North West of Spain
May 29,2023 | Magnum Opus Wines
Green Spain covers the lands of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and País Vasco, as well as the county of Bierzo in the province of Castilla y León, which we will cover in a different article. A moderate, maritime climate is present throughout the region, with small-scale variations in temperature and rainfall depending on the distance from the sea and the presence of coastal mountain ranges that can help shield vineyards from frequent cloud cover. This climate explains the region’s focus on earlier-ripening grapes, especially white varieties (Albariño, Godello, Doña Blanca, Torrontes, Treixadura); with the noble exception of the red wines made from Mencía in the DOs Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, and Valdeorras.
Located along the Atlantic coast, Galicia has a very wet climate with average rainfall of more than 1,300 mm a year. The more than 2000 hours of sunshine that the region receives helps contribute to the high humidity of the area.
The climate is Atlantic, with wet winters and sea fog. In general rainfall is high and the temperatures mild. Temperatures in summer rarely exceed 30 °C and only drop to 0 °C in December and January.
The Serra dos Ancares mountain range forms the border with Castile and León to the east, and the Miño river forms part of the border with Portugal to the south.
Rias Baxas literally "low estuaries" is located around the province of Pontevedra.
It is believed that the Albariño grape was introduced to the area in the 12th century by the Cistercian monks of the Monastery of Armenteira.
Rías Baixas acquired its official status as a Denominación de Origen (DO) in 1988.
Albariño is the champion grape of Rías Baixas (90% of plantings). The 2700 hectares vineyard soils range from granite to slate. Granite soils are often the oldest in Spain and are readily found along the Spanish border with Portugal, stretching from Galicia in the north down to Extremadura in the south. Like slate, granite is a rocky soil that retains greater amounts of heat, thus benefiting those grapes grown in cooler and wetter climates like Rías Baixas in Galicia.
The DOP counts 180 wineries and annual production is around 10 million litres.
Expect to drink mineral-driven, zesty white wines along with a few tart, elegant and aromatic red wines made with Mencía.
DO Ribeira Sacra
Located in the south of the province of Lugo and in the north of the province of Ourense, in Galicia, Spain. It extends over the territories of 20 different municipalities that conform a zone and entity called Ribeira Sacra, which could be translated as "Sacred Shore".
The Ribeira Sacra is one of Spain’s most spectacularly beautiful vineyard areas. Its vines are planted in the steep valleys and precipitous gorges of the Rivers Miño and Sil as they wind through Galicia’s lush green countryside. The term “Heroic Viticulture” was coined here. Think of dramatic landscapes such as the Mosel or Douro Valleys, add a sparse population and an imposing silence and you’ll be able to imagine the region.
The vineyards are planted on terraces (known as bancadas) in the narrow valleys of the rivers and are characterized by the production of grapes with a very concentrated flavor. The terraces are usually very small, making it impossible to mechanize the vineyard activities, such as pruning and harvesting. Access is often very difficult and sometimes only possible from the river.
Both white and red wine production are dominated by blends of local Galician grapes, with varietal wines being the exception. Having said that, the black grape Mencía represents 80% of total plantings, making it the key variety in the crisp red blends for which the DO is known. The area acquired official Denominación de Origen status in 1996.
The area is divided into 5 sub-regions, each with a different micro-climate, but in general all the soils are alluvial over a slate based subsoil. There are 1200 hectares of vines operated by 90 wineries, for an annual production around 3.5 million litres, which make them difficult to find in the export market.
Today a new wave of investment in stainless-steel equipment and of controlled experiments in the bodega is producing excellent varietal whites as well as the big, aromatic reds for which the area was originally famed. However, even after consolidation, winemaking here remains extraordinarily artesanal, a reflection of the tiny landholding scale and farmhouse bodegas as well as traditional, virtually organic growing methods.
The name Valdeorras reflects the region’s fame during Roman times when it was known as “The Valley of Gold”. It lies next to Bierzo, sharing similar features such as mountain slopes and a warmer climate compared to those regions closer to the coast. DO Valdeorras is shaped by the River Sil, which cuts a long east-west corridor between the sierras that shelter those vines planted on slopes above the valley floor.
Reputed for its wines in classical times, after a centuries-long period of decline, the 19th century saw the area take off again. In the 1970s experiments were conducted to reintroduce the native Godello grape variety. The area acquired its official DO status in 1945.
The Valdeorras wine scene came back to life some 30 years ago, when a number of young, adventurous winemakers started recovering its native grapes - in particular, Godello - and succeeded in crafting some of Spain’s most impressive white wines.
The vineyards of the Valdeorras DOP are on the banks of the river Sil, which flows westwards from Castile and León to the province of Ourense. In general the landscape is flat or gently rolling.
As most of the vineyards are on the river Sil valley floor, the soils are alluvial and quite fertile, with good moisture retaining properties.
The climate in Valdeorras is a combination of Atlantic, continental and a specific micro-climate in the Sil valley. These factors ensure that the vines receive enough sunlight and heat during the short summer. Rainfall is high, between 850 mm and 1,000 mm per year. Temperatures can drop to below zero during the winter.
The 1100 hectares of vines are planted at a height of between 240 m and 320 m above sea level. 40 wineries produced approcimately 3.5 million litres of wine per year.
Feel free to browse our wine selection directly imported from Galicia here : https://www.magnumopuswines.com/collections/galicia
The Basque Country
The Basque Country (País Vasco) is an autonomous community in northern Spain. It includes the Basque provinces of Álava, Biscay, and Gipuzkoa. The Basque people are proudly independent, having their own culture and unique language.
Whilst Vitoria in the province of Álava is the largest municipality, Bilbao in the province of Biscay is the largest in population.
The Basque Country borders Cantabria and the Burgos province to the west, the Bay of Biscay to the north, France and Navarre to the east and La Rioja to the south.
The territory has 3 distinct areas :
1) The Atlantic Basin formed by many valleys with short rivers that flow from the mountains to the Bay of Biscay, like the Nervión, Urola or Oria. The coast is rough, with high cliffs and small inlets. The northern valleys, in Biscay and Gipuzkoa and also the valley of Ayala in Álava, are part of Green Spain, where the oceanic climate is predominant, with its wet weather all year round and moderate temperatures. Precipitation average is about 1200 mm.
2) The Middle section between the 2 mountain ranges is occupied mainly by a high plateau called Llanada Alavesa (the Álava Plains), where the capital Vitoria-Gasteiz is located. The rivers flow south from the mountains to the Ebro River. The main rivers are the Zadorra River and Bayas River. The middle section is influenced more by the continental climate, but with a varying degree of the northern oceanic climate. This gives warm, dry summers and cold, snowy winters.
3) The Ebro Valley from the southern mountains to the Rioja Alavesa, shares the Mediterranean characteristics of the Ebro Valley. The Ebro valley has a pure continental climate: winters are cold and dry and summers very warm and dry, with precipitation peaking in spring and autumn. Due to the proximity to the ocean however, the Ebro part of the Basque Country is moderate compared to areas further inland.
DO Getariako Txakolina/Txakoli de Getaria
What is Txakolí? This light-bodied, faintly fruity and sometimes slightly bubbly wine has been made for centuries across Northern Spain, but its true home is País Vasco. In recent years, both the quality of and demand for Txakolí has grown exponentially. Investments have been made in both the vineyards and the winery, and techniques like lees ageing have been introduced in order to make the wines slightly richer and more easily suited to a wider range of foods. Txakolí production is centred on the three provinces of País Vasco: Álava, Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya.
The Basque Country’s fresh, white wine, called txakoli on home ground and chacolí elsewhere in Spain, is produced in the region’s 3 provinces. The DO, which encompasses the growing area in the province of Guipuzcoa (Gipuzkoa), is called Getariako Txakolina in Basque and has 402 hectares devoted to vineyards. Consisting mostly of trained vines, 90% of them are located in coastal areas. Hondarribi Zuri is the main coastal white variety in the Basque Country. For reds, they use Hondarribi Beltza. Production is around 2.5 million litres per year.
It was at the beginning of the 1980´s when a group of wine producers formed the Txakoli Winemakers´ Association (BIALTXA) and with support from the local Basque administration (the Basque Government and the Biscay Provincial Government), the recovery of this exquisite and unique libation was begun.
DO Bizkaiko Txakolina/Txakoli de Bizkaia
The result of all this work and collaboration came about in 1994 with the appellation contrôlée entitled “Chacolí de Vizcaya – Bizkaiko Txakolina” (Txakoli de Bizkaia).
This DO came about to let people know about this ancestral wine and to appreciate and protect this fruit of Atlantic winegrowing that features local varieties of grapes and the know-how of our farms (traditional cultivation of rural Biscay where txakoli is produced). The 400 hectares producer around 1.7 million litres per vintage.
DO Arabako Txakolina/Txakoli de Álava
Alava, the Basque country's southern inland province, is mainly known for its red wines produced in vineyards which fall within Rioja DOP. However, in 2001 it also registered a chacolí denomination called, in Basque, Arabako Txakolina.
In 1989 an agreement was signed by the Diputación Foral de Alava and the half-dozen remaining producers to recover chacolí production in the Comarca de Aiara. By the year 1999-2000 there were 50 hectares of vineyard, thirty three producers and their joint production had risen to 80,000 litres of wine. The DO was awarded in May 2001.
The main authorized grapes are the white Hondarrabi Zuri and red Hondarrabi Beltza, along with Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Petit Corbu.
Feel Free to browse our wine selection directly imported from Basque Country here : https://www.magnumopuswines.com/collections/basque-country