Updated: Jan 9, 2020
Whilst in Ribeira Sacra a few weeks back I’d heard a rumour about a wonderful restaurant called O Castelo which happened to be located at the winery of Adega Algueira.
We hadn’t booked a table but we made our way through the beautiful drive from Montfort de Lemos to the Amandi sub-zone of Ribeira Sacra to see what all the fuss what about.
I had seen the wines of Algueira on numerous occasions but had only tried their Mecia Joven which was particularly good. I was looking forward to sampling some of their range at lunch.
As we turned the corner and into the entrance of the winery we were met with the sight a beautiful stone building set amongst a forest of oak and chestnut trees; it was stunning. The sun was beating down and the smell of pine and fermentation circled around us.
As we arrived my daughter was fast sleep so I left my wife in the car to see if they had any available reservations. A wooden sign pointed me in the direction of the bodega and the restaurant so I climbed the makeshift steps to investigate.
As I reached the top of the stairs to the rear of the building I was met with additional stunning stone buildings and to my surprise Fernando and Ana the owners of the winery. Adega Algueira has been a family run winery since its inception. Fernando and Ana have been working in their 11 hectares of vines for 30 years and made the jump in 1998 to make and sell their own wines.
I walked towards the building and their small dog leapt up from his seat at the front of the building to bark at me, Fernando laughed and said “Don’t worry, he’s the boss!”
After a quick hello, I entered the main building which turned out to be the winery shop surrounded by bottles from their range; I believe they have 13 in total. The concept of the winery is to focus on quality over quantity and to deal with local varieties harvested from their estate alone. Production is small; particularly their work with more obscure grapes such as Caino, Merenzao and Alvarello, but the work is artisanal and hand-crafted.
After a swift examination of the wines in the store I was kindly offered a quick tasting. Thirty minutes later and I had managed to try 6 of their wines, all of them superb and unique. By this point I had forgotten the initial reasoning for arriving at the winery…lunch!
As I left to make my way to the car and bring up my wife and daughter I asked if children were allowed in the restaurant. The reply was typical of the region, “Of course! This is Galicia, everyone is welcome…children, dogs, cats!”
After seeing the beautiful winery and tasting those 6 wines I knew instantly that I loved Adega Algueira and after that response I loved them a little bit more!
What made me love them even further was the amazing food they served in the restaurant.
After an agonising decision I opted for traditional Galician soup for a starter followed by beef shank stew in Algeuira Mencia wine with chips and chestnuts. My wife went for Cannelloni filled with beef tail and truffle followed by Rooster with sweet potato chips.
My wife said the cannelloni was the best thing she had ever eaten and after I stole two bites I couldn’t disagree.
It was all so good I forgot to take pictures – the sign of a great meal!
This was all washed down with a bottle of their Godello called Escalada; a stunning lees aged wine sourced from a single parcel of the rocky, steep slopes of the River Sil. The wine is ultra-sharp, with great texture and body from the lees ageing. There’s intense minerality, brisk citrus flavours and plump stone fruit with a spiky acidity that provides beautiful balance.
After lunch I walked (waddled) back to the shop to pick up a bottle of their ‘Risco’ which I was lucky enough to sample earlier in the day and had been thinking about all through lunch.
Named after the previous owner of this special plot of vines and made from 100% Merenzao (more commonly known as Trousseau). The vines are 80 years old and the wine is whole bunch fermented, foot pressed and aged in old oak. The end result is unique and exquisite. Beautiful texture and inky dark colour with flavours of perfumed blackcurrant, fleshy plum, lavender and balsamic. I didn’t bring many wines home from my trip due to luggage restrictions but this one made the cut.
After paying I was told that the owners’ son Fabio was available if I wanted to learn more about the wines and the history. Such accommodating and gracious people, nothing was too much for them despite the fact we turned up unannounced and I was grateful for the personal tour.
They are a winery in the midst of development, growth and ambition. They winery building itself has been expanded from the original structure into a large, modern, clean and organised operation. As well as speaking perfect English Fabio was eloquent, knowledgeable and extremely passionate about the project and presenting their wines and explaining the expansion and elaboration process.
As well as being committed to tradition they also spend a lot of time experimenting. The wide array of barrels, foudre’s, amphora’s, all different shapes and sizes show commitment to artisanal winemaking and completing elaborations based on what is best for the grape rather than the winery.
Fabio also explained that they are performing research alongside the University of Santiago in Galicia to test the performance of Galician acacia barrels. So far they are pleased with the results and are keen to promote fellow Galician produce if the price is right.
There are also numerous other works in progress such as amphora aged brancellao under a layer of yeast, production of their own vinegar as well as sweet wine for use in their restaurant. This is the level of self-sustainability they are looking for; they also grow many of their own vegetables in their gardens for restaurant use.
This is definitely a project to watch out for.
Stunning wines, a combination of traditional and unique grapes, stunning vineyards, experimental winemaking techniques, ambitious, artisanal and a great respect for tradition all performed by a wonderful and welcoming family in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world.
What more do you need!?