Passion for Spanish wine


Cambados, a small seaside town which looks out over the Ría de Arousa in the heart of Galicia’s Rias Baixas region, is the self-styled capital of Albariño. Every year the town gives itself over to a joyous festival in honour of the celebrated grape. But while the festival takes place on just one day in August, the Vinoteca Ribeira de Fefiñans, a gem of a wine bar (and shop) and a must on any wine pilgrim’s Galicia itinerary, is open all year round for both lunch and dinner.

Owned by José Aragunde and his wife Olga, it combines under one roof a wine bar-restaurant and nine rooms. The dining room is tiny (10 tables and a few places to perch at the bar) and the walls are lined with bottles stacked high on shelves, with their takeaway prices indicated.

Out on the pavement there’s also a handful of tables, with front-row-of-the stalls views out across the estuary – settle down here with a glass of Albariño or Godello as you watch the sun sink behind the western horizon. At low tide you’ll see an army of women clad in thigh waders prising their harvest of cockles out of the sand and tossing them into big red buckets, ready to be rushed to the Vinoteca’s kitchen.

Just around the corner at their wine shop A Despensa, there’s an even larger wine selection, both local and imported, which can be despatched all over Spain and abroad.

The spotlight in both the Vinoteca and the shop is – as you would expect – on the wines of Galicia. There’s an especially strong Rias Baixas showing, with selected bottles from Galicia’s other DOs (Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, Ribeiro as well as neighbouring Bierzo).

The focus throughout is on smaller bodegas and wine makers that stand out from the crowd (Lagar de Costa, Zárate, Nanclares, Rodrigo Mendez and Forjas del Salnés amongst others). “We have a real cultura de vino here”, comments José with pride, adding that on most Thursday nights from 9pm he conducts tutored tastings for groups of wine enthusiasts, whose numbers include local sommeliers, wine growers and wine-loving holidaymakers.

The food, by chef Xavi, is on a par with the wines and draws on Galicia’s fabulous raw materials, whether sea- or land-based. Don’t miss the octopus salad or the pool of melted, smoked San Simón cheese served with a wine reduction, or any of the shellfish dishes, from a salad of scallops with mushrooms to sizzling plates of prawns, or freshly picked cockles tossed in a frying pan with garlic and olive oil. S.S.


Nanclares y Prieto: juggling with the many faces of Albariño
Rías Baixas: A hedonistic route for wine lovers