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Galicia

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Galicia is one of the 17 top level administrative regions (known as comunidades autónomas) of Spain. It occupies the north western corner of the Iberian Peninsula, and is exposed on two sides to the Atlantic Ocean. To the south lies Portugal, to the east Castilla y Leon.

Winemaking has long been a tradition in Galicia, brought to the region by the ancient Romans and continued by the monks throughout the Middle Ages. Today, Galicia is best known for its Rias Baixas wines – crisp, aromatic whites made predominantly from Albariño. Galician wines bear striking similarities to those of Minho (particularly Vinho Verde), just across the border in Portugal.

Shaped by the waves and winds of the Atlantic, the Galician coastline is dramatic; steep cliffs alternate with coastal inlets known as rías. The region's inland areas are characterised by lush green rolling hills, which climb gently eastwards towards the Cantabrian Mountains, reaching heights of 6,600ft (2,000m). The region is often referred to as the "green corner" of Spain, and as "the country of two thousand rivers"; most of the region's vineyards are located in the valleys of the River Miño (Minho in Portugal).

Cool, moisture bearing winds blowing in from the Atlantic make Galicia one of the wettest parts of Spain. Coastal areas receive more than 50 inches (1,300mm) of rain a year. Happily, Galicia receives abundant sunshine (more than 2,000 sunshine hours per year on average), without which the grapes would seriously struggle to ripen. Even so, very few red wine grapes are able to achieve full ripeness here, so Galicia produces mainly white wines, both varietals and blends. Apart from Albariño, the main white grape varieties are Loureiro, Torrontes, Godello, Treixadura and Caiño Blanco – a Galician obscurity often mistaken for Albariño. Red wines are produced only in warmer inland areas – typically light in style and made from Mencia.

Galicia is home to five DO-rated wine zones. Running west to east they are: Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, Valdeorras and the most celebrated, Rias Baixas. Each has its own specialties and traditions.
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