Tradition and innovation in Ribeira Sacra with Dominio do Bibei

Dominio do Bibei have a super modern facility in southern Spain but only uses traditional varieties. When the producer came to visit Stockholm BKWine Magazine’s Peter Cronström was there.

Ribeira Sacra, which translated means the sacred river valley, is located in southern Galicia near the border to Portugal along the rivers Miño and Sil. The area became a separate domain of origin (DO) as late as 1996, but wine has been made here since Roman times. The monasteries then took care of the vineyards until the middle of the 1800s. Much of the monastic land was sold but suffered from Phylloxera and it was not until the 1900s that the wine production started again.

Difficult to handle the terrain

In Ribeira Sacra most vineyards lie along the rivers on very steep terraced slopes, therefore it is not possible to mechanize the work in the vineyards. So, most of the work is made by hand, a fact that many think is a huge advantage. Many believe that this create greater accuracy in the management of the vineyard and ultimately create better wines.

The climate in the area is a mixture of climates around the Iberian Peninsula with influence from both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. The climate is typically continental, with hot summers and cold winters with relatively low rainfall, 700-900 mm per year. The soil is mixed, with many minerals, and in the area where Dominio do Bibei there is much slate.

Dominio do Bibei vineyards in Ribeira Sacra

Dominio do Bibei vineyards in Ribeira Sacra, copyrigth Dominio do Bibei, used with permission

Only local varieties

Dominio do Bibei, like all producers in the area, only grow local grape varieties and they want to avoid planting other varieties. There are many different grape varieties grown but the most famous are the white godello, albariño and dona branca. Among the reds the most common are the following: mencia, brancellao and garnacha tintorera.

Dominio do Bibei is a very young producer who started in 2002. It has a modern cellar, built in a way that it integrates as much as possible into the environment to avoid affecting the surroundings. They also have the possibility to use gravity during production. Although the facility is new, as a contrast they only use traditional methods of fermentation and aging in large oak casks. Dominio do Bibei produces white and red wines and those we tasted were:

Dominio do Bibei wines from Ribeira Sacra

Dominio do Bibei wines from Ribeira Sacra, copyright P Cronstrom

Lapola 2014, Dominio do Bibei

White wine, made with 80% godello 15% albariño and 5% dona branca. The wine had a good acidity and relatively intense spiciness and minerality. It felt like albariño got the upper hand in a positive way. The same wine from 2015 was slightly lighter and not so dominated by the albariño. Probably because in 2015 hail destroyed sixty percent of the harvest.

Lalama 2012, Dominio do Bibei

Red wine, made with 90% mencia. A wine with a very fruity aroma with oak and spice. The wine has a long finish and shows developed tannins. The same wine from 2013 was surprisingly more mature in style even if the wine was younger.

Dominio do Bibei winery

Dominio do Bibei winery, copyrigth Dominio do Bibei, used with permission

Lacima 2012, Dominio do Bibei

Produced exclusively from vines older than 50 years. It consists of 90% mencia. This gives a slightly more rounded wine with higher complexity in the taste palette.

Peter Cronström writes on BKWine Magazine on wine tastings with wine merchants and importers.

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