André's Travel Log

Part 2, Castilla y Leon and Asturias
Part 3, Rioja and the Basque Country

January 2010: Part 1, Galicia

Starting a trip in Galicia is maybe not always the wisest thing to do...

Do Ferreiro

Do Ferreiro is always an amazing estate to visit. All things are on track and Gerardo is in top form as we taste over twelve separate sites vinified differently and, of course, harvested at different times. The 2009 vintage looks fabulous but is the vintage just that good or is Gerardo’s handy work the reason for the success?

What is clear in Rias Baixas is the lack of producers actually trying to make a differentiated product. If there are not several leaders in a region then its identity falters. That is where Rias Baixas is today. With the majority of wines being farmed solely for the output of a commercially satisfactory product we are unable to assess what is truly going on in the region.

In essence the vintage does look really strong with great fruit, crisp fresh acids and incredibly elegant presence. It is an indicator that the rest of the North of Spain has had a very good vintage but many areas remain to be evaluated.

Oh yes, starting in Galicia is not always the wisest thing. I usually end here but to mix it up we start here. It is the equivalent of listening to Beethoven's Symphony number nine backwards from one movement to the next in reverse order. The spread of food is outrageous and the amount of Albariño consumed is incredible. This is day one.

Summary: 2009 is a beautiful vintage with the regular Albariño being delicious, round and lengthy. Revisaca is extraordinary in its finesse and Cepas is, well, Cepas; deep and full of magic.

Emilio Rojo

What can one say about a man dedicated to the production of a single wine in an ancient area from ancient grapes? He isn’t here but fortunately he’s left the key for us. He is out of his mind about the 2009 and wow, no wonder. Expressive and deep already a grand expression of the terruño of Ribeiro. A summery couldn’t do this wine justice; my thoughts are only of when it will actually arrive and what it will look like over the next decade.

Viña Mein

Across the river is Viña Mein. A beautiful estate reinvented by one of the founding fathers of Galicia white wine. The 2009 is striking in it’s freshness and expressiveness. Certainly a resounding success. There is a reason why this estate excels and it is Javier Alén. Javier’s decision to replant on these Granite mountains over twenty years ago was certainly visionary. No one believed it reasonable or possible. And today it is a reality holding true to Javier’s vision.

D. Ventura

This is a focus of the trip and one that will entail two days of extensive travels throughout the region. I believe Ribeira Sacra to be one of the top areas for red wine production in Europe. After tasting the 2009 Viña Caneiro I am more convinced than ever that this is a very special place where in due time great and unique wines will emerge. We stop first to see the Burato (sub zone Miño) site. An unbelievable site, even if I have been here already more than a half a dozen times. The we visit the “flatter” vineyard Pena do Lobo (sub zone Amandi). It is only flat in the sense that is not at a 45 degree angle down to the river like the Caneiro. And then there is Caneiro (sub zone Doade); stunning in its intensity.

The wines are intense and multifaceted. Viña do Burato is lovely, perfumed and about the site; wet underbrush and vibrant brambly fruit. Peno do Lobo is electric and feminine; granite soils sing through its structure. Viña Caneiro is brooding, intense, savage and unearthly. We visited three sub zones and each one distinct, and now onto a fourth sub zone and the new project: Dominio do Bibei.

Dominio do Bibei

This is my first visit to Javier’s estate and it does not disappoint. Quiroga-Bibei is a striking sub zone like all the Ribeira Sacra sub zones but drier and harsher looking. Javier Dominguez’s is the mastermind of this crazy adventure to recapture a once grand vineyard. Old vines of Mencia, Brancallao, Granacha and Mouraton are mingled with new plantings from cuttings of these plants in addition to plantings of white grape varieties such as Doña Blanca, Godello and Albariño (cuttings from Do Ferreiro). The sites vary greatly because of the orientation of the plots. Javier’s vision of austerity and respect for the history is reflected in the winery and its simple design. Gravity rules. There are no stainless steel tanks; wood or cement are the vehicles of choice and they come in all the different sizes. The idea is to return to the past to rediscover what was once here. The 2009 whites are succulent and strikingly delicious while the reds are an adventure as well as a discovery process. These are unknown grapes that are striking in their originality.

Summary. After visiting four of the five sub zones it is no wonder we are all stunned by the beauty and greatness of this incredible lands the Romans called the Sacred Banks. These wines remind me of Burgundy and the Rhone at the same time.

A Coroa

A hop across the Bibei river and we find ourselves in Valdeorras at A Coroa. The vineyards are stunning rolling extensions overlooking the Sil. And then off to their new acquisition: a site at O Bolo where I once tried to acquire a property. This fantastic area, know as the Falcons Nest, is a mini Bowl with various orientations at very high elevations and are prone to frost. A Coroa has just bought a hectare in the prime south facing sweet spot. Full of old vines Godello, this is vineyard is bound for glory.

Summary: This winery excels every year and the 2009’s are no exception. The wines are complex and extremely well balanced.

Galicia is pure magic and the potential of this land has yet to be revealed. We are lucky to be explorers in a land so rich and multi-faceted.