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It’s been a pleasure to watch (and drink) the rebirth of the Galician highland region of Ribera Sacra. This is home to some of Spain's most captivating vineyards, uniquely capable of producing the country's most... Read More
It’s been a pleasure to watch (and drink) the rebirth of the Galician highland region of Ribera Sacra. This is home to some of Spain's most captivating vineyards, uniquely capable of producing the country's most elegant wines. Nowhere is this spirit of the movement more fully realized than at the exemplary Dominio do Bibei.
The brainchild of Javier Dominguez, based in Quiroga-Bibei, Dominio do Bibei is an ambitious and expensive project. They have restored or are restoring the high altitude terraces in the Bibei Valley in the eastern sub zone of the Ribeira Sacra D.O. These sites rise up from the banks of the slow moving river Sil and the upper reaches of the Miño, the river that goes on to form part of the border between Spain and Portugal. This is a drier area than many of the Ribeira Sacra sub zones although it shares the same fascinating landscape of hidden valleys and gorges, littered with Roman ruins and medieval monasteries.
Dominio do Bibei’s terraced vineyards reach up to almost 2000ft, a very high altitude for Spanish vineyards. The soils are rocky, and typically slate-rich with little topsoil. The Mosel and Cote Rotie rolled into one. Mostly littered with ancient bush vines, Javier and team have supplemented these with cutting from the older plots. Red varieties include Mencía, Garnacha, Brancellao and Mouraton. In whites, the majority is ancient vine Godello and Doña Blanca with some recent plantings of Albarino coming from the ancient Do Ferreiro vineyard in Rias Baixas.
The winery itself is a work of art. Javier’s natural inclination towards austerity and his respect for the land of his ancestors is reflected in the winery and its simple, stunning design. An homage to the retaining walls and terraced vineyard of the region, the cellar buildings are fragmented up the slope, linked by a single linear staircase. Javier brought in Priorat's renowned wine making couple, Sara Perez (Mas Martinet) and René Barbier Jr (Clos Mogador) to consult and work alongside talented resident winemaker, Laura Lorenzo.
Like her Priorat colleagues, Laura utilises many biodynamic principles to obtain the purest expression of Bibei's terroir. All harvesting is done by hand and only indigenous yeasts are used in fermentation. The wine is moved by gravity, with the underground temperatures providing natural refrigeration. There are no stainless steel tanks, only wood or cement vessels are used for fermentation and storage. These come in all the different sizes, including, of course, some concrete eggs. The wines, irrespective of colour, are neither fined nor filtered and are released with some bottle age.
Javier Dominguez along with an exceedingly talented team are producing thoughtful wines that are incredibly pleasurable while challenging the senses through extraordinary complexity, purity and detail. With weight and structure that are very reminiscent of classic Burgundy but with a density of fruit that can only come from this unique terroir, Dominio do Bibei is just more proof that Spain and her wines play second fiddle to no one.