is an
outstanding wine. Extremely aromatic and silky smooth, it
seduces you from the very start. And to think that just a
handful of years ago, basically no one had even heard of
it. Now exports steadily increase with the coming of each
harvest. Albariño is essentially the only kind of wine
made there, but then again, with a grape like that, who
Rías Baixas might be the
current king, but you should know that the classic
Galician wine of yore was D.O. Ribeiro. The whites from
this region were synonymous with Galician seafood
gastronomy. They had a sort of turbid look to them which
everyone took as the "real thing", but apparently that
couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The muddied
appearance certainly didn't do anything for their quality.
Back then, the wine was drinkable, but a far cry from
exquisite. Nowadays, Ribeiro has cleared up that clouded
tint (in both senses of the word) and is producing some
fantastic wines at equally fantastic prices. They are
mostly blends of local varieties like Treixadura,
Torrontés or Loureira. Apart from being extremely
difficult to pronounce, these grapes make up a formidable
Crossing the colour line,
reds are another offer in Galicia. Many people, including
Spaniards themselves, would be surprised to find out that
there is a firm red wine tradition here too, especially in
the hilly inlands. Much less known, and perhaps a little
more inconsistent in quality, they are nonetheless another
of the many shades of red one can find in Spain.
The unrefined versions
can be darker than blood and tarter than a green apple.
The locals called in viño do país. But the reds made from
Mencía are an entirely different story. The grape variety
Mencía is said to be related to Cabernet Franc, though
there is discrepancy on the matter. Some of the best
mencías can be found in D.O. Ribeira Sacra. Ribeira Sacra
(“Holy River Banks”) gets its name from the monks who
settled along the river banks of the Sil River, but the
practice quite possibly goes back to Roman days. Very
aromatic and fruity in taste, mencías are almost always
sold as young wines. I like mencías a lot. There is
something about them that you can't find anywhere in
Spain. Then again, that is the wonder of Spanish wine: its
Just next door is D.O.
Valdeorras, which offers both reds and whites, but I would
say that it is the latter which holds the most promising
future. They are made from a local variety known as
Godello, and when they are good they are magnificent. Dry
and tasty, the characteristic that most impresses me is
its apply bouquet. The reds are made from Mencía, and
though nothing to turn away from, they haven't quite
reached the heights of the godellos.
Finally you have D.O.
Monterrei, which is a kind of separate region in all ways.
Small and unassuming, this land might easily have been
overlooked by the majority of the consumers had it not
been for one of its most famous producers: fashion
designer Roberto Verino. Verino sort of got into the
business as a hobby, but he and his brother have made a
contribution to the wines there that are reminiscent of
his clothes: class. Monterrei makes whites from Godello
and reds from a number of varieties.
A vinicultural visit to Galicia is a different experience for anyone. There is
plenty of variety and novelties for the senses.
Feature written by Brian
Murdock, author of the book "Let's
Open a Bottle". You can
contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.