Galician wines and wine Regions: An In-Depth Exploration

Galicia is well known for its wine. Especially in Spain. Outside of Spain, the recognition as a wine region is less significant, although in recent years we have seen more Albariño wines from Rias Baixas finding its way to other countries. Albariño wine from Rias Baixas is the most famous wine from Galicia and perhaps the best white wine in Spain. On this page we would like to create more understanding for the delicious Galician wines and the wine regions of Galicia.

It’s a positive trend that Albariño is gaining recognition, but there is more wine from Galicia. Galicia boasts five official wine regions. These are designated as D.O. (Denominación de Origen), a legally protected indication that can be seen as an indication of quality. In Spain, there are a total of 69 of these official wine regions.

To be able to place the term D.O. on the label as a wine producer, the wine must meet certain qualifications, such as growing the grapes in the region, but also which grapes are allowed in the region. Each wine region has its own specific characteristics. So, there is no typical wine from Galicia, but there are typical wines from the wine regions of Galicia.

Albariño wine vines in Rias Baixas
Albariño wine vines in Rias Baixas

The 5 wine regions of Galicia:

  1. Rias Baixas
  2. Ribeira Sacra
  3. Ribeiro
  4. Monterrei
  5. Valdeorras

Rias Baixas: Home to the Famous Albariño

Most used grape: Albariño
Type of wine: white

The most famous wine region of Galicia. This area is known for its white wines made from the prestigious Albariño grape. This grape is the most cultivated grape in Rias Baixas. Originally, this grape comes from Germany, but it was brought to Galicia by monks in the 12th century and thrives here very well. Wines made entirely from Albariño are the most exported wines from Galicia. Due to the relatively small supply and high demand, they are not the cheapest wines.

Albariño is a fresh wine that is both dry and fruity. The wine pairs excellently with seafood. And that’s convenient because besides Albariño, Rias Baixas is also known for its excellent seafood, such as mejillones (mussels), berberechos (cockles), vieiras (scallops), and percebes (goose barnacles).

The Rias Baixas wine region is not a contiguous area but consists of different sub-regions. These sub-regions are: Val do Salnes, the area around Cambados; Ribeira do Ulla, south of Santiago de Compostela; Soutomaior, a small area at the end of the Ria de Vigo, and the areas O Rosal and Condado de Tea, located on the Portuguese border near the Rio Miño.

Ribeira Sacra: Where Tradition Meets Terroir

Most used grape: Mencía
Type of wine: red

This wine region is perhaps even more famous for its appearance than for its wines. The vineyards in Ribeira Sacra grow mainly on very steep slopes. This looks very beautiful and impressive. The disadvantage of these slopes is that viticulture must be carried out in a traditional way because the slopes are too steep for agricultural machinery.

The most famous grape of Ribeira Sacra is the red Mencía. Many young red wines are made from this grape, traditionally drunk in small bowls. Ribeira Sacra produces the most famous red wines of Galicia.

Hand-picking grapes in Ribeira Sacra

Ribeiro: Discover the Delights of Godello

Most used grape: Godello
Type of wine: white

Not to be confused with the previous region Ribeira (Sacra). The wines from this area are mostly white and are often made from the local Godello grape. This white wine is more affordable than the exclusive Albariño and is most commonly consumed by the Galicians themselves.

The Ribeiro area is centered around the town of Ribadavia and lies northwest of the Rio Miño and west of Ourense. Ribeira Sacra, on the other hand, lies more east of this location and follows the course of the Rio Miño towards Lugo.

Monterrei: the Youngest Wine Region in Galicia

Most used grape: Mencía
Type of wine: red

The southernmost D.O. is Monterrei. This is also the youngest area and was granted protected status in 1996. The area is located in the southeast of Galicia, near the Portuguese border. The wines from this area resemble those from Ribeira Sacra.

Valdeorras: Hidden Gem of Galicia

Most used grape: Godello
Type of wine: white

A small but renowned wine region. It is located in the east of Galicia on the banks of the River Sil, the same river where Ribeira Sacra is also partially located. Also in this area, predominantly white wines are made, like in Ribeiro from the white Godello grape. The wines are robust white wines and are characterized by a distinctive herbal scent.

Cunca, the ceramic wine bowl

Cuna, traditional wine bowl in Galicia

Traditionally, the gallego’s drink wine from Galicia in ceramic bowls. Such a ceramic, white bowl is called a cunca. Nowadays, you don’t see them much anymore. Usually, wine is drunk from standard wine glasses. But sometimes you still see them, for example, at Taberna O Gato Negro in Santiago de Compostela. One of my 10 Must-See Attractions & Travel Tips in Santiago de Compostela.