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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Adegas Manuel Formigo Grand Cru Quality Treixadura-based White Wines from Ribeiro (Galicia)

* * * * *

Adega Manuel Formigo
Cabo de Vila, 49
32431 Beade (Ourense), Galicia

by Gerry Dawes*, Founder
The Spanish Artisan Wine Group
*Spanish National Gastronomy Prize 2003

Agustín Formigo Raña, his wife María del Carmen de la Fuente de la Torre and their son, winemaker Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, the Formigo family of viticulturists and winemakers, has been closely connected with wines from the Ribeiro for many generations in the village of Beade.   Beade is in Ourense, one of the four provinces of emerald Galicia in northwestern Spain just north of the border with Portugal and  is just a few kilometers north of the ancient town of Ribadavia, which has one of the best preserved medieval Jewish quarters in Spain (see slide show below).

(Double-click on the images and go to Picasa, then click on "slide show" and F11 for a full-screen view.) 

Adegas Manuel Formigo makes primarily white wines of character and quality,  reflecting the greatness of his family’s  vineyards and the arduous and meticulous work that the Formigo family performs the whole year in their small winery and in their five vineyards scattered around Beade.   Formigo means ant in Gallego and some of their wines display an the silhouette of an ant on the labels, symbolic of the family name and their propensity for hard work.

Formigo means "ant" in Galician language.

I have photographed María del Carmen  as she moved with a group of other women (aunts moving like ants?) around the Formigo’s prized Miño Teira vineyard up and down the rows, sitting on a camp stool at each spot, thinning vine leaves so that more sun can reach the grapes.

Thinning leaves from vines at Adega Manuel Formigo's vineyards at Beade (Ourense), Galicia.  
In the slide show, Formigo's mother is one of the women thinning leaves.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /

The Formigo family’s diligence in tending their vineyards, grown on stony soils containing granite and blessed with a perfect climate for growing their  unique native white wine grape varieties translates into superb unique, well balanced white wines that can satisfy the most exigent palates.

The main grape in the Formigo’s vineyards is the Ribeiro region’s benchmark treixadura.  Treixadura accounts for as much as 65-70 per cent of their White wines.  The remaining varieties used in varying percentages in Formigo’s wines are godello, which may be one of the five greatest white wine varieties in the world; albariño, Galicia’s most famous wine grape; another Ribeiro standby, loureira; and traces of alvilla and the once nearly disappeared torrontés.  The Formigo’s also grow a parcel of native red grape vines planted eight years ago to make vinos tintos, now mostly for local consumption, but with an eye to making a quality red wine in the future.

Treixadura grapes, the main grape of Ribeiro. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes ©2011.

The weather in Ribiero combines the freshness of the Atlantic-influenced rainy periods that alternate with Spain’s Continental-Mediterranean warmer influences (the región gets 1915 hours of sun per year and day-time temperaturas in July  and August can reach the high 90s, but like most of mountainous Spain, the temperatura drops at night giving the grapes a respite).  This combination of oscillating weather patterns creates a plethora of unique micro climates, making the Ribeiro an ideal place for producing white wines of elegance and balance like those found in France’s Burgundy and in the Loire Valley.

The Formigo family’s vineyards consist of a great deal of ancient granitic materials in the form of large stones and gravelly rocks that contribute greatly to the stability of the soil, provide good drainage in this Atlantic Ocean-driven climate and have a refectivity that helps hold the warmth of the sun in the vineyards during cool Galician nights. Even though these rock-strewn soils also include alluvial stones in some places, Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, the family’s 30-something winemaker, says it is primarily “granite-based viticulture,” which means loose, well drained and oxigenated soils that provide good acid to the wines and contribute to their aromatic qualities, freshness, elegance and  finesse on the palate and a persistent, compelling minerality in the finish. Manuel Formigo’s wines have a terroir-laced intensity, excellent fruit balanced by fine acidity and alcohol levels that seldom top 13%.   In other words, the wines are eminently drinkable and great companions to food!
 The Formigos have three distinctly different principal vineyards, each of which adds important elements to the complexity of the wines.

The Formigo’s consider their 2.2 hectare (5.5 acres) Miño Teira terraced, north-south oriented vineyard to be their best.  Two of the terraces in this vineyard have 35-year treixadura white wine grape vines that may be the oldest in the región.  In addition to old vines treixadura, there are also godello, torrontés, loureira, albariño, alvilla and a small parcel of native red grape vines.

The one hectare (2.5 acre) Portela vineyard, also with a north-south orientation overlooking the village of Beade is the Formigo family’s second  largest and is planted in 15-year old treixadura, albariño and loureira, all white wine varieties.

The Formigo’s .7 hectare (1.75 acre), 8-year old Pousos vineyard is planted in native Galician red varieties—caiño tinto, tintilla, ferrol, sousón and brancellao—from which the family hopes to make high quality red wines in the future.

In and around the village of Beade, they also work with grapes from five smaller plots: Pereiro, Barbaña, Badengua, Barcas y Rebodego.

The Adegas Manuel Formigo winery (adega is Gallego for the Spanish bodega, or winery) is situated beneath their more than 200-year old ancestral family home, which was built with double-thick stone walls.  Those old walls allow the Formigos to store  their  bottled wines under naturally cool conditions until they are ready for shipment.   Even though the Formigo family respects tradition, their techniques have evolved  from  once using large wooden  vats to ferment and store their wines to employing temperatura-controlled stainless steel tanks.
At The Spanish Artisan Wine Group, we consider the quality of the Formigo vineyards to add up to the French equivalent of Grand Cru* and Premier Cru**.  That’s how good the wines produced from those vineyards with a mínimum of intervention are.

The Wines of Adega Manuel Formigo:

Finca Teira Blanco 2010** (D.O. Ribeiro), 12.7%  alcohol, $27.95 per bottle SRP.
Production:  1100 cases, 100 available for the United States, just 50 cases on the first order.

Grape Varieties:  Treixadura (65%) , Godello (20%), Torrontés (15%).  Exclusively from free-run must from selected grapes from the Miñoteira y Portela vineyards.

Brilliant, profound green-gold.  Impressive, expressive nose of honeysuckle and peach.  After ten minutes, the wine opens up to show a beautiful, spicy sweet fruit reminiscent of honeysuckle and white peach, bracing acidity and a long mineral-laced finish.  90+ points.

Teira X Blanco 2010* (D.O. Ribeiro), 13% alcohol;  $39 per bottle,  $468 per case retail (very limited).

Production:  335 cases of which 35 cases are available for the U.S. market.  We are getting 10 cases on the first shipment. 

Manuel Formigo with his Teira X white wine.
Grape Varieties:  Treixadura (60%),  Alvilla (15%),  Albariño (15%), Loureira (10%); a grand cru-level wine from a grand cru level vineyard. 

Made from grapes from selected 30–year old Treixadura vines, along with alvilla, albariño and loureira grapes, all from the Formigo’s top vineyard, Finca Miño Teira.
Flashes of deep green-gold.  This wine had only been in bottle for two months and was still somewhat closed, but showed whiffs of stone fruits and minerality.   Tiera X has excellent structure and acidity with hints of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and coconut that expand in the glass with aeration and are underpinned with that haunting granite minerality.   93 points.

--Tasting notes by Gerry Dawes.

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