In Galicia, the culture of wine is committed, and it is given more and more importance. We have five denominations of origin: Rías Baixas, Ribeiro, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei. The oldest was recognized in 1932 (Ribeiro) and the most recent in 1997 (Ribeira Sacra), and wine is done here for more than two thousand years! We also have four protected geographical indications: Viños da Terra (Betanzos, Barbanza-Iria, Ribeiros do Morrazo and Val do Miño-Ourense). We can boast of having more than 20 varieties of native grapes that, with time and their enhancement, produce differentiated wines, wines with character, as it is said, increasingly appreciated here and in the rest of the world. Nowadays, in addition to albariño, godello, or mencía, you can already hear about treixadura, brancellao, merenzao, torrontés or caíño, for example.
Traveling to visit wineries, taste wines and buy a bottle at the end of the excursion is something that has always been done. But the so-called wine tourism is more than that. It is considering wine in all its dimensions, as a product of the land and the history of its region and, also, as a common thread of various leisure and cultural activities. We have to realize that wine tourism is an engine for the local economy, which results in a higher quality wine production and also in the conservation of the historical and natural heritage of the area.
Of all the plans that we have, the most basic is a visit to the winery, where we can know about the winemaking process and history, and which is normally completed with a guided tour of the vineyards. Normally, it ends with a wine tasting and perhaps with the acquisition of a bottle in the wine cellar.
If we want to learn a little more, we can opt for a technical wine tasting. It is usually directed by a winemaker or a winery technician in the tasting room. This is a room designed to focus the senses on the wine, with a neutral decoration and isolated from olfactory, visual or other interference. There are initiation tastings and advanced tastings. They can be vertical (different vintages of the same wine), horizontal (different wines of the same vintage) or even à la carte. Sometimes they are made from traditional wines and other times from more experimental wines. And, if we prefer to accompany the drink, we can choose the tasting-pairing, in which we taste the wines with different bites or dishes, especially taking advantage of the gastronomy of the area.
We could think that the tastings are only for adult wine connoisseurs. But it is not true, wine tourism welcomes everyone, even teetotalers and minors and, of course, we can also taste grape musts and juices.
The launch of the Wine Routes has contributed significantly to the growth of wine tourism. These routes are wine-growing areas that take advantage of all their resources (accommodation, transport, gastronomy, historical heritage, natural heritage) to bring us the most complete tourist proposals. In Galicia we can enjoy five Wine Routes, corresponding to the five denominations of origin. In addition to visits to the vineyards and wineries, stays in rural houses or in the wineries themselves, meals in restaurants, cultural visits and typical activities of rural tourism (hiking, bike routes, horseback riding, nature sports, etc. ), each one offers different alternatives according to its peculiarities.
For example, on the Rías Baixas Wine Route, the largest in extension and number of wineries, in the area of the mouth of the Miño and the estuaries, we can visit pazos, mills, castros or navigate the Arousa estuary; On the Valdeorras Wine Route, in the easternmost part of Ourense, we discover the caves, buried wineries in which wine was traditionally made and preserved; On the Ribeira Sacra Wine Route, between Lugo and Ourense, on the banks of the Miño and the Sil, where there is the highest concentration of Romanesque monasteries in Europe, wine depends on heroic viticulture, named for the difficulty it entails work in the vineyards on those dizzying slopes; on the Monterrei Wine Route, in the eastern part of the province of Ourense, covas are preserved, archaic structures carved into the stone floor to press grapes; On the O Ribeiro Wine Route, in the extreme north-west of the province of Ourense, we can go on an excursion along the “wine road”, the path that muleteers traveled centuries ago to bring wine from Ribadavia to Compostela.
We can also know about the oenological culture in the Galician Wine Museum, in Ribadavia, and in the Wine Interpretation Centers, with some more specific ones, such as the Wine and Lamprey Interpretation Center in Arbo, in the Rías Baixas Wine Route.
Other important oenological destinations are the Wine Festivals, Fairs and Tunnels, present in Galicia throughout the year, especially in summer. And, after the summer, there comes a key moment for the wineries: the grape harvest. Many wineries organize activities to learn how to harvest grapes and participate in a traditional grape treading. Great to get to know them with our own hands, and feet! A whole party, very attractive to go with children.
We also have a perfect plan for each weekend in October: the Galician Wine Routes Open Days. This year the tenth edition is celebrated. Every weekend we can enjoy free guided visits to the wineries of a route, with tasting included. This is completed with a very varied program, with discounts on activities, which has everything, even astronomical tastings under the stars! Always, of course, traveling comfortably on the Wine Bus.