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26th April 2015

A Galician Discovery

The wines of Manuel Formigo, Finca Tiera, Ribeiro

I have just returned from a wine trip to Galicia. One of the many highlights was meeting and tasting with Manuel at Finca Tiera in Ribeiro.



Manuel greeted us wearing an old ACDC t-shirt and a broad grin. Fortunately it was not a whole lotta rosé he was about to offer us, but a treatise in Treixadura instead. Farming just 4ha, in an amphitheatre shaped vineyard reaching 250m in altitude, with his new, slightly utilitarian, winery at the bottom, Manuel’s plots are on eleven slightly different slopes. The soil is mainly granitic sand, a feature of some of which is like crumbly slate. Apparently it is all, like Katie Hopkins, on the acidic side, and so Manuel adds a calcium salt. This, he says, is more controllable than the traditional crushed sea-shells. And frankly who’d warm to someone who crushes sea shells for a part of his living?



The Finca Tiera property has passed from grandfather to father to Manuel, and on the way the vineyard holding has been repeatedly added to. They now have the whole slope apart from one small parcel whose owner refuses to sell, which sits there in its indifferent difference wishing unrequitedly to join its brethren in the fold. Or at least that’s how it looks.
90% of the vineyard is – unsurprisingly for Ribiero - planted to the local white grape Treixadura. Two of the terraces in these vineyards have 35-year Treixadura vines that could easily be the oldest in the region. There are also plantings of Godello, Torrontés, Loureira, Albariño and Alvilla, but Manuel has two lower vineyards quarried implausibly, although possibly not quite as boringly, into the shifting sands like an Erskine Childers novel. Here he has planted Caiño Longo, for the simple reason that he wants to make some red wine. And what better reason could you need than that? Manuel is a talented and well travelled winemaker. He did his stage at Domaine de Chevalier in Graves, and then started working the family’s vineyards in 2001

In the vineyard we tasted the implausibly priced (€8)

Finca Tiera 2014 Treixadura, Ribeiro
Fresh and flavoursome with honeysuckle, grass, olive oil hints and fresh green pear, plus well judged acidity, especially for the vintage. Exceptional value.

Eleven slopes and prettily sited though it may be, after you have walked down the hill, there is little to do (other than walk back up it I suppose, but this would be a poor plan because the coach had already cunningly been repositioned on the low road next to the winery).

And so we repaired to the Monasterio Mysterioso de San Clodio in Leiro. It’s a mystery because no-one seems to know who St Clodio was, how he got there, or what he did. It’s on a ‘Camino’ from somewhere, but as we were rapidly discovering, in Galicia that narrows it down by about as much as Dawn French foregoing one chocolate orange segment once. But it is a beautiful originally 12th century Cistercian monastery now slightly incongruously transformed into a 5 star hotel, thus allowing for guests to get exactly the feeling for how living and being a thirteenth century monk wasn’t.

The ceiling in the chapel has been ‘restored’, and rather like the old-lady-enhanced"Ecce Homo" elsewhere in Spain, the painter appears to have added a South Park touch even to their depiction of JC himself…



In the cloisters, with the usual ham, cheese, empanadas and stuff, we got to try more of Miguel’s lovely wines

Teira X 2010 and 2011
65% Treixadura, 35% Loureiea, Godello and Albilla.

Both these wines are from the best of the vineyards and labelled accordingly. Rich and honeyed, some floral and citrus. Very well extracted and with a long finish. The 2011 is especially nutty and rich with a well judged concentrated phenolic extract.

Finca Tiera 2013 (as above)
Softer acidity than the 14, but still crisp with rich, honeyed fruit. Great depth and length. Bargain.
Finally, and following not-quite-enough spitting, we got to try the other wine for which the Ribiero DO is famed:

Tostada de Tiera NV
This is an unfortified sweet wine, made from dried grapes. Aged in a single 250Lt barrel of Galician oak made by Manuel's grandfather which is used for a single-barrel solera (since 2006) and never emptied. Made to 15% to keep safe.
Very rich, with fresh acidity, orange marmalade and floral flavours. Intense and concentrated with great balance and huge length. Manages the sweetness (150g/L) very well and finishes fresh. Supertop.

This wine is on the list at Celler de Can Roca. And deservedly so.

Formigo is also the local word for ‘ant’ and there are depictions of ants on the winery’s labels and signs in various degrees of stylistic interpretation. As anyone keen on cryptic crosswords will tell you ‘ant’ is also designated by the word ‘worker’, and for all these wonderful wines to be made by just the dynamo that is Miguel, the link is certainly appropriate. Salud!



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