Ribeira Sacra, Spain
At a Glance
  • Reference point, Biodynamic producer in the Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra
  • 100% estate-grown grapes – many other producers in Ribeira Sacra either purchase fruit or grow and purchase.
  • They have been working for many years to recover old vines of many rare local varieties.
  • The word Alguiera means “chestnut tree” and is the family’s nickname because they are all tall and skinny.
  • They work naturally in the vineyards and do not till the soil – using cover crops and various composts to maintain soil health and prevent erosion.

Ribeira Sacra is one of the world's most amazing and dramatic wine regions. Like the Mosel or Cote Rotie, the vineyards are planted on extremely steep inclines (some up to 75 degrees!) and planted on terraces made from pure schist soils. These vineyards descend precipitously to the River Sil which twists and turns through the bottom of the valley. The schist soils, steep inclines, and tempering effects of the river provide the perfect microclimate for producing truly special and unique wines.

One of the region's superstars is Adega Algueira which is run by the super passionate father-son team of Fernando and Fabio Algueira. The vineyards are located in the Amandi Subzone of the appellation, generally considered the best and most consistent for growing the region's indigenous varietals. At the top of the banks, amongst chestnut and oak trees, lies the winery built in the Romanesque style to mimic the monasteries crafted by monks in this area back in the 12th Century.  Of course, the monks brought with them the need for wine and so they began planting vines along the banks of the Sil. Even before the Middle Ages, there are stories of Ribeira Sacra wine being shipped to ancient Roman Emperors.

Algueira focuses on local grape varieties – for red grapes this includes Mencia, Brancellao, Merenzao (Trousseau), Souson, and Caiño – and for whites: Godello, Loureiro, Treixadura, and Albariño.  All the fruit used in their wines is estate-grown with the utmost care using biodynamic methods (though not “officially” certified).  Given the extreme steepness of the slopes, all the vineyard work and harvest are done, painstakingly, by hand.

The winery makes a few Mencia-based Ribeira Sacra wines starting with a beautiful, “crunchy” tank-aged wine, and working up to others that see some aging in (mostly) seasoned oak 500-liter barrels. They also make tiny quantities of wines from several rare indigenous varieties, in both red and white. To compose these masterpieces, they began work with the famous Raul Perez as the "spiritual" guiding winemaker.  They further carry the biodynamic baton in the winery and use foot treading of grapes and spontaneous fermentations to make these pure, natural, mineral-laden, and beautifully textured wines.

Algueira’s Ribeira Sacras are all special wines, not to mention incredible values given the work involved in producing them. They deserve a place in the pantheon of unique and soulful wines from one of the great and largely undiscovered terroirs in the wine world.