There have been vineyards in the region of the Ribeira Sacra for thousands of years. Originally started by the Romans, the main stimulus for this type of agriculture came from the presence of the medieval monasteries in the area. It was the tradition of the monasteries to donate land to settlers and nobles, demanding a part-payment in wine: thus, viticulture became extensive in a well defined form.
Established in 1995 there are now about 1,500 hectares dedicated to wine produce in this area.
The production zone of the Ribeira Sacra covers parts of the provinces of Lugo and Ourense, located along the riversides of the Rivers Miño and Sil and their tributaries. Some of the land upon which the vines are grown is impressionably steep.
The geographic area of this D.O. is divided into five differentiated sub-zones: Amandi, Chantada, Quiroga-Bibei, Ribeiras do Miño and Ribeiras do Sil.
This is one of the "Denominación de Origen" in Galicia in which red wines are predominant over white.
In recent years the red wines from this region have stunned national and international experts with the quality and originality of the drink. The most extensively cultivated is the Mencía grape, and in order to help give the wine a longer shelf life, blending with Garnacha grapes is permitted.
The characteristics of these wines are clearly defined by the qualities of the Mencía grape, which is said to have a brilliant cherry colour with purple undertones.
The North American magazine "The Wine Advocate," written by the wine guru Robert Parker Jr, has given The Ribeira Sacra red wines some outstanding praise over recent years.
But the Ribeira Sacra is not only about red wines. Recently some manufactures of white wines have been beating the Rias Baixas at their own game and producing world-class merchandise Albariño wines too.
We can help plan some visits to the vineyards/wineries - a wine route of the Ribeira Sacra.
Vía Romana; Amedo; Abadía da Cova; Algueira and many others
The Galician Aguardiente or Orujo is the alcoholic spirit that is produced by distillation of fermented grape skins from the residue of wine making. The Orujo's character is closely linked to factors that are influenced by the grape, the vineyard and extraction of the pomace and ultimately the distillation.
The distillation of the Orujo to obtain liquor is a tradition as long as the wine making has been in Galicia, and it is a firmly planted element in the lives of its inhabitants. There is an "art" to making Orujo. The technique to regulate the heat to allow the distillation to occur at a slow and steady pace is one. This allows unpleasant components, mainly aromatic, to escape into the air rather than being caught up in the alcohol. After the vaporization of the liquid under the heat it is allowed to condensate immediately. The Orujo is either served as a clear spirit or a liquor can be made for this spirit.
The liquor can be made into many things but the most traditional is Coffee Liquor; other alternatives you may be offered are Chestnut Liquor, or Apple Liquor among others. The drink is served as an after meal drink, day or night. One tradition associated with Orujo, and is said to date back to Celtic times, is the Queimada. This is ritual where the Aguardiente is poured into a traditional earthenware bowel and then set alight. Whilst the alcohol is burning a Conxuro is read out.