Some of the most interesting wines I’ve tried in recent times have come from Ribeira Sacra (translating as ‘Sacred River’)- a wine region in Galicia in northwestern Spain that boasts picturesque terraced vineyards carved into awe-inspiring steep slopes.
Grapes were first planted here by the Romans around 2,000 years ago, having arrived to mine gold. They chiseled and carved steep terraces down the riverbanks of the region - caused by the fact that there was no flat land here. When the Romans abandoned the area, over time monks moved in and replanted vines but over the coming centuries different events throughout history (like the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of Phylloxera) drove locals out of the area to pursue easier living conditions elsewhere.
The Ribeira Sacra DO (denominación de origen) was established in 1996 and since then a handful of independent producers have been leading the region’s renaissance as the home of wines with character and exciting personalities. Around the late 90’s Ribeira Sacra attracted small, independent wine producers with its beautiful vineyards and potential to produce incredible wines that are representative of the terroir of northwestern Spain. Most of the work is done by hand as the vineyards are laid out on very steep slopes that make it impossible to use machinery.
The main red grape variety here is Mencia - a grape variety with lower acidity and appealing freshness making juicy, relatively light bodied reds. You might also come across Merenzao, Brancellao and Caiño Tinto among other lesser known varieties from the region. White grape varieties include Godello. Treixadura and Louriera.
It’s a region definitely worth exploring and if you haven’t already tried wines from Ribeira Sacra, go to your local independent and ask for suggestions.