The Ribeira Sacra

Heroic winemaking on the banks of the Sacred River Shore.

Winemaking in Galicia has long been associated with the tart, fruity white wines from the Ribeiro and Rias Baixas wine appellations. Until very recently, Galicians and other Spaniards could be seen ordering classic Spanish reds in the region’s bars and restaurants, while snootily turning their noses up when recommended a Ribeira Sacra red. Thankfully, narrow-minded attitudes like this are now being consigned to the past, largely due to the heroic efforts of a number of pioneering individuals from the Ribeira Sacra, a wine producing area deep in the Galician interior. Ribeira Sacra means something like sacred river shore or bank.

The Miño and Sil, as they wind their way west from Ourense province towards Lugo, cut a spectacular, ever deepening gorge into the countryside. Oak, pine and chestnut forested slopes, dotted with precariously perched dwellings and the odd Romanesque church or monastery, plunge right down to the water line, and it’s on these vertigo-to-go slopes, on tiny granite terraces known as bancadas, that the local grape variety and flagship of the appellation, Mencía is grown. In places the vertiente, or slope is so steep that the only way to ‘evacuate’ the precious Mencía cargo was by boat. Today, some vineyards have motorised conveyors to move the grapes to the top of the mountain, others rely on the strength alone of the pickers, all of whom carry 20kg capacity crates on their shoulders. Literally back breaking work!

Itinerary
  • Pick up from Airport and transfer to hotel.
  • Visits to wineries 1 & 2
  • Lunch out on the Ribeira Sacra.
  • Visit to a Galician almazara or olive oil press.
  • Dinner at hotel.
  • Visit to wineries 3 & 4.
  • Lunch out on the Ribeira Sacra.
  • Visit a local artesan’s workshop (cabinetmaker, weaver, potter etc)
  • Dinner at hotel.
  • Visit to winery 5
  • Lunch out on the Ribeira Sacra.
  • Visit 12th century monastery in the woods.
  • Dinner at hotel.
  • Leave for Airport and end of tour.

The area has long been synonymous with the grape. During Roman times, wines from Amandi, today one of the appellation’s five sub-zones, were regularly shipped to the Emperor’s table in Rome, along with that other great Miño delicacy, Sea Lamprey. By the middle ages, the remote Miño and Sil valleys began to attract monastic communities that carried on the tradition of planting vineyards, making wines to be sold to the inns and hospices along the nearby Camino de Santiago. In the late 19th century, as happened to a lot of vineyards across Europe, the vines were smitten by Phylloxera, a voracious insect that arrived as a stowaway on cargo ships from the USA. Some vineyards were catastrophically hit, others less so.

In the 20th century, in spite of war, hardship and forced emigration, people doggedly carried on making Mencía, though mainly for local consumption. In the early 21st century a new generation of professional winemakers arrived on the scene. Their approach was simple, that of marrying time-honoured tradition with modern vinification techniques. As result, the D.O. Ribeira Sacra appellation is now putting Mencía firmly on the international map. With North West Iberia Wine Tours you’ll have the opportunity of meeting these guys personally and taste their great wines.

Tour details
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Price: From 450€ per person per day
  • Hotel: Casa Grande de Cristosende (A Teixeira)
What's NOT included
  • All non-host ordered food and drink.
  • Gratuities.
  • Flights to destination.
  • Optional activities (private cruise on Canyon del Sil, Cookery Workshops etc).
What´s included
  • Three nights media pensión (breakfast and dinner) at a charming country hotel situated in the breathtakingly beautiful Ribeira Sacra. The food here is excellent, with a firm emphasis on tradition, using only locally sourced ingredients and washed down with D.O. Ribeira Sacra wine.
  • Visits to the top five artesanal winemakers in the Ribeira Sacra, whose mencía reds are currently getting lavish raise from the critics (The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Decanter etc), particularly in the USA and the United Kingdom.
  • Three lunches with D.O. Ribeira Sacra wine both Mencía (red) and Godello (white).
  • Round trip transfers from the city of Santiago de Compostela to the Ribeira Sacra.
  • AC vehicle and local driver.
  • Admission to all historical sites and artisans’ workshops.
  • Services of a fully bilingual guide.
  • All host/guide ordered food and drink including wine.
Photographs of the tour

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2 Comments

  1. “A huge thank you for an incredible experience. Your selections for restaurants, food and winemakers were exactly what I was looking for. The passion, commitment and family histories made for a truly memorable and amazing impression on all of us.
    Thumbs up to your restaurant recommendations for Santiago & Ourense also.”

  2. Nancy Yahiro & Nev Griffiths, UK wrote:

    Our tour guide and friend, Adrian, worked tirelessly to provide us three unforgettable days in the Sagra Ribeira region of Spain, experiencing the best wineries, exquisite locations, breathtaking views and fascinating cultural points of interest.

    The tailor made tour was precision planned but so well organized that it was relaxing and never hectic. Adrian’s attention to detail, consideration for our needs, plus realistic scheduling were flawless. We prefer traveling off the beaten path and we are confident that we experienced the best the region has to offer. Adrian is knowledgable, thoughtful, organized and passionate about the food, wine and natural beauty of the region.

    The hotel he chose for us was remarkable, with an incredible view and hospitable owners who made us feel comfortable and welcome and worked around our schedule. Because of Adrian’s energetic pursuit of quality, it is very likely that we will be doing it again this next winter.

    Sent from my iPad.

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