Only eight weeks to go to this year’s Festa do Tinto do Salnés in Barrantes, an exaltation of the famous Tinto do Salnés or Tinto de Barrantes. This exceedingly fruity wine is a deep violet tinged, blackcurrant red colour, and quite tart on the palate. Drunk from traditional white porcelain bowls or cuncas, its teeth, gum and lip staining qualities earn it the name of manchamorros or pintalabios (lipstick), enflaming the passions of simple country folk for decades and winning over sophisticated wine gurus in more recent times.
Tinto do Salnés is made from the grapes of hybrid vines, often referred to by local growers as Folla Redonda (Round Leaf). They were planted in the late 19th century and early 20th century in the wake of the catastrophic destruction caused by the phylloxera beetle, ‘imported’ from America in the 1870s. After a day tasting some incredible Albariño with Todd Blomberg of Benito Santos Winery in Vilanova de Arousa and Honorio Noya of the Veiga Serantes Winery in Ribadumia-Barrantes, we felt that the day wouldn’t be complete without relishing a few cuncas of Tinto Barrantes over an excellent ‘homage’ of ‘pulpo á feira’ and sargo (white bream) at Restaurante Tío Benito, a venerable institution whose patrons range from the humble to the rich and famous.
Our wine tour guests on this occasion were Addison and Rachel Morphy who both work for notable wineries in Santa Cruz California (The Bonny Doon Vineyard and Sones Cellars). They described the wine as awesomely fruity and a definite joy to quaff. More about the festival. During the month of May, a team of professional tasters visit tiny vineyards and ‘furanchos’ like ‘O Manco’ and ‘Berto O Serradeiro’. ‘Furanchos’ are family homes uniquely licenced to open their doors for a limited period of time in order to sell the wines they make mainly for their own consumption and are usually served up with simple fare such as cheese, ham, tinned cockles, sardines, pickled clams, queen scallops in spicy sauce, pickled mussels etc.
They are superb places to get to know the local folk and are sometimes located in lovely centuries old stone cottages and are totally unpretentious and very often absurdly cheap. So how does one find them? Look out for signs that say ‘Se Vende Vino de Cosecha Propia’ and a few bay/laurel tree branches hanging upside down from the garage door or outer wall. Back to the festival.
The best wines of the vintage are painstakingly narrowed down from around two hundred and fifty entries to just three and duly awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. These are presented to the proud winemakers at the Confraternal Lunch held on the final day of the festival. This most ‘jolgorious’ event (boozy) is held in the Carballeira de Barrantes where the cosecheros (winemakers) have their stands, with live music and as always in Galicia, stands that sell the omnipresent ‘pulpo a féira’ (octopus) and ’empanada’ (a kind of pie), which are as Galician as the strolling pipers you’ll see over the weekend.
Those that fancy some sophisto Albariño tasting amidst all the tinto de barrantes can contact the genial Honorio Noya at Veiga Serantes, which is signposted and just a close walk from the town. http://www.veigaserantes.com Photo: Lunching at Tío Benito, Barrantes.