Discover the wines of north-west Spain

For many wine aficionados, Spanish wines mean Rioja from the north-east, sherry from the south, perhaps the Cava of Catalonia. Some of the country’s finest wines are more obscure, originating in the cooler north-west of Spain.

The Mencia grape is an ancient variety believed to have been introduced to Spain by the Romans. It is grown in the provinces of Galicia and Leon, in the Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras regions.

Traditionally Mencia wines have been light reds, made to be consumed while young and mainly for a domestic market. Recently, artisan winemakers have developed the potential of the grape and some Mencia wines have begun to be exported and to appear in British supermarkets.

Mencia wines can be high in acidity, which might not suit some drinkers. It does mean that the wine is an ideal accompaniment to fatty dishes like a Spanish Serrano ham or a roast lamb joint.

Whites with the wow factor

Albariňo white wines, grown in the Rias Baixas region of Galicia, close to the Portuguese border, have long enjoyed a reputation for being the ideal accompaniment to seafood. The area is renowned for its shellfish, so this is a happy geographical partnership.

Portugal produces similar wines, called Alvarinho in Portuguese, but to date the Spanish have been more effective in developing the wine and marketing it overseas. Albariňo can be found in most British supermarkets where prices start around £6 a bottle but are usually in double figures. If you ever see an Albariňo discounted snap it up as it rarely disappoints.

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