I have met Iria a few times at fairs like Simplesmente of Porto (read a little more here). This summer we agreed on a visit on my way to Vigo and the nearby A Emoción fair. She makes wine in both Ríax Baixas and now also Ribeira Sacra, and they are excellent. But she is literally at home in Leiro, to where she moved with the family a few years ago, after having lived in Vigo and been commercial director of Dominio do Bibei.
When the time was right to make those important changes in life, she started with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. These are very stylish wines, both white and red. Here in Ribeiro Iria and her partner Miguel grow varieties like sousón, mencía, caíño tinto, treixadura and loureiro. They have one hectare on their own, and dispose of two more. Now Miguel is responsible for the work in the field. They are very clear that the vineyard they want is an organic one with little intervention, but with manual work when there is any, and chemicals are a non-existent issue. If the grapes are tasty in the vineyard, the chances for a good, balanced wine is there.
The project name “wines with memory” implies that she wants to show how they were made in the past, and also that the wines reflect the place they come from. She simply uses the time needed, and the respect that every variety requires.
Here is a lot of granite soil, with some slate and clay. They wines have a maritime character, even though we are not as close to the sea as her vineyards in Rías Baixas. This can maybe be because of the varieties, especially caíño can have a saline touch, and Iria thinks it’s maybe more pronounced in granite soil.
Castes Brancas is, as the name suggests, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, loureiro and torrontés. It was raised in concrete, where it stayed for 6 months.
A Seara Castes Brancas 2019 (Iria Otero)
Light golden; citric aroma, flowers, green apples and tasteful yellow plums, a bit herbal too; juicy and creamy in the mouth, vivid and energetic with a delisciuos natural acidity.
Food: We had it with a wide selection of dishes, some of them typical tapas, containing both vegetables, fish and sausages. But it goes well to a great variety of light meat, fish, shellfish…
Back in the magnificent Monastery of Oia on the coast of Galicia, I will take a look at some producers that were new to me, or that I didn’t know very well. Here I have only time and space to mention a few.
Adega do Ricón can be found in Arbo, otherwise known for the Galician-Portuguese speciality lamprea, that jawless fish that is not an eel, but swims in the Miño-Minho and is often cooked and served in its own blood, and not only during the festivals in honour of the fish. Albariños and other local wines are perfect with lamprea. We are now in the subzone of Condado do Tea of Rías Baixas, close to the Portuguese border. Adrián Ricón manages 1.6 hectares of vineyards organically. The vineyards are more than 30 years old and planted with many different local grapes, both white and red. Both their Do Ricón Blanco 2018 made from albariño, loureira, treixadura and godello, and the lees-aged Anne do Ricón 2017 (same grapes except for godello) must be good lamprea wines. The first made in steel; young, fresh style, with a good acidity to match, the latter richer, but still more than enough acidity. I also liked the Do Ricón Tinto 2018, made from sousón, mencía, caíño tinto, espadeiro and brancellao and fermented in steel and with a short stay in used French barriques. Light red; strawberry and raspberry; fresh and with a good fruit all the way.
Adega Torgo is found at A Cañiza in the outer limits of Ribeiro, towards Condado do Tea. They offer fascilities for holiday and leisure, in addition to their small wine business based on one hectare of albariño, loureira and treixadura. They are in conversion and will be certified organic from this year. They have an interesting sparkling albariño with 8 months on lees. And then there is the Torgo & Tal 2018, which is a 80% albariño, 20% loureira/treixadura, grown in sandy granitic soil. It’s kept on lees with some bâtonnage: Golden colour; aroma of mature apples; very fresh, with a vivacious acidity.
Antonio Miguez Amil and his Boas Vides may be a name to watch. The only wine I tasted was from the hot and dry 2017, but I liked it. He is located in S. Lourenzo da Pena, near Ribadavia. At present he has only one hectare, and many different local grapes were planted by himself in 2005 on a terrace of loam and sand. He practises organic and biodynamic farming, and average yield is as low as 20 hl/ha. The grapes were de-stemmed but not crushed, and the wine was made in stainless steel and plastic. Only natural yeasts were used, no additives, and only a small dose of sulphites. It was aged in two year old French oak 300L and 500L for 12 months, then another six months in inox. No fining nor filtration. A short tasting note: Quite dark in colour; dark and red fruits on the nose, some coffee; round tannins, some oak yes, but also with a very saline touch.
Zak Elfman is a man with a mission. He is American, but his mission to make wine started in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where he got training at Keermont Vineyards, then crossed the South Atlantic to Mendoza, Argentina – before he ended in Ribeira Sacra, where he finally set up his small venture called Mission, at present a mere 0.15 hectares. We are talking about low imprint natural wines. The bottles are lightweight. The wines are handmade through every step, from picking to packing. In fact when I lifted up a bottle after the airplane flight when I came home, the label fell off. So they are probably sustainable, and I will not be surprised if there is used a vegan-friendly glue. The grapes are stomped lightly and has had gentle punch downs. They are all aged in neutral French oak, unfined and unfiltered. I chose Mission Cantina Amandi (pink label) 2018: The wine was quite dark, a bit turbid; flowery, cherries, iodine, a bit rustic (earthy); very luscious and delicate in the mouth. I also tasted the 2019, that was less rustic, and a bit darker, as the grapes had matured better. But I liked both. On the third day, and when the temperature was rising, there arrived a slight hint of mousiness too. But don’t worry, this is already lovely, and when these wines are fine-tuned after a couple more years it will be just great. No reason to doubt it!
A Emoción dos Viños is now in its 10th edition. It is a fair for small artisan vintners held at the magnificent Real Mosteiro de Oia, with splendid views to the Atlantic Sea. This Cistercian monastery -near Baiona, roughly between the big city of Vigo and wine town A Guarda- can trace its history at least back to 1149, when king Alfonso VII of León and Castilla granted parts of today’s complex to the monks of Oia. The fair was held over two days. A novelty this year was not more than 35 wine producers on the first day, and 35 others on the second. And every possible coronavirus times precausion was taken, such as mandatory use of masques for both artisans and visitors.
Antonio Portela, himself wine producer, is head of the fair, together with wine merchant Marina Cruces. In this much too short report we will concentrate on the Galician wines, try to select one wine per producer (at least not all will be mentioned) – and why not start with the organizer. Antonio Portela has always impressed me with his wines, that really tell a story. I visited him last year and saw his beachfront vines, whites albariño, espadeiro blanco and loureiro, and reds tinta femia (caíño tinto), espadeiro, loureiro a.o. They always have a clearcut edge, a long curve, and a wonderful saline finish. The winery is located in Bueu on the Morrazo península, between the rías of Pontevedra and Vigo, just outside the Rías Baixas denomination.
His varietal tinta femia (Mar do) Namorado, an all-time favourite, now in its 2018 vintage, must be mentioned. It’s a low-extraction wine, full of red berry aromas (raspberry), herbs like thyme, and as mentioned above, with a long curve, lovely integrated acidity and saline finish. Along the same line was Viña Fazóa 2019, also a tinta femia, this one from three different municipalities, but the taste had close similarities to the more established brand. Aside of this I tasted a tinta femia-espadeiro, in the same vein as the Namorado, and also an interesting loureira tinta, both from 2018. The latter comes with a much darker colour, because of the character of that grape variety.
It was a nice oportunity for an update of other well-known producers from the region. Among these were Luís Anxo Rodríguez, who has a wide range of wines. I visited him in Ribeiro 7-8 years ago. Some of his wines are meant to last, and among the wines he had brought here were A Teixa 2017 (mainly treixadura with godello and albariño), a citric, creamy and a bit buttery white, still young. Even more so the Viña de Martín Escolma 2015 (treixadura, albariño, torrontés, lado), almost Central Burgundian in its rich citric, powerful, buttery oakiness (12 months in new French oak), 10-15 years before it reaches its prime, according to Luís. And this I can believe, because when I visited him he showed much older editions of the Escolma. For drinking now the Viña de Martín Os Pasás 2018 (80% treixadura, the rest albariño, torrontés and lado) was a better choice. Light yellow with some green, citric, chalky, a bit honeyed. In a way luscious and light, but also concentrated. Appealing.
Two other excellent Ribeiro producers were Iria Otero and Cume do Avia. Iria I visited one of the days before the fair and will publish a report. Both ranges were tasted at the Simplesmente Vinho fair in Porto in February this year (here is a summary), so the tasting here was done quickly. From Cume do Avia I tasted a wine in Vigo a couple of days before the fair. (Read about it here.)
Adega Vimbio of O Rosal are now taking steps to be fully organic, and can at the moment be dubbed sustainable. Low sulphur is a characteristic here. I have for long admired their varietal Albariño. It didn’t disappoint in the 2018 vintage either; apples, white flowers and a hint of spice. Splendid was the Baenis 2017 (after an old name for the river Miño), an albariño from a 0.5 ha. plot with poor clay soil. It’s whole-cluster pressed, and spends 6 months with bâtonnage, then another three or four on lees without stirring. There is minimal added sulphur here. It’s rich and tasty, with a slight feeling of sweetness, and with a super integrated acidity. On the nose it’s both herby and saline.
More over to the wild side, and well-known after numerous natural wine fairs, is La Pérdida of the village Larouco in Valdeorras. There Nacho González grows 4 hectares of vines on granite and clay at an elevation of 500 meters. The name pérdida (“lost”) derives from the vineyard of old garnacha tintorera that he inherited from his grandmother, and chose to restore in-stead of replant or sell. This marked the start of his winemaking career. He makes extensive use of tinajas (clay vessels) from expert maker Juan Padilla in La Mancha (see here), and very old oak. You will never find any oakiness in his wines, and sulphur is a word you would think he hasn’t heard of. Palomino is another grape that he favours, historically important to the region.
Malas Uvas 2019 was absolutely wonderful. It’s made mostly from palomino, but also doña blanca, two varieties not permitted in Valdeorras (hence the name “bad grapes”). It’s made in steel and tinaja, and got five days skin-maceration, then spent the winter on the lees. No fining, filtration nor addition of SO2. Yellow/greenish and cloudy; very flowery, with pears and minerals; a fine and light tannin, and a lovely cidery acidity. A Chaira 2019 was equally appealing, very natural and juicy, a doña blanca made in tinaja and inox. O Pando Orange is a wine I love, and very much so in the 2019 vintage. From a single vineyard godello, it’s fermented on skins for around 5 months in tinajas before being racked over to steel. This one has more colour, and there is a lot more tannin texture here; aromas of mature citrus (clementine), mature apples, white flowers and salt. It’s a white wine for everything from the grill. OK, I also have to mention the Proscrito 2019. This is made mostly with palomino with some garnacha tintorera, fermented in chestnut and oak, then finished in steel. The grapes are both white and red, thus the category is clarete. Light cherry red; aromas of strawberry, raspberry, orange peel; lightly textured, and a very appealing acidity.
I have had a special relation to Guímaro. Mostly because I have for a long time loved the wines. I visited Pedro Manuel Rodríguez back in 2012, and I was also his importer a couple of years. He is found in Sober in the Ribeira Sacra sub-region of Amandi, where he has 8 hectares of own vineyards at 350-550 meters on slate, granite and sand. He makes both red and white wines, entry-level blends and single plot wines. Just after this fair I had his Finca Meixemán at a restaurant in Madrid, about which you can read here. I have always been a fan of his basic red mencía. In most years, except for some of the hottest, the Guímaro Tinto, is an elegant, red berries fruity wine with some herbs, and with a mineral palate. 2019 is no exception. An interesting feature was Camiño Real, that Pedro brought in two vintages. The grapes are sourced form a 50 year old vineyard, is made with 80% mencía, the rest garnacha tintorera, and pressed with 60% whole bunches. The 2017 was one of the hot years. Here it showed dark, mature fruits, a hint of wood, also a bit vegetal; in the mouth it was quite potent, but also with a stimulating acidity. The 2018 on the other hand, was lighter in colour; it showed more red berries, and more of the saline, sea-breeze characteristics; very juicy in the mouth, and overall a more elegant style. A Ponte is also an “all-time” favourite (since its debut in 2015). It’s from an 80 year old vineyard of granite and slate, from the same slope as Meixemán, but on top (while the other is in the middle). The grapes are mencía, sousón, brancellao, merenzao and caiño tinto. It shows plenty of red fruits, also some balsamic, herbs, it’s quite structured, still with a bit oak, and would be perfect in a 3-5 years time, I would guess. Interesting was also Divina Clementia 2015, a wine in its optimum drinking point, according to Pedro. It was a bit developed, cherry coloured, with fine-grained tannins and still good acidity. And it would be unfair to leave without having mentioned the whites. Both the entry-level Guímaro Blanco 2019 and the Cepas Viejas 2018 deliver as expected. The first light, smooth and lovely immediate drinking, the other more yellow, a bit buttery, full, but still with good acidity.
Back soon for some (at least for me) lesser-known producers, then some from outside Galicia.
Melon de Bourgogne can be difficult to get to grips with. Not long ago there was a Muscadet tasting in my private wine club, and after having tasted through some 15 lightly coloured white wines one of the members observed that nobody had yet said a word about citrus.
The other day my student had trouble in describing this wine. And so had I, to be honest. I often start placing the aroma along the “apple scale”. Nothing obvious here. Citrus: Nope. Herbs and spices were difficult to detect, no butter, and wood: not at all. In the mouth it was quite full, but there was no particular acidity to talk about. I was thinking, maybe is this the perfect wine, when words… don’t come easy, but what you have in the glass is just delicious and, yes just wine, and just right.
In the Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine appellation mother and daughter Véronique & Aurore have 75 hectares of vineyards. The Château du Coing vineyard is a south-facing one. Then, it’s a lees-aged wine typical for the area.
Château du St. Coing de Saint Fiacre l’Ancestral 2015(Günther-Chéreau)
Straw yellow. Mature apples, some bread, white peach and maybe ginger. Full on the palate, a creamy lees character, medium length.
Here is a 100% monastrell from Murcia, certified organic and very good value.
This bodega, led by Alfonso J. García, takes pride in reducing the carbon imprint, a fact that also is shown by the light weight of the bottle. They are found in the center of Bullas town. Of 22 hectares of vine most is monastrell, with some petit verdot and tempranillo, and 3 ha. macabeo from which they elaborate a white wine with the same name as this one.
The grapes were dry-farmed in the Valle del Aceniche between 800 and 900 meters of altitude. It was fermented in inox tank, and has underwent a gentle extraction.
Salto del Usero 2018(Bodega Monastrell)
Bright red with violet hints. Forest fruits (blackberry), lickorice, some balsamic. Juicy, quite fresh and lightly textured in the mouth, a “cool” wine from a warm region.
Just before leaving Spain this time I had the chance to visit the wonderful wine bar-restaurant Angelita Madrid just off the Gran Vía. This is an all time favourite, but I realized that this post is the only one on these pages so far. They have a bodega with more than 500 references, and always some 50 on offer by the glass. Add to this a high level kitchen, moderate prices and a highly competent staff, and you understand that the place is recommended.
This time I started with an albariño from Meaño, Rías Baixas, Galicia. Altos de Cristimil 2018, from the bodega of the same name. It showed a light yellow colour with greenish tones; aroma of yellow apples, flowers and with a certain lees character; quite slender in the mouth, with a good acidity, a bit almondy and with a salty finish. Very appealing.
La Flamenca 2018 is a new project of Mario Rovira, of bodega Akilia in Bierzo. This is however in Alella, Catalunya, just north of Barcelona. It was listed under skin-contact wines, but the contact is limited with only five days of maceration with skins and two more days in spontanous fermentation after pressing – thus the light colour. 2018 is his first vintage here. Macabeu and pansa blanca are grown near the sea in granite soil. Aging was in ceramic egg, manzanilla barrel and steel tank. I would say the colour is light straw; a fine and discreet aroma with white flowers and lime; lightly textured, just a hint of peel, and with a salty finish. Really cool.
I tried Massuria 2009, a specialty in that it’s a developed red Bierzo wine. This dish however, called for something fresher. Guímaro Finca Meixemán 2017(Pedro Manuel Rodríguez) could provide that. It’s a single plot wine from the middle of a hill in the Amandi subregion of Ribeira Sacra. Dark colour with violet hints; despite a hot vintage the aroma is quite cool, with red berries and some balsamic, or herby, notes; super fruit in the mouth, a natural, integrated acidity, and just the faintest touch of barrel.
Valderiz 2016 was also tried, and is not bad at all. But I had already selected the Yotuel Selección 2015. The family bodega Gallego Zapatero is one of three in Ribera del Duero that Alsatian winemaker Sophie Kuhn was in charge of before she left a couple of years ago. From nine hectares in Anguix, Burgos province, they have a selection of wines, some of them single-plot wines. This is the quality between the entry-level wine and the single vineyard wines. It’s a varietal tinta del país (tempranillo) from two plots, both with more than sixty year old vines in bush training, grown in mainly clay and sandy soil. 2015 was a hot year with a short growth cycle. Fermentation was carried out in inox and concrete, and the 14 month ageing in French oak and concrete. Dark red with violet hints; aroma of forest fruits (blackberry), herbs (mint, rosemary) and pepper and some coffee,; it’s a potent wine, but the tannins are not overwhelming, and it has a good balance between the richness and the acidity, a hint of toast, and stylish in spite of 14%.
Last Friday I visited Rodrigo Méndez and Forjas del Salnés. We started in the precious Finca Genoveva in Barro and ended at a delightful restaurant A Curva in Portonovo, all in the province of Pontevedra.
Rodri is the nephew of another great producer, Gerardo Méndez of Do Ferreiro (that means “from the blacksmith” in gallego language), and Forjas (forges) de Salnés is named after the iron business that his grandfather had set up a long time ago.
Forjas del Salnés sources the wines from 7.5 hectares of vines in the villages of Meaño, Sanxenxo and Barro. Of these they own 4 hectares, the rest are rented from local growers. Genoveva is one of these. It is a 2 hectar farm in the municipality of Barro, and 1 hectar is planted. 70-80% is 200 years old albariño, and there is also caíño tinto and other red grapes. The caíño tinto grapes go into a single plot red wine without DO.
This wine is produced from the bicentenary albariño vines in sandy granite soil. It was fermented with whole clusters in big 2.500 liter oak foudres, and matured in them on lees for a year before bottling. Note: There is no oaky character in the wine. Other than that, minimal intervention is employed, no temperature control, only some SO2 when the grapes come in and later to block malolactic fermentation. Typical total amount is 20 mg, according to Rodri. Both 2017 and 18 were hot years, so the harvest was early (normally it’s late august).
Leirana Finca Genoveva Albariño 2018(Forjas del Salnés)
Straw yellow. Aroma of flowers, red apples, minerals. It has concentration of flavours, but is very balanced, fine-tuned and elegant, with a super, mature acidity and a saline finish. We have seen it more “wild” or edgy in previous vintages (such as 2015), but this is delicious.
Food: White fish, seafood (oysters, clams, pulpo), rice dishes, chicken and salads
I am back in Vigo for the Emoción dos Viños fair to be held this weekend a bit further down the coast. A stop at Malauva is then mandatory. (Read about my last visit here.)
This time Josiño first recommended Monte Pío 2019, a very nice Salnés albariño from the bodega of the same name. It had all the typicity intact, which means aromas of apple and citrus from indigenous yeast, low sulphur, creamy after long time on lees and a clean citric aftertaste. Then a very different albariño, biodynamically grown, from Alberto Nanclares, Soverribas 2015. It had very typical aged albariño character, at least from my experience. This includes mature apples that hints to oxidation, just hints!, nuts (direction almonds/hazelnuts), and full, glyceric, dry and long in the mouth.
Our wine of the week is a wonderful Atlantic style red from the Ribeiro area. Cume do Avia is the producer (also mentioned here), and it’s also the name of the highest hill in the Ribeiro subregion of Avia. It is Diego, Álvaro and Fito, all relatives, who are Cume do Avia. They come from a family of vignerons, and started for themselves in 2005. They went organic from the start, with some biodynamic practises. They count on 9 hectares with 13 autochthonous grape varieties in Eira dos Mouros.
The soil consists of clay, schist and granite, east facing, with good sun exposure and ventilation. In the cellar they use indigenous yeast, no filtration, clarification with gravity and only a small amount of sulphite before bottling. The reds are made with low extraction.
Dos Canotos Caíño Longo 17 (Cume do Avia)
Light cherry red. Fresh red fruits, slightly herby. Juicy, but concentrated, with lots of integrated natural acidity, traces of iodine, salt. It’s not powerful, but very long, and so full of energy!