Galicia, in northwest Spain, has an illustrious viticultural past. So when Eli and crew visited in May 2017, it was to seek out the marvelous wines of the area, the people behind them, and the culture and traditions that make them unique.
Wine has a long history in this corner of the Iberian peninsula. More than 2,000 years ago, the Romans planted the first vineyards in the area. In the Middle Ages, nuns and monks populated hundreds of convents and abbeys where wine was made for both sacramental and commercial purposes. Pilgrims from all corners of Europe left seeds and cuttings of their local grapes to their hosts along the pilgrimage route known as El Camino de Santiago. By the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, wine production was at its peak, thanks to a flourishing trade with Britain.
Then disaster struck. The end of the nineteenth century brought the destructive pest philoxera and terrible wine blight, wiping out most of the vineyards. The Spanish Civil War in the 1930s destroyed what was left of the wine business. Most vineyards were abandoned, and wine was produced for little more than local consumption.
The past 30 years have seen a thrilling renaissance. In each of Galicia’s appellations (known in Spain as Denominación de Origen, destination of origin)—Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, Monterrei, Ribeira Sacra, and Valdeorras—an energetic generation of vignerons is recovering vineyards, rediscovering forgotten grape varietals, farming responsibly, and making wine in a more natural way.
The wines we tasted were expressions of both terroir and talent. In the Rias Baixas, whose vineyards are gardens by the sea, we visited Pazo Señorans, Alberto Nanclares, Adelga Pedralonga, and Forjas de Salnes. In the rolling hills of Ribeiro we found the distinct and elegant wines of Luis A. Rodriguez. Quinta da Muradella in Monterrei was a revelation, with sublime wines that are both intelligent and humble. In the dramatic geography of the Ribeira Sacra, with its steep hills and deep canyons, we met Envinate, Adelga Algueira, Guimaro, and Castro-Candaz.
We finished our visit in Bierzo, in the province of Castilla, where we met Raul Perez, one ofthe most influential vignerons in Spain.
Over the next few weeks we will feature some of the producers and share our impressions and tasting notes.