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There is Gold in Them Hills: Pioneering Ribeira Sacra

If anyone has earned the right to call their wine hand-crafted, the new pioneers of Ribeira Sacra (which acquired DO status in just 1996) must be at the head of the queue. However, even before the creation of this idyllic and isolated Galician DO, Algueira’s Fernando González and Ana Perez had begun purchasing and restoring vineyards abandoned here by the end of the 19th century. Phylloxera, followed by recession and civil war had brought rack and ruin to these once-proud, ancient vineyards. Thanks to growers like Algueira, new energy has bloomed in Ribeira Sacra.

The first step to crafting wines of genuine authenticity was to rebuild the terraces, or solcacos, that were carved by the Romans into the rocky valleys banking the Sil, Miño and Bibei Rivers. Not only have the founding Algueira team painstakingly resurrected these abandonados, but they have also demonstrated their land and practice as capable of producing wines that bear comparison with the very best of Europe. From humble beginnings, González and Pérez now tend 20 hectares of vines. Today they are joined by son Fabio González Riveiro and young winemaker David Pascual.

“These [Ribera Sacra reds] are lively, graceful wines, with the same sort of aromatic loveliness and lissome body that draws people to Burgundy and Barolo.” Eric Asimov

The vineyards are based in Ribera Sacra’s prestigious Amandi subzone, where vertiginous slopes of slate and schist rise like staircases from the river Sil. In places, these terraces are so dizzyingly steep that they make the hillsides of Côte-Rôtie look like nursery slopes. Algueira’s white varieties shine in the cooler Ribeira del Sil sub-region on soils of gneiss and quartz. Due to the extreme nature of the sites, cultivation is painstakingly slow. Now largely biodynamic, these practices sometimes mean the numbers don’t add up, however, González believes the wines deserve every effort.

Mencía is Algueira’s paragon variety, producing aromatic wines of silky balance, clarity, and mineral resonance. González was also an early champion of Ribeira Sacra’s native grapes, and to this day makes Spain’s most exciting Merenzao, a variety with close links to Jura’s Trousseau. Algueira’s more sheltered, gneiss and quartz-laden slopes are devoted to Godello, Albariño and Treixadura, which yield some of Galicia’s most limpid, crystalline whites. Whatever the variety, every sip taken from these wines has the potential to profoundly change many drinkers’ perceptions of Spanish wine.

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“[Algueira’s] wines and spectacular vineyards have been praised by The New York Times and Le Figaro, so are better known internationally than in Spain itself. The wines of Algueira are considered by many the finest and most elegant in Ribeira Sacra.” The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain, Jesús Barquín et al.

“Year in, year out, their Merenzao is the star of the portfolio and among the best wines from the appellation.” Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate



Primary Region

Ribeira Sacra, Galicia


Winemakers: Fernando & Fabio González Riveiro



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