Why Galicia is worth a visit

As you know we visited Galicia recently. In the Rias Baixas, we went to visit Alberto Nanclares, one of only a handful of producers farming organically in this region. His Albariño’s possessed a stunning clarity, and gentle sea-salty pure fruit, that was far from the shrill acidity and sweet fruit of the big names. Alberto, a former economist, explained his own conversion to organic farming around 10 years ago; he was concerned about spraying chemicals on his door-step so he simply stopped. His workload increased considerably but he found that the resulting wines offered more depth of flavour and complexity as well as more ripeness of acidity.

We learned that like elsewhere in Galicia there had been a hugely successful wine export industry several centuries ago. Following war, phyllorexa and much emigration from what became an isolated and very poor region, winemaking was reliant on hybrids and the maladapted Palomino grape during the twentieth century. Then Spain entered the EU and funds arrived for the re-generation of the region, including the re-planting of Albariño. This is an almost rare instance where an indigenous grape has been blessed and re-planted to great effect. The wines are atypical of Spanish wine being white and high in acidity and full of fruit. They became a smash in Madrid and on the export market, albeit, s usual, the market was dominated by big brands working industrially.

From the Rias Baixas we drove inland to visit producers in the D.O.’s of Monterrei, Ribeiro, and Valdeorras. Ribeiro has the oldest fine wine tradition in Galicia. For, before the Spanish-English War of the sixteenth century, its red wine was one of the most highly prized imported wines to England, with prices higher than those of Bordeaux. We were fortunate to taste the extraordinary wines of Bernardo Estevez, who possesses 28 native varieties planted on 70 tiny plots or terraces on just three hectares, all farmed organically. His work is truly a deep labour of love for the land. He almost forgot to show us the wines, he was so rapt to show us plot after plot of his vines. Unfortunately Bernardo only produces around 6 to 12,000 bottles of wine depending on the year. We also tasted the excellent first wines of Bernardo’s friend and colleague, Antonio Míguez Amil.

Further inland is the winegrower whose wines are starting to wow foreign markets, Nacho Gonzalez of La Perdida. Nacho cites Bernardo as his teacher. Nacho produces incredibly fine and exciting wines from Godello, Dona Branca (called Doña Blanca in the rest of Spain), Palomino (which here inland and with Nacho’s care is lovely), Garnacha Tintorera (known as Alicante Bouschet in France, and much maligned there because it’s “difficult”), Sumoll, and Mencía, mostly in blends.

The D.O. Monterrei lies in a pocket of southern Galicia surrounded on three sides by Portugal. There we met the producer Xico de Mandín another student and friend of Nacho Gonzalez and Bernardo Estevez. He showed us very fine, pure, complex, delicious wines from blends of Dona Branca and Verdelho with a touch of Treixadura in white and in red from Tinto Amarello, Mencía, Bastardo, Sarodeo, Sousán and Samarrica.

They were just what we wanted to drink with the abundant seafood of the region and the wines that we’ve brought back to France with us taste every bit as thrilling here.

Few of these producers travel beyond their region, hesitate to show their treasures to the wider world for fear we will not be interested. We’re very interested. We see a bright future for native grape varieties farmed sustainably and vinified naturally.

リアス・バイシャスはここ30年で改革をした土地です。スペインがEUに加盟した1980年代後半の1988年にDOとして認定されました。それまではアルバリーニョ はこの土地の地品種だったにも関わらずこの土地にはパロミノが多く植えられていました。80年代にこの土地をアルバリーニョ のDOと定めマドリードから人気がつき世界各国に知れ渡るようになりました。

リアスバイシャスから内陸へ移動し、DOモンテレイ、DOリベイロ、DOヴァルデオラスに向かいました。DOリベイロはガリシアで最も古いワインの伝統があり、16世紀の英西戦争前、この土地の赤ワインはイングランドに高い評価をされボルドーワインよりも高く取引されていたそうです。我々が訪問をしたベルナルド・エステヴェスで素晴らしいワインを試飲しそれを実感しました。彼はわずか3ヘクタールの土地に70の小さな区域の畑を持ちこの土地の28種類の地ブドウを栽培しています。栽培はもちろんオーガニックでそれは土地に対する愛がなければ出来ない過酷な労働環境にあります。彼は我々にその情熱を持ってその畑と愛するブドウたちを見せてくれました。彼はワインはブドウが作るものであって自分はブドウにそれを任せるからブドウをしっかり作るだけだと言っていました。オーガニックと過酷な労働条件の中作りだされるワインはわずか年産で6000本から12000本しかありません。 もちろん天候次第ですが・・


DOモンテレイはポルトガルの国境で南ガリシアに位置します。ここで会った生産者もまたナチョとベルナルドの友人であり同志で素晴らしくピュアで綺麗なワインを造っています。品種はドーニャブランカとヴェルデホにトレイシャドゥーラのブレンド、、そして赤はティンと・アマレーリョ、メンシア、ベスタルド、ソロデオ、スサン・・・ 品種を考え出すと馴染みがなさすぎて難しく感じてしまいますがただ単純に素晴らしく澄んだ美味しいワインでまた飲みたいと思う味わいでした。彼らのワインは今急速に注目を浴びてきています。 単なるナチュラルワインのブームに乗ったものではなく、きちんとした本物の味わいなのです。

ガリシア=アルバリーニョ =魚介に合うワインというフレーズだけではなく土地のワインと生産者たちの熱意をもっと紹介していきたいと考えています。