Something a bit different
Whilst wine is widely produced throughout Galicia, the region also has a rather unusual and potent celebratory drink which bears more similarities to prohibition bootleg whiskey than anything else - at least in the way it is produced.
Orujo de Galicia (also called "aguardiente" or firewater) is a high alcohol content drink, native of Galicia. I believe this to be the same as caña which is distilled from grape skins, left over from wine production and frequently made in peoples garages and sheds.
It sound strange, but is mixed (once distilled) with fresh cherries, sweet sherry and lots of sugar. It is then left to stand and the cherries exchange their sweetness with the bitterness of the drink which they absorb. Before drinking it is usually poured into a large china or earthenware bowl, set alight, and drunk from mini replicas of the large bowl (you can buy these drinking sets as keep sakes throughout Galicia).
Aguardiente is best drunk in small quantities or, if you value your throat, taste buds and stomach lining, not at all. I have a bottle to which I have continually added the above ingredients and, after several years, it still acts as an effective descaler. That said, if you really need to get "under the influence" quickly, it will certainly do the trick!
We are certainly not wine experts, although we do know what we like. But if you want to find out more about one of Galicia's most popular wines (the Albarino) from one of its most respected bodegas, take a look at . This company is managed by an Englishman, has an English language website and produces some very high quality premium wines in to the bargain. Their wines are highly thought of and have a high reputaion in the south of England where the Albarino is one of the most fashionable wines around.
Today, Galicia is a major wine producing area and has several internationally respected wines to its name.
The Albarino grape is common in the "rias baias" (lower bays) coastal districts and the hills and mountains that surround them and has several local "bodegas" (producers/vineyards) producing a fresh dry white wine. One of note is "Vizconde de Barrantes", but there are many more from small producers and you will find them throughout Galicia’s shops and restaurants.
For a red wine try some of the wines made from the "mencia" grape. The grapes are mainly grown around the hills and valleys of "Ribeira Sacra" (Galicia's most popular regional wine being Ribeiro) and are fruity, but dry. Many of the land strips where they are grown date back centuries and were originally owned and cultivated by monks in the local monasteries.
Other popular wine making grapes include the "dona blanca", "mencia" and "tinta fina", although different combinations of grapes are frequently blended to secret recipes.
Although technically illegal, many farmers, small holders and Galicians with vines in their gardens, make their own wine. If they produce too much they sell the excess on to local shops, bars or restaurants and they are often quite good and ridiculously cheap.