We have just taken delivery of some great new Spanish wine from Galicia sourced from some relatively unknown DOs (Dominacion de Origen). Most wine enthusiasts will be familiar with wine from Galicia due to Albarino, which is without question, the most famous Galician wine.
Albarino is the main grape variety of the North West of the Iberian peninsula. It is best known from the region of Rias Baixas DO in Galicia, Spain but it also makes some great wines in Portugal in the Alto Minho region where it is known as Alvarinho. We also have a new Portuguese Alvarinho blend from the Alto Minho region. See below.
The new wines include one from the O Rosal sub-region of Rias Baixas DO, Ribeiro DO, Ribeira Sacra DO and Valdeorras DO. All of these are relatively unknown in the UK, but there are some real hidden gems and most are made from unusual Galician grape varieties. In recent years there has been a massive increase in the productivity and quality of wine from Galicia which has principally been driven by the international success of Albarino, but it is important to remember that Galicia is not a one trick pony!
White Wines from Galicia
The Portuguese one!
Leira Seca is a blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura grape varieties and is produced by Manuel da Rosa at Encostas de Paderne. Albarino best known from the region of Rias Baixas in Galicia, Spain but it also makes some great wines in Portugal in the Alto Minho region where it is known as Alvarinho. Albarino / Alvarinho has a very thick skin, this helps it to withstand the area’s particularly damp climate and contributes to its intense aromas and great acidity. Encostas de Paderne has 10 hectares of vineyards planted in 15 parcels on the slope of Paderne near Melgaco, in the Alto Minho. The vineyards are mainly situated along the banks of the Minho River, the natural border of Spain and northern Portugal. The vines are mostly over 20 years old, the climate has a strong Atlantic influence and the soil is predominantly sand over a granite base which gives great drainage.
Bioca is a range of wine from Galicia produced by Bodegas María Teresa Núñez Vega. The driving forces behind Bioca are Maria Teresa and Celestino Naveira. The Bioca range of wines is produced as DO Valdeorras (literally meaning “Valley of Gold”) located in the south western Galician province of Ourense. Valdeorras was created as a DO in 1945 with the aim of producing wine from Galicia using indigenous grape varieties like Godello and Mencia.
Bodegas María Teresa Núñez Vega was founded in 1954, but the first vintage released as Valdeorras DO was only in 2004. The vineyards for Bioca comprise some 4 hectares situated around the bodega and the vines are located on the well-draining, steep slopes of the streams of the Bioca Oliveda on the left bank of the river Sil. The valley is deep and fertile and the soils are a mixture of granite and slate and clay. The vineyards are also well sheltered which helps to protect from frost and hail. Valedeorras has a Mediterranean Continental climate, with Atlantic influence, and has cold winters, a mild autumn and spring and a warm summer. It also has one of the lowest rainfalls in Galicia. These are ideal conditions for growing Godello and Mencia grapes which form the base of the Bioca wines. In the vineyard the vines are grown on a low input, environmentally friendly basis. There is careful crop management – intense double guyot pruning and continual green harvesting helps to maintain low yields. All picking and grape selection is done by hand and the proximity of the Bodega means that the grapes arrive in best condition.
This is a 100% Godello which grows very well in Valdeorras DO. Godello produces wines of great freshness and elegance, some spicy, apricot character similar to Albarino but with a silkier mouth-feel rather like some Viogniers.
Pazo San José O Rosal, Rias Baixas DO
Pazo San José is a white wine from the Rias Baixas DO of Galicia. It is located in the O Rosal sub-region of Rias Baixas located in the south of the DO, along the Portuguese frontier in the basin of the river Miño (Minho). The vineyards here are planted on terraces on the banks of the Miño.
Pazo San José passed through various owners until, in 1902, it was acquired by the Lago family and it was where Arzobispo (Archbishop) Lago lived, who was one of the most emblematic figures of Galician culture. In 2000 the estate was bought by the current owners, the Espina family, with the plan to produce the best white wine in the O Rosal region. Since its inception, Pazo San José has been dedicated to improving quality at every step in the production of grapes and the wine-making processes whilst respecting the land using as few chemicals as possible. All this helps to ensure minimal impact on the land and the environment whilst producing wine of the highest quality.
Ribeiro DO is a Denominacio de Origen located in the North East of the province of Ourense in Galicia, North West Spain. It consists of the valleys formed by the rivers Mino, Arnoia, Avia and Barbantino and covers some 2685 hectares. The vineyards cover areas of varying altitudes, from 75 to 400 metres above sea level, in valleys and sometimes on very steep hillsides on the terraces known as “socalcos” or “bocarribeiras” that follow the contours of the hills. Ribeiro has a distinctive climate due to its sheltered position and location in southern Galicia. The area is well-protected from sub-Atlantic storms and enjoys an Oceanic-Mediterranean climate: it is damp with mild temperatures which allow grapes to fully ripen whilst preserving aroma and acidity.
Casal de Paula Blanco is a white wine from Galicia made in the Ribeiro DO. Casal de Paula Blanco is a blend of 70% Treixadura, 25% Torrontes, 10% Albarino and 10% Godello.
Red Wine from Galicia
Bioca Mencia is actually a blend of 85% Mencia and 15% Tempranillo and Garnacha Tinto. It has a very clean and bright colour. The nose is aromatic with good floral and fruity notes. The palate has good structure with well-balanced red fruit and a persisent finish. Mencia is the red wine from Galicia.
Casal de Paula Tinto is a blend of 25% Brencellao, 25% Ferron, 25% Mencia and 25% Souson. The wine is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. It has a red / violet colour. The nose is quite mineral with fruits of the forest, such as blackberries and strawberries, and stone fruits reminiscent of plums and cherries. The palate is broad, fleshy and round, with a long and pleasant aftertaste.
Guimaro wines are made by Pedro Guímaro, one of the rising stars of the Ribeira Sacra. He works the family’s steep terraced vineyards with his parents, Manolo and Carmen. Ribeira Sacra is a Denominacion de Origen for wines produced in the south of the province of Lugo and the north of the province of Ourense in Galicia, north west Spain.
The vineyards are mainly planted on the steep slopes of the valleys of the Mino and Sil rivers. Ribeira Sacra translates literally as “Sacred Shire” and the area acquired official DO status in 1997. Only three types of varietal wine are produced: red Mencia and white Albarino and Godello. The Guimaro bodega was built in the early part of the 20th century but was completely renewed in 1991 when Ribeira Sacra was being considered for becoming a DO.
In the sub-zone of Amandi, Pedro owns 7 hectares of vineyard and directly controls another 10 hectares. All of the vineyards are located in the steep canyons of the river Sil and Bebei. The steep slopes mean that the grapes have to be grown on hill side terraces, these stone walled terraces are good for heat retention and prevent the risk of the vines freezing at night, and also act as a good drainage system. The soils here are slate with granite and the vines have an average age of 40 years. Some of the slopes are 50 degrees or more and, during harvest, single-rail conveyers are used to transport the harvested grapes. Guimaro produces some of the finest Mencia wine from Galicia.