I love green wine regions. Galicia, the extreme region at the very tip of northwestern Spain has been an area that I have been highly interested in for many reasons. It is very green and I love really green regions because they are beautiful. Living in a city that tends to grey, white and black for the most part, thinking of beautiful, green places makes me happy. Drinking wines from those places makes me even happier.
Galicia is very remote, has a history of wine making since ancient times (which means sites of old vines with deep roots), a variety of slate, granite, sand and clay soils and has some of the greatest seafood in the world and all these factors create an environment where delicious wines are made. Writing my post last year on the wines of Rias Baixas, and most recently on albariño, familiarized me a bit with the region and its many rivers and tributaries and greenness. When Perman Wines offered a tasting night of wines from the region curated by Stephen Alexander of De Maison Selections, I signed up. For me, the next best thing to traveling to a beautiful wine region is to learn about and taste the wines and see pictures of the region.
Galicia is full of rivers, mountains, has Celtic and Roman origins ( according to Perman even some Blair-witchy places) and harbors stops as well as the endpoint ( Santiago de Compostela ) for the Camino de Santiago, a famous Christian pilgrimage route in the middle ages and continuing as a popular hiking root today.
For many years the region had been isolated from the rest of Spain due to wars, politics and geography. Galego, the native language is a mixture of Spanish, Portugese and Celtic. So the ancient grapes grown are a mix of indigenous and portugese grapes. The wines made all have unique characteristics. The producers we tasted were very small, use organic practices, tiny production and are some of the main figures behind the resurrection of some of these ancient varieties.
Rias Baixas has been the most visible of the 5 major wine zones of Galicia. Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei are the others. We ,also, tasted a few wines from Bierzo, a wine region right next door to Valdeorras and technically in the region of Castilla y Leon.
I’ve listed the wines we tried below. You can get all the details and technical specs from the links. I have noted snippets from my notes which are still pretty poor but I am trying to get better at wine-note taking. What happens is that I start to become engrossed in the conversation and the wine rather than the note taking. This evening had plenty of stories since both Craig and Stephen had visited the region many times over the years and we saw pictures of the gigantic octopus (pulpo) that the wine makers love to cook. Stephen even showed us pictures of the pulpo men. It seemed that each wine maker had their own expert at cooking pulpo.
2014 Do Ferreiro “Rebisaca” Rias Baixas 85% Albariño granite sand 15% Treixadura alluvial 9 months aged on lees Grown in the subzone of Salnes. Vine age 15-50 years, I like the albariño grape which tends to be high acid, notes of salinity with varying aromas and tastes of lemongrass and honeysuckle to orange blossom with an oyster shell minerality. I really liked the blending with the Treixadura. On the palate the wine had a rich taste and long finish.
Flight 1 2014 A Coroa “200 Cestos” Godello – Valdeorras Valdeorras (Valley of Gold) , granite parcel, single vineyard, wine made from only 200 baskets of grapes 100% godello Ancient grape I loved this wine It had hints of honeysuckle, linden and on the palate it was more savory and waxy than fruity with citrus peel and honey notes. Stephen described the godello grape as a child of grüner veltliner, chenin blanc and chardonnay. He recommended soft shell crab as a perfect pairing or even the very lean Galician beef. We tasted the 2014, it is aged 18-30 months in the bottle. The wine had enough structure and body that I could see it standung up to beef,.
2015 Viña Men”Eiras Altas”‘ – Ribeiro granite The vineyards are all located on the hillsides of the Avia river, a main trade route in ancient times. In researching the wine maker I found out he ,also, has a small inn. Eiras Altas is a blend of 70% Treixadura, 20% Loureira, and 10% Albariño sourced from separation of two blocks of higher elevation sites in the Gomariz and Mein Valley.
Flight 2 2015 Do Ferreiro Albariño Rias Baixas 100% Albariño Salnes subzone granite and sand This valley’s proximity to the ocean and protection by mountain ranges has gained it the reputation for being the best area in Rías Baixas for viticulture. Just delicious wine! (De Maison site)
2015 Do Ferreiro “Cepas Vellas” Albariño – Rias Baixas 100% Albariño Salnes granite and sand subzone This wine is made with 200 year old vines. Most vines cannot live that long. It was pretty amazing to taste wine made from vines that old. It is original rootstock since phyloxxera never took hold because there is so much sand in the soil.
Then we moved onto reds.
Flight 3 2014 D. Ventura “Viña Caneiro” – Ribera Sacra 100% Méncia granite soils Parallels were made to a Beaujolais cru wine. 350 cases produced This one to me had an aroma and taste of new oak but I realized that I was confusing new oak with the smell and taste of fresh mushrooms. It had high acid and a lot going on, we all agreed it needed a little more time to settle down.
2012 Dominio do Bibei “Lalama” – Ribeira Sacra slate, clay, granite This wine is a grape nerd’s dream wine, 90% Mencía, 10% blend of Brancellao, Mouratón, Sousón, and Garnacha. By this point of the tasting, after Craig and Stephen had gone through stories of the food and wine they had had while visiting the winemakers, everyone was on board to visit Galicia in the near future. This “Lalama” was very burgundianesque with notes of concentrated red fruit, a stony minerality and herbs. This was another one of my favorites.
Flight 4 2014 Viña Main “Tinto Atlantico” – Ribeiro granite This red wine is made from a blend of Caíño, Brancellao, and Souson from a small east-facing parcel of granite soils. This inaugural red shows the Atlantic nature of Ribeiro and the possibilities that exist for red grapes from the region. (De Maison site)
2013 José Antonio Garcia “Aries de Vendimia”Mencia de Valtuille – Bierzo clay, sand vines 80-100 years old Dense red fruit, the style very similar to a Rhone wine with a strong concentration of fruit. Interestingly, the wine is not topped off so it starts to develop a little flor.
Spontaneous pour Perman wine – 2000 Tilenus Pagos de Posada Mencia Bierzo This was a really fun one to try and thank you Craig! It did show how the mencia grape in this region, Bierzo can age. The wine still had a freshness but had those old wine notes of mushroom and black licorice, black cherry.
Finally, we tasted a orujo, a digestif, a pomace brandy made in the region from the pomace of albariño at Do Ferreiro. Digestifs are the perfect sip after a long meal, they work a lot better and taste better than Pepto-Bismol. In this case, the orujo was infused with herbs, primarily chamomile. Smelling it had the aroma of tequila but sipping it, it had a very soft finish and not that rough, gravel feeling in your throat like a mezcal.
Do Ferreiro Licor de Hierbas de Galicia Digestifs for me are definitely not something that I drink very much but at the end of certain meals they are perfect!
As usual, I have spent far too much time on this than really needed. It is fascinating to go down the paths of investigation on what I drank. These wines were really good and I have to say hearing the stories between Stephen and Craig even better. One more nook and cranny of the wine world to keep on your list to taste and check out! If you find yourself in a wine rut either a grape rut or a region rut, the region of Galicia is a great way to break out of it and these specific wines are some of the best of the best. Salud!