Mrs and Mrs Whirly take Galicia
Mr and Mrs Whirly’s second tour together, where my wife kept on saying how good she was in Spanish with the words
“ Huevos Fritos con Jamon! “
From Porto we drove north to the Spanish border and onto the centre of Riax Baixas country, Cambados in the region of Val do Salnes. This is the region where all wines are made from 100% Albarino, one of the most exciting new grapes to come into the wine world.
As we discovered the wines are best young although some of the wine can be aged a few years with a little oak. At “ A Dispensa de Ribera” we tasted some lovely Albarino from “ La liebre lyla Tortuga” ( with a hare and a tortoise on the label!) so I am presuming this is what Liebre and Tortuga mean as well as Alberto Nanclares, much less vibrant and a 2011 vintage, possibly oaken and with an “ organic” certification so with minimum sulphites. It did grow on me I must admit.
The next day we visited the family owned vineyard, ‘ Tanuda de Castro” and we met Elizabeth the owners daughter. We had been recommended to visit the vineyard by Jose at the Vinoteca in Cambados, so off we sped in our little Fiat Punto, a few miles across country to the little village of Ribadumia. Once again we witnessed the very old style of vines being grown in a “ Pergola” formation, high up and along a canopy with one vine in each of the four corners. I had previously witnessed this way of vine system in Vinho verde in Portugal.
We tasted the new 2013 Albarino out of tank which was vibrant and clean. It compared well to some very good wines from the night before. The 2012 from the bottle, was their present vintage and it was drinking really well with some lovely vibrant fresh fruit and once again was wonderfully clean and fresh. Clearly the wine business in Spain is having a tough time with many problems in payment from what was once their core market; restaurants and bars in their local towns and cities. So they are now looking to gain an export market more and I think this wine would go down very well this summer in the UK, so I am hoping to export this wine soon. Albarino is a great wine to go with fish and shellfish. Its pretty serious too in terms of its makeup and mouth feel. Its one of those grapes that oozes class. the romantic stories of it arriving here with pilgrims from Germany on their way to Santiago de Compestel might not be true and but there is no doubt the grape has similar qualities to Riesling and Pinot Gris. I also visited the Organic vineyard of Nanclares but he was away in Barcelona at an Organic wine meeting.
After Jamon and Cafe con Lecce with Murcia at cafe Murcia next to the fish market in Cambados we headed across the mountains to Ourense and Ribeiro to meet Brais and Jose Manual Blanco Perez at Val de Souto ( see picture above) in the DO Ribeiro. It was great to meet these two people at last and it emphasised to me the importance of the small vineyard and control of the vineyard space. the vines here are located high up on the steep hills that rise up from the River Mino to the east of the river. In the village of Souto there are 14 families that live and have lived here for many years. They own all the land up here and the vineyards are therefore confusingly arrange with one small plot belonging to Jose Manuel then another next door belongs to someone else. They are very small little plots of land too and Jose vineyard is called a Colleiteiro, which means that they do not buy in any grapes at all. A Bodega can buy in grapes if they wish. The best way of seeing where Jose’s small plots finish is that one piece of vineyard is covered with grass and Jose’s has been recently ploughed. Down on the flat level are grapes like the Triexudura and the red grapes, Mencia and Brancellao and up on the hills, the vines are much closer together so some have to be picked by hand; here are Godello grapes. The younger vines have been planted further apart form each other that give great grape quality and flavour as well as being passable in between by a small John Deere tractor. With the help of Brais translating and a large plate of Octopus with Paprika we discussed the present market in Spain and the fact that Jose Manuel had to look to export his wines too, in order to survive. He makes clean, fresh wines from 3 grapes: Godello, Treixudura and Lourieria. The ethos behind my business is highlighted through this small family wines business. hard work and total control of the vineyard; Jose manuel will work the land 365 days of the year, he cannot leave this little valley of Souto and nor does he want to. His life is here and he is very happy to have the fortune to do this I feel, inheriting the land from his father, grandfather. great grandfather.
He cannot afford to be Organic and certified here. He does not have the money for that. But he sprays very rarely and only when he needs to, if after a great deal of rain then he will spray a little Sulphur. Some wineries with out control he explains will spray Sulphur every week. This they feel will give them more grapes! Yet sulphur will harm the grapes and the wine: its why commercial wines made without control will give you a headache since they are full of Sulphur and it perfectly highlights the need for control of this. Val de Souto offer me wines that are vibrant and full of energy and they are a pure delight. They are not organic but they don’t need to be: they are very good and made with the care and attention that wines from small hands on vineyards with the owner winemaker at the helm will always produce. With a smile on his lovely face Jose Manuel realised that we understood him and his philosophy so well.