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Regional Profile – Galicia

Occupying the northwest corner of Spain, the province of Galicia is nestled snugly between various mountain ranges to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and Portugal to the south. The area was first colonized by the ancient Celtics in the sixth century B.C and Galicia was later controlled by the Roman Empire for hundreds of years. By the 13th century, the pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago which leads almost 900 kilometers across the north of Spain to the tomb of Saint James in Galicia’s Santiago de Compostela, was at its zenith, with up to 500,000 pilgrims a year. This pilgrimage had a profound effect on the proliferation of wine throughout this region of Spain, as monks from other parts of Europe made the journey, setting up monasteries and churches along the length of the route and bringing with them vines and winemaking traditions. The Cister monks built abbeys in Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla and Galicia, where the Cluny monks also were quite influential.

Galicia is made up of four provinces: La Coruna, Lugo, Orense and Pontevedra, and its capital is Santiago de Compostela. The climate of Galicia is warm and wet along the coast, but as you go inland it becomes drier as the landscape changes. This varied landscape and climate is surely one of the explanations behind the wide variety of wines that can be found here, and the fact that this autonomous community is home to five different Denominaciones de Origen: Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, and Valdeorras. Arguably the most famous of these is Rias Baixas, sometimes referred to interchangeably by the name of its star grape, Albariño, followed by Ribeiro which is about the same size (2,500 hectares). The other three denominations are about half the size. In addition to Albariño, other grapes that are considered autoctona (native) to the region are Godello, Treixadura, Loureiro, and Torrontes for whites, and Caiño, Souson, Espadeiro, Brancellao, and the better known Mencia, which produces vibrant and fruity reds in Ribera Sacra and Valdeorras.

See a map of Galicia here.

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