Here at Verve Wine, we are always looking to shed light on lesser-known regions that are putting out insanely high quality bottles of wine for an exceptionally good price. This past year, I’ve been obsessed with the wines coming out of Galicia. The region is tucked away in Spain’s northwestern corner and is pretty different from the rest of the country. Unlike the stereotypical images that come to mind when picturing Spain (think sun-drenched days and scorching hot temperatures), Galicia is actually home to quite the opposite. Here, temperatures are rather chilly year-round, and the region has a significantly higher rainfall than the rest of the country. However, it’s Galicia’s extreme climate conditions, coupled with soil type, ocean proximity, and a slew of other factors that make this area and its wines so unique (and delicious).
As always, a bit of history first. Like most of Europe, Galicia’s viticultural history is rich. In the 1300s, the region was well known for exporting vine cuttings to other European growing areas. However, a few hundred years later, vine cultivation significantly decreased as vineyard workers and local inhabitants began moving to larger cities to find work. Many laborers immigrated to Portugal, where they helped construct the famed terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley. By the late 20th century, Spain joined the European Union and funding was provided to help reinvigorate Galicia’s winemaking industry. Today, the region is home to over 16,000 growers and 450-plus wineries spread across 10,000-plus hectares of land.
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about Galicia’s regional winemakers is because they truly care for their land and farm it in a highly responsible way. It’s not uncommon to find small vignerons working organically and biodynamically in the vineyard, which in turn produces healthy, high-quality fruit that translates to complex, terroir-driven juice in the glass. The producers I’ve chosen for this month’s TGT work across an array of regional appellations, yet all share this same responsible mentality toward viticulture.
Galicia is broken down into five major regions: Monterrei, Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro, and Valdeorras. Monterrei is located in the southern portion of Galicia and shares a border with Portugal. Rias Baixas is perhaps the region’s best known growing zone, and is known for its crisp, saline-tinged bottles of Albariño. Here, soils are mostly granitic, and the overall climate is pretty wet and humid. Ribeira Sacra sits more inland, and is best known for its dramatic terraced vineyards and top-quality red wines. Vineyards in Ribeiro are located along the Miño River. Wines produced here are fruit-forward, perfumed, and similar to those of Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, which is relatively close by. Galicia’s easternmost region, Valdeorras, is known for its Garnacha, Mencía, and Palomino production.
All of Galicia’s five major regions are highly influenced by its surrounding topography, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Miño River, and Serra dos Ancares mountain range.
Attempting to count the number of grape varieties cultivated in Galicia would be an exhausting task. The region’s most popular include Albariño, Godello, and Treixadura for whites, and Mencía, Garnacha, and Brancellao for reds. Although varietal bottlings are common in the region, most small vignerons tend to vinify field blends, produced from whatever fruit they have growing in their vineyards. Talk about artisanal local production!
I truly hope you enjoy discovering this viticulturally rich region as much as I have this past year. Big shout out to Jose Pastor, who has been importing and pioneering these insanely delicious and terroir-driven bottles for over a decade!
Dustin Wilson, Master Sommelier
Nanclares Albariño 'Dandelion' 2018
After years of working in their native Basque Country, Alberto Nanclares and his wife decided to settle in the seaside town of Castrelo, located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the famed Albariño producing region of Cambados. Alberto immediately began tending 2.5 hectares of pergola-trained vines with a quality over quantity mentality by implementing organic and biodynamic farming practices across his small estate. Today, Nanclares’ wines are regarded as some of the purest and most honest expressions of Albariño coming out of Spain, known for their precision, high acid, and ageworthiness. Fruit for Dandelion comes from multiple plots of 30 to 60-year-old vines rooted in granitic and sandy soils. The wine ferments with native yeasts and is aged in small tanks for about one year.
PAIRING IDEAS: This refreshing, high acid bottle of white shows flavors of tart citrus, lemon peel, and salty sea air. We recommend serving this wine with fresh salads or raw bar favorites.
Viña Somoza 'Neno' 2015
Viña Somoza was founded by Victor Fernan- dez back in 2001 with a goal to highlight the top-notch growing areas of Galicia. Fernandez brought renowned winemaker Javier Garcia (of 4 Monos) on board in 2015, and Garcia brought vivacity and meticulous winemaking to the cellar. Viña Somoza’s eight hectares of vines are currently farmed with a lutte raisonée approach, though they are in the process of being converted to organic viticulture. Fruit (Godello) for Neno comes from multiple plots of 30 to 40-year-old vines rooted into a variety of soils. Complex stone fruit flavors, bright acidity, and mineral-laced undertones gorgeously collide in this rich, yet balanced, bottle.
PAIRING IDEAS: The round, mouth-filling palate of this wine is balanced by thirst-quenching acidity and always leaves us salivating for more. Pair with rich seafood dishes, roasted poultry, or sweet & spicy chili.
Guímaro 'Camiño Real' Ribeira Sacra 2017
The steep vineyards of Ribeira Sacra are home to some of Spain’s most dramatic and picturesque vineyards that are perfect for growing top-quality fruit. Pedro Rodriguez and his family founded Guímaro back in 1991, and they’ve been cultivating south-facing vineyards organically for nearly three decades. The winery’s name, Guímaro, means ‘“rebel” in the local Gallego dialect an homage to Pedro’s grandfather. Camiño Real is a Mencia-dominant field blend rounded out with other native Galician varieties. Fruit is hand-harvested, spontaneously fermented with 100% whole clusters, and aged in used oak.
PAIRING IDEAS: This thirst-quenching red comes alive when served with pizza, pasta with red sauce, or burgers on the grill. Serve slightly chilled!
Luis Rodriguez 'A Torna Dos Pasas' 2016
Luis Rodrigeuz began cultivating vines in Ribeiro back in 1988 with the purpose of showing just how ageworthy and remarkable wines from the area can be. His production is focused on indigenous and near-extinct varieties, which are scattered over nearly 100 small vineyard plots. A Torna Dos Pasas is a Brancellao dominant (40%) blend rounded out with equal parts Caiño Redondo and Caiño Longo. Fruit ferments with native yeasts in steel vats and is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. The wine is savory and aromatic, dominated by fresh flavors of red fruit, pepper, violets, and earthy spice.
PAIRING IDEAS: The well-integrated tannins and bright acidity in this medium-bodied red pair perfectly with game, fatty fish dishes, and all things grilled. Don’t forget to serve slightly chilled!