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Spaniards, Scotsmen and Bears. Oh my!

When you think of Spain, you think sunshine. You think hot and dry. Holidays, tapas, and red wine.  Flamenco. Matadors standing in the dirt and dust. Blood and sand.

Spain has a secret, though.  It’s cool and wet, it’s green, mountainous and rugged; in fact, it’s more akin to Scotland than it is to the rest of Spain.

It’s called Galicia.

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The secret is, as it always is with wine, in the geography.  Galicia is in the North-West corner of Spain, exposed to the Atlantic on two sides.  The coastline is wet and windswept; it’s a dramatic landscape.  Mechanisation is next to impossible, and as beautiful as it is, it’s hard work to farm.  To top that off, the area is home to a population of Cantabrian brown bears who have been known to venture into the vineyards.

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Though rainfall is high, Galicia benefits from an average 2,000 hours of sunshine annually.  These cool, humid yet sunny conditions are fantastic for the vine. The vines are trained high to help airflow and guard against rot.

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Befitting such conditions, production is small and there is little scope to expand – so this is a case of discovering the wines and enjoying them; their reputation is growing while production isn’t.

Galicia is home to not just one, but five DOs: Valderorras, Ribiero, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, and the best known, Rias Baixas.  Indigenous varieties Albariño and Godello make up the majority of quality whites, and black grape Mencia is planted in Ribiera Sacra.  Further inland, the climate becomes less humid and more Mediterranean, making it ideal for black grape varieties.  Here, vines can be trained lower to the ground in more traditional fashion.

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The wines of Galicia are thrilling.  So much so that they tempted Spain’s only resident Master of Wine away from his patch in hot and sunny Calatayud to make wines there.  Except there’s a twist in this tale, because Spain’s only resident Master of Wine is not Spanish at all – he’s a Scotsman from Fife.

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Norrel Robertson MW is El Escocés Volante.  Most Masters of Wine write about wine, but Norrel makes it.  His nickname translates as ‘The Flying Scotsman’, he consults for several wineries, and nickname is a wink to the so-called Flying Winemakers. We’ve carried his delicious Old Vines ‘Papa Luna’ from the hot scrubland of Calatayud for some years now.

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It’s more than just the climate that drew him to the cool North-West.  The vineyards of Galicia sit amongst granite outcroppings, where celtic stone carvings of cups and rings can be seen.  These ancient designs were taken by the Celts from Galicia to the British Isles thousands of years ago and are thought to represent worship of the elements.

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This Celtic connection inspired Norrel to make an Albariño and a Godello named for The Cups and Rings.  Both these wines are aged on the fine lees which adds richness and texture to the whites.  The Albariño is full of aromatic peach, baked apple and honeysuckle, underpinned with crisp acidity.  His Godello shows lemon and apple, with dried apricot and complex florals and spice.

Also worth tasting are the wines of Martin Códax, whose Albariño is a benchmark for the region.  Bodegas Martin Códax make two wines exclusively for Majestic, As Caixas Godello and Caixas Albariño.

You can explore our range of Galician wines on our website, right here.