In July last year I was lucky enough to join friend and Spanish wine importer Lachlan barber on a trip to Galicia visiting the producers in his portfolio. These are producers I have absolutely loved for the past 5+ years so a chance to visit them was not to be missed.
I don’t feel the need to provide you with a recap of the whole trip but some of the takeaways from it help describe the wine we offer below.
Galicia is a spectacular place but the terrain is very difficult to farm. The slopes that run down to the river Xil are amongst the steepest of any wine region in the world, rivalled only by the Mosel in Germany, the Northern Rhone in France and perhaps the nearby Douro in Portugal. Viticulture here requires a lot of manual labour and historically, the market price for grapes and for local wine has been poor. As a result, viticulture in Galicia became largely neglected in the second half of the 20th century as more and more people sort an income in the bigger cities of Spain.
Today, a handful of producers are responsible for bringing the region back to its former glory. Working with old vines and native varieties, the producers outlined below are championing Galicia and showing the world what they can produce. And in the hands of good winemakers, the fruit grown here can create exceptional wines full of character and rich in a sense of place.
Mencia is the red grape of choice, but other local varieties including Bastardo (Trousseau/Merenzao), Garnacha Tinotrera (Alicante Bouchet) and Caino are also found and often make up small proportions of the wines. In regard to whites, varieties span Godello, Dona Branca, Albarino and more.
The region itself follows the Xil and its tributaries (notably the Bibei and Minho rivers) as it winds west towards the Atlantic. And wine styles shift considerably as you move from the more continental interior (around Valdeorras) through Ribeira Sacra and towards Rias Baixas. Most of the wines below are located in and around Ribeira Sacra.
In terms of style, the reds of Ribeira Sacra are often said to mix the prettiness and approachability of cru Beaujolais with a slightly fuller, more meaty example of Syrah from the Northern Rhone. And while some indeed show similarities to these sorts of wines, comparisons are limiting and for me, it can be safer and more respectful to think of these wines as unique reds from Spain’s wild North West. These are Galician and deserve their own time in the sun.
What I love about these wines is their approachability. They’re wines to be drunk. They don’t come with long-term drinking windows and scary price tags. Yes, prices have increased as the world catches on to their quality, but if you compare them to Burgundy, the value is clear and the level of enjoyment is very similar.
Finally, a word must be said about the producers themselves. While many of them are finally enjoying some time in the sun, it has taken many, many hours of hard work coupled with a long-term vision of bringing the attention of the wine world to their region. And while it is still early days, they seem to be on the right track.
To view the wines that we have available, follow these links: