Galicia is located in northwest Spain, just north of Portugal and east of the Atlantic Ocean. It includes five wine appellations (Denominacion de Origen, or D.O.): Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and Monterrei. Red wines are made in all five, especially in the latter three, which are located furthest inland. In this article we review several very good, interesting and little known red wines from Galicia. For more on the wines of northwest Spain see our recently published reports on The Wines of Bierzo and Rias Baixas: Albariño and More.
The red grape varieties of Galicia are unfamiliar to most wine consumers. The best known is Mencia, the principal grape variety of Bierzo, a DO which lies just to the east of Galicia. It’s also the most important red grape variety of the Valdeorras DO, which is adjacent to Bierzo. Other important red varieties in Galicia include Brancellao, Caiño Tinto, Sousón, and Espadeiro. These varieties are briefly described at the end of this article. More on Galicia’s DO’s can be found on the websites www.turismo.gal, www.myguidegalicia.com and www.Spanish-wines.org
Wineries and Wines
Pazo das Tapias This winery was established in 2006 when the Mendez family bought the Las Tapias winery and its 10 ha vineyard, which was planted to Mencia and Godello in 1970. Grapes are also purchased from over 60 growers. Importers: Casa Ventura Imports, T Edward Wines, Ole & Obrigado.
Adega Pazo das Tapias 2018 Finca os Cobates Mencia Cepas Viejas Monterrei ($38) 94 Medium ruby with a splash of violet. This is a superb Mencia with excellent complexity and depth! Very fragrant with gamey black fruit complemented by anise and meaty bacon accents like a Northern Rhone Syrah. It has a mineral-like character with additional saline and resiny notes and fine tannins. One of the more elegant Mencias we’ve tasted.
Alberto Orte Espejo is a talented Spanish winemaker who handcrafts unique wines from Spain’s indigenous grape varieties. The grapes are primarily sourced from low yielding old vines grown in exceptional sites often at high altitudes. Orte’s wines include rare grape varieties like Tintilla, Merenzao, and Brancellao as well as better known ones like Mencia and Palomino. Born in Madrid, Orte now lives in El Puerto de Santa Maria (Cadiz) with his family. See our earlier comprehensive review of his wines on the IWR blog. Importer: Ole & Obrigado
Alberto Orte 2015 A Portela Valdeorras ($28) 92 The A Portela is 100% Mencia. Medium dark red in color, it offers aromas of wild cherry with hints of earth and tobacco. Cultivated at high elevation, it displays a silky mouth feel, vibrant acidity, good depth of flavor and a long finish. Alberto Orte 2016 Escalada Do Bibei Valdeorras ($71) 94 The Escalada Do Bibei is a superb blend of Mencia, Merenzao and Brancellao. Medium ruby in color, it displays a lovely nose of red raspberry. plum and cranberry. It is bright on the attack with a silky mouth feel and complex flavors of red berry, pungent herbs and underbrush. It has excellent concentration of flavor of the palate, firm tannins, excellent persistence and freshness with vibrant acidity on the finish. Still a young wine with a great future. Alberto Orte 2016 Escalada do Sil Valdeorras ($49) 93 The Escala Do Sil displays a medium ruby purple robe and offers a bouquet of red fruit complemented by earth and herbs. It is light and silky on the palate showing lovely purity and depth and intensity of flavor. It displays vibrant acidty, freshness and good length. A winner made of Merenzao, Mencia and Garnacha.
Avancia (Valdeorras) This is Jorge Ordoñez’ personal project consisting of about 10 ha of organically cultivated, dry farmed vineyards. The vineyards are 50-80 year old, hand cultivated, head trained vineyards of slate and quartz soils at 550-650m overlooking the Sil River. Importer: Jorge Ordoñez Fine Wine Estates, Europvin, Peninsula Wines.
Avancia 2016 Cuvée de O Mencia Valdeorras ($48) 92 Made from the fruit of dry farmed, organically cultivated vines of 30+ years of age, the Cuvée de O Mencia offers fresh and dried fruit aromas with notes of vanilla and baking spice. Medium plus weight palate with darker fruit complemented by notes of black olive, earth, and underbrush with good acidity and firm tannins. Shows the more Southern Rhone Syrah side of Mencia. Made with ambient yeasts in small INOX fermenters and aged in French oak for 8 months. 13% alc.
Casal de Armán is a family owned winery with 20 hectares of its own vineyards in the historic valley of the Avia River in the Ribeiro Denominación de Orígen (DO) in Galicia. The vineyards are terraced with heights ranging from 650-1500 feet above sea level including 100-year-old, abandoned terraced vineyards, which the family is in the process of recovering. With granite-based sábrego and schist soils, the vineyards are dedicated to cultivating indigenous varietals including white varieties, Treixadura principally, Godello, Albariño, Loureiro and also reds, Brancellao, Caiño Longo and Souson. The grapes are handpicked and 100% of their wines are estate fruit. Felicísimo Pereira, the new Ribeiro Appellation’s president and Javier González Vázquez are the winemakers at Casal de Armán. See our earlier review of the full Casal de Armán portfolio on the IWR blog. Importer: Think Global LLC
Casal de Armán 2018 Eira dos Mouros Ribeiro (Avia Valley) ($16) 90 An original red blend of varieties indigenous to Galicia, this is a delicious everyday drinking wine. There’s good dark red fruit that evokes huckleberry, plum and dark berries with a light earthy note. Fresh tasting with good balance, bright acidity, and lingering flavors on the finish. A blend of 50% Sousón, 40% Caiño Longo, and 10% Brancellao, whole bunch cold soaked and matured in stainless steel for 11 months. 12.5% alc Casal de Armán 2018 Viña Tinto Ribeiro ($25) 91 This blend of autochthonous Galician grape varieties is delightfully fresh with loads of berry and cherry fruit complemented by light herbal and mineral notes. It has good balancing acidity and a long, flavorful finish. Made of equal parts Brancellao, Sousón, and Caiño Longo grown in estate vineyards aged 11 months in stainless steel tanks. 13.5% alc.
Compania de Vinos del Atlantico 2015 Escalada do Sil Valdeorras ($18) 92 Garnet tinged ruby. The bouquet shows strawberry-cherry, violet and graphite scents. Firmly structured but generously flavored with distinctive earthy/gamey and spice notes. Complex, unique and delicious. A true vin de terroir! From a steeply sloped vineyard at 500-750m elevation, planted in 1993 on granite and light clay sands. Whole cluster fermented and aged in 5 hl tonneau for 15 months. A blend of 60% Merenzao (Trousseau), 30% Mencia, and 10% Garnacha Tintorera. Escalada do Sil is another of Alberto Orte’s projects. Importer: Ole & Obrigado, Winebow
Fedellos de Couto (Ribeira Sacra) Luis Taboada, the owner of north and east facing vineyards in Ribeira Sacra, teamed up with winemakers Curro Bareño and Jesús Olivares, the team behind Ronsel do Sil, to create this winery with its minimalist winemaking. Although located within the boundaries of Ribeira Sacra, the winery does not use the appellation name. Importer: European Cellars
Fedellos do Couto 2018 Cortezada Ribeira Sacra 90 Showing a fresh red fruited nose, this is a very lively wine, almost spritzy on the attack, and showing bright, fresh raspberry and Montmorency cherry. Simple but delicious; dry with crisp acidity and very long. Hand harvested 100% Mencia grown in sandy schist soils, whole cluster, macerated 40-60 days and aged in cement tank, foudre and neutral French oak. 13% alc
Fento 2018 Tinto Rias Baixas 92 Medium ruby red showing a spicy, dark red fruited nose. The palate is layered and silky smooth with excellent depth of dark red fruit. Outstanding balance and freshness. Founded in 2012, Fento is the personal joint venture of famed winemaker Eulogio Pomares of Bodegas Zarate and his wife Rebeca Montero. A blend of 69% Sousón, 13% Mencía, 9% Espadeiro, 8% Pedral, 1% others. 12% alc.
Importer: Bonhomie Wine Imports
Fragas do Lecer (Monterrei) This winery owned by the Boo-Rivero Family dates from 2005 and has 19 ha of organically cultivated vineyards in 28 different parcels. Some of its Godello vineyards are over 50 years of age. Importer: Think Global LLC, David Bowler
Fragas do Lecer 2018 Fraga do Corvo Mencía Monterrei ($20) 91 Medium ruby with a touch of violet. This is a youthful wine showing wild berry, violet, and cassis on a delicate bouquet. Restrained on a medium bodied palate with berry flavors and a touch smoked meat on the finish. There’s good fresh, acidity and a polished, balanced finish. Grown in granite-based, sandy soils, fermented in French oak and matured in stainless with a portion aged 7 months in oak barrels.
Quinta da Muradella José Luis Mateo is one of Spain’s very special winemakers. He crafts authentic wines from unique terroir in Galicia using indigenous varieties, including ones he has discovered and rescued from abandoned mountain vineyards. He is one of those rarities in the winemaking world, a pioneering spirit always experimenting with ways to improve his vineyards and his wines and concerned about recovering his region’s vinous past. He farms 20 hectares of organically certified vineyards in the tiny Monterrei appellation in Spain’s Galicia wine region, located just north of the border with Portugal. His vineyards are in 23 different parcels with different soils, altitudes and exposures, giving him a rich palette from which to craft his unique, authentic wines. See our earlier review of Quinta da Muradella on the IWR blog. His US importer is Ole & Obrigado.
Quinta da Muradella 2016 Alanda Tinto Monterrei ($39) 93 Reticent nose but balanced and elegant on a mouth filling, herbal inflected palate of integrated flavors with hints of black licorice, bay leaf and red fruit. Superbly balanced and seamless in character with a polished texture. Finishes long with fine tannins. A blend of 65% Mencia, 30% Bastardo, 5% Garnacha Tintorera. 13% alc. Quinta da Muradella 2012 Fisterra Tinto Monterrei ($114) 94 Showing smoky, dark red fruit on the nose, this is a mouthfilling wine with a velvet like texture. Shows almond tinged red cherry fruit on a layered, elegant palate. Amazingly youthful for an 8 year old wine. Made of Brancellao, Caiño da Terra, Souson, Bastardo and Caiño Redondo varieties from 17 hectares of steeply sloped vineyards that were abandoned because they were so difficult to work. 12.5% alc. Quinta da Muradella 2015 Gorvia Tinto Monterrei ($64) 93+ Violet hue. A beautiful, silky textured wine of lovely depth and purity. Shows dark cherry with touches of bay leaf, graphite, and vanilla oak. Medium plus acidity and a mineral like finish. A blend of 90% Mencia, 5% Bastardo, 5% Caiño Redondo. Aged for 14 months in 228-liter French oak barrels that are 1-2 years old. 13% alc. Quinta da Muradella 2013 Viticultura de Montaña Monterrei ($114) 93 An aromatic and refined wine that offers a silky textured palate and a rich, extracted finish. Shows rose petals on the nose with a strong sense of minerality on the palate along with fresh red fruit. Long, long finish. Made of Bastardo, Mencía, Mouratón, Garnacha Tintorera, Doña Blanca and Gran Negro grown in high elevation (460-700m) mountain vineyards; fermented in open oak vats with ambient yeast and a high percentage (60%+) of whole clusters . Matured in oak barriques. 12.5% alc.
The Bodega Virgen del Galir was founded in 2002 in a small village crossed by the Camino de Santiago in the Galir Valley. It has 20 ha of terraced vineyards located in several parcels at about 600m elevation with decomposed schist soils. Importer: Arano LLC, Casa Ventura
Virgen del Galir 2016 Pagos del Galir Mencia Valdeorras ($16) 90+ This very flavorful Mencia reveals an intense blue tinged ruby color and a lightly spicy, berry nose with hints of cinnamon and cardamon. Shows medium weight on the palate with supple flavors and low tannins in an easy to drink style. Delicious and an outstanding value. Made from fruit grown in high altitude (600m +), steeply sloped vineyards. Fermented with ambient yeasts and matured 10 months in oak barrels.
Zarate (Val do Salnés) The Zarate estate was founded in 1707 on the lower reaches of the Umia River. Today, 7th generation Eulogio Pomares is at the helm of this historic winery. In addition to Albariño, he has been instrumental in the recovery of the region’s once dominant red varieties. Eulogio farms Rias Baixas’ oldest documented Albariño vineyard—the pre-phylloxera El Palomar planted in 1850. His farming is biodynamic, and all new plantings are massale selections from the estate’s oldest vines. Fermentations are done with indigenous yeasts. US Importers: Rare Wine Co., Polaner
Zarate 2019 Tinto Fontecon Rias Baixas (Val do Salnes) ($40) 93 This single vineyard red wine from Rias Baixas is very very good. It reveals red berries, plum, and pomegranate aromas and flavors and is wonderfully silky smooth and long on the palate. Very fresh with good acidity, it also has a light spicy note. A blend of 70% Caiño and 30% Espadeiro.
ANNEX: THE RED VARIETIES OF GALICIA
Caiño Tinto is a dark skinned, late ripening variety that contributes fragrance and structure to red blends. It has very thick skins that contribute color and tannins to wines. As of 2015, there were 361 ha growing in Spain.
Sousón is a drought resistant vine that produces small, blue-black thin-skinned berries with a juicy flesh. Wines made from the grape are relatively high in acidity and intensely red colored. Black fruits like blackberry and cassis show on the palate. It has an excellent ability to age in oak. It’s the same as the Portuguese variety Vinhão. Spain has about 347 ha of the variety.
Loureira Tinta, also known as Loureiro Tinto, is a rare red wine grape native to Galicia. In Portugal, it’s known as Vinhão. It has small, round berries and produces good quality wines with a lot of aroma.
Brancellao is a high vigor, delicately aromatic grape with soft tannins typically made to be drunk young. As of 2015 there were only 36 ha of Brancellao growing in Spain, all in Galicia.
Espadeiro is a red grape grown in Galicia used for blending as well as making mono-varietal wines, usually rosé. It has fresh, red berry aromas and flavors. Rodri Mendez makes a unique single varietal Espadeiro from vines planted in Val do Salnés in the 1960s.
Mencía is the same as Jaen do Dão in Portugal. It produces a high quality, medium bodied, age-worthy red wine, especially in Bierzo, located east of Galicia. Much more about the Mencia grape can be found in the just published report The Wines of Bierzo.