July 18, 2014
July 14, 2014
Wine from a Sacred Place
Tasting wines from Ribeira Sacra
If you travel widely enough around the grape-growing regions of the world, you gather ample testimony of the driving, historic human desire to make good wine. What else could explain the compulsion to plant vines on ridiculously steep hillsides in the Mosel and the Rheingau, in the northern Rhône Valley, in Priorat and the Douro, and in Ribeira Sacra in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain?
Thousands of years before the lucrative global wine economy of today, Romans carved terraces on slopes in Ribeira Sacra that rose at precipitous angles from the rivers below. They planted vines to keep themselves supplied with wine. Over the centuries, monks expanded and maintained the network of vines, which was farmed by the church and by locals, for whom grapes were just one of many subsistence crops. It was not a matter of survival — grains and produce planted on the flats saw to that. The backbreaking labor these vines required was a matter of choice.
Nor was it an economic necessity. Until fairly recently, Ribeira Sacra was largely cut off from the rest of Spain, though a few farmers shipped wine by river to Lugo, a city to the north, mostly for local consumption.
At the end of the 19th century, grape phylloxera, a ravenous aphid that preys on the roots of European vines, destroyed much of the crop. Agricultural disaster was followed by economic depression, civil war and dictatorship. Many of the historical terraces were abandoned, and the children of farmers left for work in the cities.
Then a curious thing happened. Near the end of the 20th century, people began to return to Ribeira Sacra. Disillusioned by the city, perhaps, or drawn by the promise of the slate-and-granite soils at a time when other once-obscure Spanish wine regions were developing worldwide reputations, they came back to replant the vines and renew the terraces. The hills of Ribeira Sacra came alive again.
Dandy loves Ribeira Sacra, especially the incredible value on our shelf!
Estrella Ribeira Sacra Amandi 2011
Fresh and juicy, with aromas and flavors of crushed berries. $14