One of the producers who has significantly contributed to put Ribeira Sacra on the wine map, Algueira is a family venture set up by Fernando González Riveiro and his wife Ana in the 1980s. Their son Fabio is now taking the baton. After 40 years of planting vineyards, they have pioneered single-vineyard wines in the area as well as the recovery of indigenous grape varieties and the use of different types of aging containers.
Algueira was also one of the first producers in the region to embrace wine tourism offering appealing tastings, meals at their restaurant and boat tours.
At present, they own 30 hectares of vineyards, most of which are perched on steep slopes that plunge towards the Sil river. They are mainly found in Doade, in the subarea of Amandi (province of Lugo) where the winery is located, and in Abeleda on the opposite bank (subarea of Ribeiras do Sil, province of Ourense). Other Mencía and Godello vineyards on less rugged terrains upstream in Montefurado, in the subarea of Quiroga, are destined to their young cuvées. Most of their plots lie on metamorphic rocks (slate, schist, and gneiss to a lower extent). Given the diversity of locations, elevation and grape varieties, the harvest usually lasts about one month and a half.
Grapes for single-vineyard wines are sourced from traditional sites. “It makes no sense to produce young wine from hills with 85% gradients; you need at least 2kg of fruit per plant. There’s no terroir in this type of wines,” González Riveiro explains.
All wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts. Variable quantities of stems are used according to the circumstances of the vintage and the particular features of each plot and variety. The aim is to grow all Galician grapes and learn how they behave with different winemaking styles and ageing vessels. “Growing your own grapes is the only way to ensure consistent quality over time,” says Fernando González Riveiro, who also thinks it’s important to learn the distinctive features of each plot. “It takes me between 10 and 15 years to make a new wine,” he estimates.
Algueira produces in excess of 100,000 bottle and has a really extensive portfolio. Over the years, some wines changed their names because the appellation did not allow producers to mention any grape varieties other than Godello and Mencía on the label. This ban was lifted on the 2019 vintage
Godello is the main variety in Algueira’s whites. The range starts with Brandán Godello (25,000 bottles, €14 in Spain, 20% of grapes bought from purveyors), a young wine that is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Cortezada (8,000 bottles, €21) includes small amounts of Albariño and Treixadura in the blend. Grapes are sourced from Abeleda in the subarea of Ribeiras do Sil. Escalada (2,500 bottles, €45) is Algueira’s top Godello with good cellaring potential. The wine is fermented in oak and aged in stainless steel tanks. Grapes are sourced from a south-facing plot in Doade (subarea of Amandi). Anadelia (€35, around 2,000 bottles) was first produced in the 2015 vintage to convey the marked minerality of a distinctive vineyard. It is named after Ana, Fernando’s wife, and made with Treixadura fermented in stainless steel and skin-contact Godello. There is also an experimental Branco Lexítimo aged in clay eggs which was released as Algueira BLX some time before the Consejo Regulador approved the use of this local white variety.
The young Mencía (80,000 bottles, €12 in Spain) is Algueira’s most widely available red. Carravel (14,000 bottles, €26) is the oak version and grapes come from several south-facing plots in Doade. The most distinctive vineyard in this area, with yields of 500 gr per plant and Atlantic winds cooling it down in the morning, it is destined to Algueira Pizarra (around 7,000 bottles, €40). This red wine was sold as Algueira Barrica until the 2009 vintage. In 2013, the winery bottled a special selection to mark its 25th anniversary under the name Homenaje. Pizarra was occasionally released without the seal of the appellation when large oak vessels (foudres) were not allowed for ageing.
A second line for reds explores minority Galician grape varieties. Perhaps the best-known label is Serradelo (€39, between 5,000 and 6,000 bottles), a Brancellao which used to feature the synonym Albarello on the label. Algueira’s Merenzao (Trousseau), of which almost 10,000 bottles made, is sold under the brand Risco since the 2015 harvest. The Caíño and Sousón varieties can either be blended in the red Fincas or bottled separately as Amaral (Caíño) and Castagaia (Sousón). Algueira is able to produce up to 8,000 bottles of this range. The winery has also planted Espadeiro but has not yet released any wines with this grape.
Algueira exports to over 20 countries worldwide.