And it has finally taken off. This traditional Galician Designation of Origin and main producer of white wines in this autonomous region had a reputation for making weak wines drunk in pottery cups known as \\\"concas\\\". Now, however, and practically overnight, it has turned into an up and coming Designation with a significant number of excellent high quality wines.
For wine lovers, and particularly on those heady summer days, I suggest taking an in-depth look at these \\\"new Ribeiros\\\". Heeding this advice could be the start of a long-term relationship.
The reason for this quiet but fast-moving revolution is very simple. It has involved eliminating, to a large extent, the old grape variety - the high yielding but pretty tasteless Palomino - and replacing it with native varieties that made these wines famous hundreds of years ago. The Treixadura, Loureiro, Albariño, Godello, Torrontés and Lado native varieties are linked with the appearance of a new generation of young winemakers who have a very clear idea of the quality parameters required for a modern wine.
What began as the initiative of a group of visionaries such as Javier Alén and his Viña Mein, Arsenio Paz and Vilerma, Emilio Rojo and the excellent selections from the powerful Ribeiro Cooperative headed by Tito Levoso, with his Costeira de Treixadura and Albariño collections, has resulted in a barrage of fantastic new producers.
On the banks of the Avia
One would think that good wines could be drunk by just travelling along the small roads on the banks of the river Avia, which runs through the Designation's capital, Ribadavia, before flowing out into the Miño, in the heart of Orense. A sea of vineyards stretching down the gentle slopes towards the river, a beautiful place and, together with the Rioja Alavesa region, one of the loveliest winegrowing landscapes in Spain.
At the top, the Coto de Gomariz, Vilerma and Lagar de Merens vineyards, and in the middle, the vineyards owned by the film director José Luis Cuerda, producing San Clodio, Pazo Tizón, Casal de Armán and Pazo Casanova wines. Higher up, towards Orense, are the vineyards owned by the Campante winery, producing Reboreda wine and lower down, Pazo do Mar and its Expresión wines. All are small holdings with the winery at the centre, normally housed in old but perfectly equipped mansions and producing very good wines.
The main features of these wines, apart from the obvious differences in the soil, is their intensely powerful nose, with a predominance of fruity apple tones, hints of recently-mown hay, smooth herbaceous touches and floral tones; on the whole a well-composed symphony.
In the mouth they are usually powerful, very lively and well-balanced, with a fine acidic content giving a fresh touch and a long, rich finish. These are a far cry from the silly flat and even cloudy wines that were said to be the classic Ribeiros and that are fortunately a thing of the past.
At the end of June, the Designation's annual wine competition was held and won by the brands Divino Rei; Beade Primacía; Terra do Castelo Selección; Terra Minei; Finca Teira, and Mauro E. Álvarez. In other words, all 2007 whites.
At the forefront of change
Next to the winners, in addition to the brands and wineries already mentioned and other excellent wines such as Sameirás, Extramundi, Adega do Moucho, Pazo Lodeiro, Viña D\\\'anzón, Eduardo Bravo, Quinta do Avelino, Viña de Martín, Cunqueiro III Milenium, Máxima, Antonio Montero, Viña Farnadas, etc., you can find some forty brands that epitomise the new, modern and vibrant Ribeiro.
And the news is that this is only just the beginning. A series of wineries are searching for more complex wines using cask-ageing methods, and in the meantime, new brands are rushing onto the market to join the fast-growing leading group.
It had to happen and it is happening all over Spain, as traditional Designations of Origin rooted in the old ways of making wine are moving towards modern techniques and quality assurance, keen to shake off old habits. The way in which Ribeiro has shaken itself up has been spectacular.