Galicia is a place to banish the stereotypes about Spain and Spanish wines. Misty coasts and valleys echo to the sound of Celtic pipes whilst deep rivers and gorges hide remarkable monasteries and terraced vineyards. All the region’s wines have the capacity to surprise and delight even the more discerning wine lovers. Not a whiff of Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon here, but if delicate whites and subtle reds tickle your fancy, Galicia won’t disappoint.
Galicia is considered to be the seafood capital of Spain. Here you can sample traditional seafood stews, fresh fish from the Atlantic and a variety of shellfish. The local crisp and aromatic Albariño wines compliment the seafood perfectly. Like the wines and food, the landscapes of Galicia are also exceptionally beautiful.
Galicia has us divided in terms of the climate and the best time to visit. The coastal regions of the Rias Baixas and Ribeiro are much better in the summer when the Atlantic influence is tempered by warm days and a much better chance of sunshine that the rest of the year. Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras, which are more inland, enjoy microclimates closer to the Mediterranean and are probably best visited in the spring or at harvest time. Monterei, in the Southern part of Galicia, is a transitional zone in between the two.
Galicia is a great place to go for a wine holiday or to visit a few adegas (bodegas in Gallego, the local language) while you’re there. Most flights tend to arrive in La Coruña, Santiago de Compostela or Vigo, all of which are well positioned for a day or half day’s trip to the vineyards. If you want to enjoy the seafood and the white wines of the coast and the reds and beef of the inland regions, you should give yourself at least 4 or 5 days to split between the two. If the summer weather is clement, the beaches are stunning too. The coast also works very well for a wine weekend so there is plenty of flexibility and many areas to enjoy your wine break.
The Rias Baixas is the sub region that has restored Galicia’s wine eminence over the last couple of decades, in particular the Albariño white wines of the Val do Salnes, which begins just over half an hour’s drive south of Santiago de Compostela. Here you’ll find the superstar wines of the Pazos de Señorans and Pazo de Barrantes, as well as the wonderful wines of Palacio de Fefiñanes.
Galicia has 5 separate wine regions in all: Monterei touches the Portuguese border in the south and alongside Ribeiro, produces fresh and appealing white wines, whereas the valleys of Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras form two thirds of the magnificent trilogy of Mencia red wine regions (the 3rd is Bierzo, just across the border in Castile). If you want to see some of the most dramatic riverside vineyards on the planet and taste silky smooth reds next to ancient monasteries, head for a wine tour in Ribeira Sacra (‘the sacred river bank’). Few wine tourism experiences top the vine spotting river cruise along the Rio Sil.
A gargantuan seafood lunch by the sea, accompanied by a range of Galician whites, not forgetting the Godello and Treixadura whites to test against the Albariños. The lovely town of Cambados in the Rias Baixas is as good wine venue for this, but just about any seaside town or village anywhere on the coast should be able to oblige. Take your pick from mussels, barnacles, octopus, crab, prawns of all varieties, razor clams, oysters and scallops (to name just a few).
Take a river cruise in Ribeira Sacra after lunch at one of the local adegas. A reminder that Galicia has just as wonderful interior scenery and the pairing of wonderful beef (with local chestnuts) and the smooth Mencia reds is something to savour. Enjoy the view of the steepest vine terraces in Spain or just snooze on the boat.
Do a multinational Albariño wine tasting over a half day. Start on the Portuguese side of the border between Moncao and Melgaco, trying the Alvarinho (as they are called in Portugal) wines to compare to the Condado de Tea (sub zone of Rias Baixas) Albariños on the other side of the bridge on Spain. Don’t forget there’s an hour time difference between the two places when you’re planning the visits.Read less