I am introducing you to a wine from one of my favourite white wine growing areas of Spain. Galicia! Most enthusiastic consumers will immediately know Rias Baixas famous for Albariño, but not all of our readers will know the other areas of denomination, Monterei, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and Valdeorras
Galicia is a typically complex wine region, it has a variety of climates (Atlantic to Continental) and soil (granite to slate). One of the most interesting of these areas is Valdeorras, the easternmost wine region of Galicia, where the best vineyards are planted on terraces on the steep sides of the Sil river. Like many other wine regions in Spain, the area is being re-discovered by a new, young generation of talented winemakers, willing to make elegant wine with a sense of place. The two best in Valdeorras are Telmo Rodriguez and Rafael Palacios. Rafael grew up in a wine family and, having left the family estate in 2004, settled in the Val do Bibei part of Valdeorras, where he works with terraced plots of Godello grape which are locally known as “sorte”, some of which are 720 metres high. All vineyard work and harvest is done by hand – crippling, but rewarding, work.
The wine I am writing about this week is As Sortes. Made from a selection of the older vines of each plot, some of which are almost one hundred years old, this wine is a benchmark for Godello. Structure, complexity, intensity, character, freshness… it has it all. It bears a great resemblance to Burgundy and I am sure on a blind tasting even the most competent taster will be surprised to find out it that it’s Spanish!
Tasting notes show it has a striking nose showing freshly podded peas, green apple, fresh pastry and toasty citrus – deep and complex but still fresh and inviting. The palate has that pleasing oiliness which coats the mouth with what can only be described as an ‘English garden’ crunch, combining gooseberry, Granny Smith apple, and a mineral character that invokes the deep savoury flavour of black kale. It’s a savoury, rich beauty that will triumph with food but is complex and satisfying enough to drink on its own.
It has some vintages, most notably 2014 which of course is still drinking well. Again it isn’t cheap for a white wine, costing around 25/30€ a bottle.
I have said for a long time, that Spain is now producing astonishingly good wines to compete with some of the best in the world. It’s hard to think that 30 odd years ago we seemed to be limited to Monopole, Marques de Caceres and Esmeralda. Having said that I do still try and avoid white Rioja!