When acclaimed vintner Paul Hobbs arrived in Spain in 2015, he traveled to a remote village in the northwest region of Galicia. There, he met with Antonio Lopez, a local viticultor who introduced him to Alvaredos, a small town surrounded by mountains and vines planted on steep, terraced slopes. Together they explored the vineyards, smelled the soil, and quickly realized their mutual desire to unearth the potential held in these ancient sites and indigenous varieties.
After a long drive together back to Madrid, a lifelong partnership was established. After nearly 20 years, Antonio fulfilled his ardent desire to pay tribute to the small village and his grandfather who introduced him to the land when he was a child. The project also represents a new opportunity for Paul to champion one of the oldest and forgotten corners of viticulture in Spain by honoring its unique history while playing a role in elevating the region for present and future generations.
Located in the center of the Galician region in northern Spain, the Ribeira Sacra is one of Spain's most beautiful vineyard areas with stunningly breathtaking views. Vines are planted in the steep valleys and precipitous gorges of the Rivers Miño and Sil that wind through Galicia's lush green countryside. The Ribeira Sacra region has similar dramatic landscapes as the Mosel or Douro Valleys, but a more sparse population and a tranquility unmatched. The region gained official DO status in 1996.
Both white wine and red wine production are dominated by blends of local Galician grapes, with varietal wines being the exception. Today, while the region has seen some consolidation and modern stainless-steel equipment is widespread, winemaking remains artisanal. This reflects the tiny landholdings and farmhouse wineries, along with a traditional and predominantly organic approach to viticulture. With such low yields and often minuscule production levels, these wines are highly sought-after and can be difficult to find on the export market.
Ribeira Sacra DO’s principal white grape varieties tend to be highly fragrant and include Albariño, Doña Blanca, Godello, Loureira, Torrontés and Treixadura. Principal red grape varieties here include Mencía, Brancellao, Merenzao, Caiño, Sousón and Tempranillo.
Primarily found in the Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras regions of Spain and in the Dão of Portugal (where it is called Jaen), Mencia is an early ripening, low acid grape that can produce wines of great concentration, complexity and ageability. And yet Mencia once suffered from a poor reputation and deemed capable of producing simple and light red wines. Post-phylloxera growers would grow this variety on low, fertile plains, which produced high yields and uncomplicated finished wines. Somm Secret—The recent rediscovery of the ancient, abandoned vines planted on rugged hillsides of deep schist has unveiled the potential of Mencia and added discredit to its old reputation.