Ribeiro, like the other wine regions that make up Galicia, has a historical tradition of wine making. The Benedictine and Cistercian monks from San Clodio were instrumental in vineyard cultivation and recovery of native varietals.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the wines were heavily traded on the Atlantic, making Ribeiro very prosperous. Ribeiro wines even sailed with the first settlers to the New World. To keep up with market demand, bulk and high yield production became the norm, counter intuitive to the small plot viticulture.
Ribeiro’s location is Mediterranean, but also influenced by the Atlantic due to the short proximity from the ocean. Three valleys and rivers give shape to undulating slopes and terraces, ideal for high quality, natural viticulture.
Most of Ribeiro’s wine growing is based on a small plot harvesters, colleteiros, run by grower families who tend the vines by hand and then sell the grapes to coops or large wineries. The traditional wine of the region was called Vino Tostado, made from sun-dried grapes. Most of the wine production now is white, with treixadura as the main grape, typically blended with godello, albariño, or torrontes and other native grapes. The wines are aromatic with notes of tropical fruits and white flowers.
The high yield wine production of the past didn’t last. Many of the native varietals were replanted with other grapes, and the quality of the wine declined. Many colleiteros went out of business, leaving abandoned terraces much like those found in Ribeira Sacra. Recently, there has been a return to traditional winemaking and recuperation of the neglected vineyards, with a revitalization of nearly extinct indigenous grapes in an effort to produce the distinctive quality and heritage of Ribeiro’s terruño.
Today the efforts in the vineyards are paying off, showcasing the enormous potential for the once nearly extinct native grapes to produce distinctive and age-worthy wines.