Your Galicia Primer

An introduction to Spain's emerald of the north.
Photo by Santiago Urquijo / Getty Images

Often referred to as “Green Spain,” Galicia and the northwest reaches of Castilla y León—which, for wine purposes, amounts to the Bierzo region—is the rainiest, coolest and most verdant part of Spain.

Settled mostly by Celts prior to the first millennium A.D., Galicia features its own language (Gallego) and a thriving seafood industry that supplies much of the huge quantity of oysters, mussels, clams, crabs and fish that Spaniards eat.

Galicia mapAnd what goes best with great shellfish? White wine, of course. Among Galicia’s five denominated wine regions, production is almost exclusively geared to white wines.

Rías Baixas, which sits along the western edge of Galicia and butts up against the Atlantic Ocean, is Albariño country. These fresh, floral wines show best in their youth. Further inland, Ribeiro was once one of Spain’s most productive wine regions. Today, it produces mostly white blends made from grapes that include Treixadura, Albariño, Loureiro, Godello and Torrontés.

Heading further east, Ribeira Sacra ranks as one of Spain’s most visually stunning wine regions. Godello and red grapes, including Mencía, Garnacha and Merenzao, cling to the steep, terraced banks of the Sil River.

Ribeira Sacra’s neighbor to the east is Valdeorras, the slate-mining capital of Spain and home to minerally white wines made from Godello. Increasingly, Valdeorras has expanded its offerings to include varietal Mencía.

Situated in southern Galicia where the Miño River separates Spain from Portugal, Monterrei is the least known and smallest Galician wine region.

While the Bierzo wine region is technically located in the northwestern limits of Castilla y León, it touches up against Galicia and shares a climate similar to that of Valdeorras. Bierzo has long been the source for Spain’s best Mencía.

Published on May 25, 2016
Topics: Spain, Travel, Wine 101
About the Author
Michael Schachner
Spanish and South American Editor

Reviews wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain.

Michael Schachner is a New York-based journalist specializing in wine, food and travel. His articles appear regularly in Wine Enthusiast, where he is a longstanding contributing editor responsible for South America and Spain. Schachner reviews more than 2,000 wines annually for WE and regularly travels to Chile, Argentina and Spain to keep abreast of the constantly changing global wine map. Email: mschachner@wineenthusiast.net.



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