Unexpected Spain: Discover the fresh, aromatic and surprising wines of Galicia

Adega AlgueriaThe rain in Spain falls mainly… in the North-West. The region of Galicia is not stereotypical Spain – its green rolling hills are more reminiscent of Ireland than they are of Madrid.

Nicknamed ‘Green Spain’, this region in the North-Western corner of the country has a cool, maritime climate with over 1,300mm of rainfall per year. This, combined with the 2,000 hours of sunshine it receives a year, creates humid conditions that allow for the lush green landscape to prosper, and for vines to flourish.

Indeed, the environment in Galicia is ideal for vine growing and the yields are unsurpassed anywhere else in Spain. However, quite like the landscape, the wines that are made here are not what you’d typically expect of Spanish wine. The region’s most popular wines are delicate and aromatic whites – a far cry from the intense reds of Rioja.

All about Albarino

The hero grape of the region, Albarino thrives in the humid climate and has become synonymous with the Rias Baixas sub-region on the South-Western coast of Galicia. Here, the vines are traditionally trained on pergolas: horizontal trellises that rise up to well above shoulder height. This allows for the ventilation of the vines, important in such a wet climate. But for the small farmers, who grow vines for themselves, the high canopy allows them to use every single last square foot of land – their vegetable gardens are often planted beneath.

Despite being practically unheard of until the late 1980s, an injection of funds transformed the Galician wine industry and Albarino has been growing in popularity in the UK. With a 43% value and 40% volume increase year on year (to November 2017), there is a growing thirst for this lively, aromatic white.

Bibendum wine buyer for Spain, Jamie Avenell, thinks there’s no stopping Albarino. “In this region, undoubtedly Albarino has been the star of the show, growing hugely in both volume and recognition . Given its crowd-pleasing, fruit-forward profile and crisp, refreshing acidity, it’s a trend that is unlikely to abate this year, with Galicia being one of the few regions in Spain to have had a good harvest in 2017, both in terms of quality and quantity.”

More to discover

But North-West Spain is about more than Albarino and the other indigenous white and red grapes have a lot of potential. Jamie explains, “North-West Spain has a treasure trove of varieties unique to the area – of which Godello and Mencia are the most significant. Red grape Mencia certainly deserves to be explored more; the wines are deliciously fragrant with a definite spicy element that gives them real character. Even better, these can be some of Spain’s best-value reds.”

The Ribeira Sacra region, further inland, has become famous for these varieties and also for their extreme and archaic winegrowing techniques. The vines grow on impossibly steep slate terraces, dating back to Roman times, meaning that the harvesting has to be done by hand. However, with improved drainage and maximum exposure to sunlight, the dizzying heights are absolutely worth it.

Rodrigo Mendez Vines

Our favourite Galician producers

A Coroa

A Coroa is a stunning winery in the heart of Valdeorras, built on the foundations of a Roman camp. Here the team create complex, elegant and intense examples of Godello, packed full of mature fruit flavours. The wines of A Coroa are full bodied, yet very fresh, with fantastic acidity.

Top pick: A Coroa Godello 2015


Adega Algueria

Located in Ribeira Sacra, the vineyards of Adega Algueira are set in impossibly-steep slate slopes, where it is only possible to pick the grapes by hand. Growing vines at such heights allow the winery to utilise biodynamic practices across its land, meaning the wines undergo minimum intervention.

Top pick: Adega Algueria Mencia 2016


Bodegas Castro Martin

Castro Martin is run by Angela Martin and her husband Andrew McCarthy in Rias Baixas, on Spain's Galician coast. The production of Albarino at this bodega can be traced back to 1887. However, the current cellars were constructed in 1982, before the D.O. of Rias Baixas was created.

Top pick: Bodegas Castro Martin Family Estate Selection Albarino 2015


Rodrigo Mendez

Rodrigo Mendez’s vineyards are not typical Galician vineyards: they’re hidden away up in the mountains, surrounded by pine forests. This isolation means that Rodrigo is able to farm using organic methods, as he does not have to worry about diseases, or pesticides drifting in from neighbouring vineyards.

Top pick: Rodrigo Mendez Cies Albarino 2015

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4th April 2018

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