My three tours to Galicia in 2019 were a great success. We were based in two locations: Cambados in Rias Baixas for the first two nights, and Monforte de Lemos in Ribeiro for the final two nights, and enjoyed a mix of weather, but were never short of warm Galician hospitality.
Cambados is home to the historic Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes, a short walk from the Parador. The amazing buildings date back to 1583 and the winery back to 1928 – the first Rías Baixas estate wine. surrounded by vineyards with wines trained in the traditional high trellis method.
Just outside town we visited Pazo de Señorans – one of the best known names in the region, in a fabulous old traditional Galician manor house that has been restored to its former glory by the current owners and boasts spectacular gardens, cellars, courtyards and a chapel. Here we enjoyed a tasting accompanied by lunch.
At both wineries we explored the diversity of expression that Albariño is capable of – crisp and fresh when young, gaining richness and complexity from lees ageing or some contact with wood. At Fefiñanes we even tasted magnum of old vintage Albariño which were superb – deeper in colour and showing some oily, Riesling like characteristics but proved the ageing ability of even an entry level wine.
The Ribeira Sacra region is home to the Regina Viarum winery. This estate has benefitted from some serious investment and has a simply stunning view over the river Sil which shows off the death defyingly steep slopes and terraced vineyards. We tasted their Albariño, Godello Mencía and Tempranillo and enjoyed a local lunch. Luckily we didn’t have too long a coach journey to Monforte de Lemos, where we stayed for the next two nights.
At Casal de Armán in Ribeiro, under the guidance of Roger Matthews (a Spanish wine expert I had previously met in Ribera del Duero) or Sergio (one of the seven siblings of the family who own the estate), we discovered the Treixadura grape, a first for many of us. The region is very innovative and we tasted wine made in amphora buried in crates of local soil, as well as the more predictable stainless steel!
We returned to Ribeiro en route to Oporto Airport on our final day on each tour, and visited Pazo de Toubes, a tiny estate that was acquired by Viña Costeira a decade ago and one which has been heavily invested in to restore the amazing buildings and vineyards. Carlos, their technical director of viticulture, was our guide and hosted a superb tasting which demonstrated the range of styles – from crisp, clean and youthful to older wines with richer tastes.
The Bierzo region may be administratively part of Castilla y Léon, but vinously it is far more closely aligned to the Galician regions we visited. So it made sense to include it on these tours – wine commentators around the world have become very excited by this area and our experience at Bodegas Pittacum showed why.
We received an in-depth understanding of the history of the region, the influence of the Romans and their gold mining activities, the exceptionally old bush trained Mencía vines and so much more! With a wealth of information absorbed we moved into the very attractive tasting room and settled into four quite superb wines. The Petit Pittacum at a mere 5.50 euros was amazing and the wines became increasingly complex as they were produced from older vines and received more oak ageing.
On one of the tours we headed on from Pittacum to the picturesque town of Vilafranca de Bierzo where we met up Luna Beberide, owner of the eponymous bodega! He drove us to the family farmhouse which has a stunning situation right in the middle of the vineyards. Tasting through his Mencías of differing altitudes and age, we experienced a different expression of Mencía but equally high quality. It was truly idyllic, sitting outside, in the vineyards washing down lunch with some superb wines. On the other tours we enjoyed a tasting and lunch at Moncloa de San Lazaro – a historic resting place for pilgrims on the Camino de Compostela, oozing history, and a great setting for a typical lunch with Bierzo wines including Godello from Raul Perez, one of the top Spanish winemakers.
Throughout all three tours we ate famously well. Seafood of course made a regular appearance, and the local beef was of superb quality.
Michelin starred Yayo Deporta restaurant provided a suitably fabulous start to each tour, with a seven course extravaganza that included a mousse of black cod and garlic, a sashimi mackerel, anchovy tapenade, grilled hake, roasted goat, an egg truffle and mushroom creation and an amazing chocolate finale – all washed down with some stunning Albariño from restaurant family’s estate and some Mencía.
The Parador in Monforte provided our final dinner, in a stunning room with panoramic views overlooking the town – I provided transport for those who did not fancy the rather challenging walk up the hill. Despite being inland, seafood was in abundance: mussel soup and hake or turbot, and perfectly cooked veal. Those who know me well would appreciate my delight at the gorgeous chocolate dessert.
What my clients said about this tour
“It was a brilliant trip and we tasted some very interesting wines, some made from grapes or from areas I am still having difficulty pronouncing! It was an area that was new to us and a lot of the scenery was truly spectacular. There was certainly no shortage of food and our first dinner and last lunch were very memorable. Thank you for organising us so well – we enjoyed it all enormously.”– Julie, Putney
“We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on our first tour with you. Thank you very much for all your hard work, making it interesting and fun.” – Sarah and Geoff Cox, Reading