The Ribeiro Designation of Origin average yearly production stands at 14 million kilos of white grapes and 2 million kilos of red grapes, processed by 115 wineries.
Ribeiro wines are distinctive for their diversity, a feature strengthened by the many vineyards, wineries and grape varieties included under this Designation of Origin. Although the majority of the wines are white, this area also produces red wine and the Ribeiro "tostado" wine. Luis Anxo Rodríguez, President of the D.O. Ribeiro Regulatory Council, reveals the main characteristics of these Galician wines.
Mundo Empresarial Europeo (MEE): What is most distinctive feature of Ribeiro wines?
Luis Anxo Rodríguez (LAR): What makes Ribeiro wines so special is the diversity produced by the many vineyards, wineries and varieties in the Designation. Ribeiro's good wines are the result of mixing native and locally grown grapes with a marked personality, making them special and unique. These characteristics mean that Ribeiro wine excels in a modern wine making market suffering from a predominance of extremely homogenous, monotonous wines lacking in character.
White Ribeiro wine accounts for over 85% of production in the Designation of Origin; it is an outstanding wine that is internationally acclaimed as one of the best whites in the world. These are clean, transparent wines, very elegant, both subtle and complex, with a magnificent palate, pleasant in the mouth and enjoyably smooth and delicate.
Ribeiro red wine accounts for less than 15% of the Denomination of Origin production. It is an authentic wines with a personality all of its own and never out of fashion. It is drunk almost exclusively in Galicia and is therefore not particularly well know , although its distinctive character and quality are generating a great deal of interest and consequently an increase in demand for production. The wines are bright, of medium depth and with brilliant morello cherry tones, intense and elegant, full-bodied and very expressive. They have an excellent character and a moderate tannin content.
Ribeiro "tostado" wine is a naturally sweet wine, and is made using only the must from the best grapes that have previously been dried under cover. Production is on a very reduced scale, as it is highly labour intensive and complex, but the result is a wine making gem with a unique set of features. They are brilliant and very viscous wines, extremely complex and special, with a pleasant warm and sweet entry.
MEE: Which are the grape varieties that grow best in this area and are used to produce the Designation's wines?
LAR: In the case of white wines, we grow the following high quality native varieties: Treixadura, Torrontés, Godello, Loureira, Albariño and Lado. For red wines, the native varieties used are: Sousón, Brancellao, Caiño and Ferrón.
MEE: How have wines in this DO evolved over the years? Can you tell us how many and what kind of wineries belong to the D.O. and what their volume of production and turnover are?
LAR: Over the last few years native varieties have been making a comeback and we have gradually been producing wines that have been very successful with both critics and the public. However, the quality of some of our wines is not quite good enough yet.
Average production in the Designation of Origin stands at 14 million kilos of white grapes and 2 million red grapes, processed in 115 wineries, 84 of which are classified as “Adega de Colleiteiro”. These wineries produce wines from their own grapes, but they cannot buy grapes in from outside and they are not permitted to exceed a maximum production limit of 60,000 litres. This production model is closely linked to the "terroir" concept in which the winemakers produce wines from grapes grown and harvested in their own vineyards.
The “Adega” (winery) is a type of company set up by one or more partners and which may buy in grapes from growers to produce its wines, or alternatively it may have its own vineyards. The Ribeiro Designation of Origin has the oldest wineries in Galicia, including the largest and the first to bottle its wines.
Ribeiro currently has a total of 31 wineries of this type. Both Ribeiro production models are responsible for this Designation of Origin's strong comeback as they are restructuring grape varieties and achieving some excellent wines.
NATIVE GRAPE VARIETIES
MEE: How is the quality of these wines being protected and increased?
LAR: By opting for high quality native grape varieties rather than other more abundant varieties. We have been undertaking a restructuring process for some years now and we are now producing wines that are becoming more genuine and authentic. We still have lower-range wines produced from the Palomino and Garnacha Tintorera varieties, but in progressively reduced quantities each year to make way for the better quality wines. The regional government awards grants for pulling out the Palomino variety and for planting native varieties in its place.
We are also in the process of changing the D.O. rules, which will help to consolidate this push towards quality. Our objective is to rank amongst the best quality wines in Spain, at least in the white wine category.
MEE: What effect does your approach to new technology have on the end result of your product?
LAR: Nowadays all the Ribeiro wineries have the same modern technology as the best in the field, with white wine producers on a par with top level wineries.
MEE: What requests would you take to the regional government and the various organisations concerned with winegrowing in this country?
LAR: I would ask them to continue and step up the policies for supporting the industry that have been put into place over the last few years.
MEE: What are your future wishes for D.O. Ribeiro wines?
LAR: I would like the D.O. Ribeiro, which covers a fairly small area, to be consolidated as a top quality wine-producing region. We have already shown that it has the potential to achieve this.
MEE: What are the main activities carried out by this Regulatory Council?
LAR: It undertakes various promotional activities and campaigns for our wines. Every year the harvest is presented in a number of Spanish towns and we invite restaurateurs, sommeliers, wine sellers and the media to attend these events. We want our product to be known for its superior quality.
A huge promotional effort is being made to raise awareness of the elegance, freshness and fruity aromas of the new Ribeiro wines. We are a major producer of this type of wine and have very varied stock, as we do not sell just one variety but a mix of varieties that ensures the wines are very different from each other. Every year we organise visits to our wineries so that people can taste our wines and get to know them better.
THE ORIGINS OF RIBEIRO
Back in 1594, the Ribadavia municipal by-laws set out the places and parishes that could produce and sell Ribeiro wine and the exact spot in the marketplace where they could set up their stalls. They also specified which handling operations were allowed and what the sanctions were for those who disobeyed the by-laws.
These by-laws were the precursors of the regulations set by today's Regulatory Councils. The World Intellectual Property Organization recognises these by-laws as being the first steps that were taken to protect a geographical origin under Spanish law. The Ribeiro Designation of Origin is in southern Galicia, on the North-West edge of the province of Ourense where the valleys formed by the Miño, Avia, Arnoia and Barbantiño meet. It has 2,685 hectares of vineyards in the boroughs of Ribadavia, Arnoia, Castrelo de Miño, Carballeda de Avia, Leiro, Cenlle, Beade, Punxín and Cortegada, and in part of the boroughs of Boborás, San Amaro, Toén, Carballiño and Ourense. The vineyards cover areas of varying altitudes, from 75 to 400 metres above sea level, in valleys and on sometimes very steep hillsides on terraces known as "socalcos" or "bocaribeiras" that follow the contours of the land.