Undiscovered Spanish Wines: Ribeira Sacra

by mary on May 14, 2013

Spanish wine: Dominio do Bibei from the Ribera Sacra region

Ribeira Sacra is one of Galicia's least known wine appellations, yet it is producing some of Spain's most interesting wines. The very small area has attracted some top wine makers and small, artisanal projects due to its unique and challenging landscape. The wines, produced from unique indigenous varieties, are light, yet intense, and very original. They are mostly white, but the reds are even more surprising, especially in a Spanish, hot climate context. There are many great wines that represent this unique terroir, including the spectacular El Pecado, a most unique red made by innovator enologist Raul Perez. The wines that inspired this article are from Dominio do Bibei, a project from the wine superstar couple Sara Pérez and René Barbier.

All the factors that make up the style of the wines of Ribeira Sacra are quite unique. The vineyards are planted on dramatics slopes and terraces that make mechanization impossible and keep yields very low. The area is interior in Galicia, and not coastal, therefore it has a more continental climate, with longer, hotter summers and colder winters. However, like most of Galicia, it still receives a lot more rainfall than most parts of Spain.

Due to the topography, traditional viticultural methods are still the norm, as are very traditional, minimalist winemaking techniques. The primary white grape varieties are Albariño, Godello, Treixadura and Loureiro. he primary red varieties a Mencía, Merenzao and Brancellao.

Dominio do Bibei is a project including René Barbier and Sara Pérez, that tries to respect the terroir and local varieties to the utmost, believing totally in the uniqueness of the vineyards. Besides Sara and René, who made their name with amazing wines in the Priorat region of Spain, the rest of the team is local, with a unique upstanding of the environment. If you check out the pictures at the website, you will see the sites are very special.

The wines are also very special. I had the chance to taste quite a few of them together and I was blown away. In a two day tasting of hundreds of wines, they really stood out, and still do, in my memory.

The whites were very impressive, showing great depth, nerve and drinkability. They cost respectively 15€ and 35€.

I first tasted the La Pola 2010, a white blend from 60% Godello, 15% Albariño, 10% Doña Blanca, and 15% others. Barrel fermented with lees aging. An intense but approachable white, honey and wax aromas, great acidity but round and great balance. The next white was the 2009 La Pena, their top white. It is 100% Godello. This is another of these Godellos that makes me love this grape so much. Godello done wrong can be a bit flabby but in the right hands it is exquisite. The La Pena was like a knife blade, all stones, apple, citrus aromas. Very lean, intense…made my mouth vibrate. This is a white to decant. Lovely.

The reds were stunning…I taste these wines and every time I am blown away that they come from Spain. Too many years of drinking the big reds and I marvel at the lightness and elegance of these wines. I wrote the post on the Tintos del Mar or “reds from the sea” series from Bodegas Forjas del Salnés….I love that term. These are a little farther from the sea but they still have that whiff of ocean.

I love those big reds…they represent Spain and when balanced, are spectacular. But I've also been so impressed by some of the lighter, more austere styles coming out from some more extreme vineyard sites and regions.

The first red I tasted was the baby of the series, the Lalama 2009, which goes for the lovely price of about 15€. Black and red red fruit nose gives way to a tarter red fruit on the palate. Good intensity, but smooth tannins and a lightness makes this a very food-friendly wine. The wine is mostly Mencía with a few others blended in.

Spanish wine: Dominio do Bibei from the Ribera Sacra region

The Lacima 2009 is the higher-end red, around 35€. It's 100% Mencía and really shows how elegant this grape can be. It has a very floral nose, with a lovely smokiness. The acidity is quite bracing, can be shocking at first, but then the aromas come in and the long smooth tannins. Very mineral in the mouth, a very angular wine, intense and light. So impressive. Mencía is one of my favorite Spanish grapes and this is a great example of it.

Next up were a couple of special bottlings of really unique grape varieties…what a treat! These are grapes you never really see outside of blends. First up the Mouratón 2008. Candied fruit, some spice and it gave the impression of being quite full bodied for the Bibei reds, despite it's 12.5% alcohol. Next blockbuster Brancellao 2008! Wow, what a spicy grape! Great red fruit aromas, smooth mouth but firm tannins, but the level of spice was unbelievable throughout…lingering on a super long finish. Loved this wine!

The wines of Ribeira Sacra range greatly in price, from inexpensive to El Pecado, which goes for over 60 euros. They are generally good value for such unique and limited production wines.

If you are looking for something totally unique, grape varieties you probably have never tried, and intense, but light and mineral wines that are great with food, check out Spain's Ribera Sacra region.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ian May 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Where are you seeing these prices? Here in the Ribeira Sacra wines can start as little as 5€ up to around the 20€ mark. The latter is considered over priced locally.
Glad you enjoyed the Mencia wines of the Ribeirasacra.

Reply

mary May 20, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thanks for your comment. I’m sure locally the prices are much better….lucky you! Unfortunately in the US they are quite a bit higher! But they can still be quite good value.

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