The spirit of Galicia ( Albarino ) in the V&A part 2

I went to the V&A cafe after having walked around the museum to finally speak to Hugo about the story of his ancestors of wine makers,  and the important work his father has been doing for the Albarino since the 1980’s….

Bacchanal by Aimé-Jules Dalou (1897-1902). Signed and dated 1879. Painted plaster. Victoria & Albert Museum, London (no. 434-1896). The V&A chat label reads: “This skilfully composed relief is one of several versions showing the worshipers of Bacchus, the God of wine in classical mythology. Dalou made it in London, but returned to Paris later in the same year and reworked the composition in marble as a decoration for a fountain.”
This is the Mino River in Galicia. On the left is Portugal and on the Right is Galicia Spain.   Joaquin a childhood friend of  JOSÉ ANTONIO LÓPEZ DOMÍNGUEZ the Father of HUGO still practises the traditional way of fishing lamprey in the River .To this day this fish is still used and reinvented by many michelin chefs in Galicia.

The Albariño wine comes from the Albariño variety of white grapes cultivated traditionally in the south of Galicia and  north of Portugal. This variety is characterised by producing small bunches of rather small grapes similar to that of the Riesling.

The legend says that this variety was brought to Galicia  by Cistercians Monks in medieval times from the Rhine valley, that would explain the similarities to the Riesling grape variety. Over time this grape would have evolved differently due to the new Galician climate and soil becoming a variety of its own right. This is part of the folklore surrounding this mysterious variety hidden over the centuries on the remote Galician valleys.

It was presumably brought to Iberia by Cluny monks in the twelfth century.  Its name “Alba-Riño” means “the white [wine] from the Rhine and it has locally been thought to be a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France, although earliest known records of Riesling as a grape variety date from the 15th, rather than the 12th, century. It is also theorized that the grape is a close relative of the French grape Petit Manseng.

Native galician cow grazing in the neighbourhood

The galician land is blessed with natural wonders. Nearby is Cape Finisterre, or “lands end”, the westernmost point in Spain, which was once considered the end of the world. One of the more impressive elements of this lush land is the rías, which are deep, wide inlets of water encroaching many miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean along the coast.

The southern group of these rías are known in Galician as the Rías Biaxas. To the delight of wine lovers, these rías are surrounded by fine vineyard land. Since the rías are such an important element in the wine region, Rías Baixas was also taken as the name for the region’s denomination of origin, which was awarded in 1988.

JOSÉ ANTONIO LÓPEZ DOMÍNGUEZ the Father of HUGO was born by the river of Mino.  Here you see him selecting each vine uniquely only when they are ready instead of harvesting all at once, respecting and acknowledging the way nature works on a more individual schedule.

JOSÉ ANTONIO is one of the pioneers that was campaigning to secure the denomination of the ALBARINO in the 1980’s he worked in 2 wineries in Morgadio and was the soul behind LUSCO.

Lusco is the name of the second wine JOSÉ ANTONIO produced years ago with the Winery Lusco do Mino, Lusco is a Galician word for twilight.

Albariño was produced in the past in various unsure ways producing and inferior Albariño that is often cloudy and the common myth about this wine was that it does not store well.

More so it is important to cultivate a pure product to ensure the correct linage of the wine.

By ensuring the denomination JOSÉ ANTONIO LÓPEZ DOMÍNGUEZ was insuring the future and the quality of this wine

The process of production and the importance of the denomination, the precise preservation of authentic grape cultivation all these elements produce a authentic Alberinio that is clear and can also store longer then one year.

Spain produces Albariño to a significant degree in the Rías Baixas DO, especially in the town of Cambados. It is also common in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, but it is only authorized to be grown in Monção and Melgaço. In other locations such as Ribeiro (DO), Lima, Braga or Valdeorras (DO) it is often mixed with other grapes such as Loureiro,GodelloCaiñoArinto or Treixadura to produce blended wines. Such blends were common throughout Galicia too until about 1985; when the Rías Baixas DO was established on an experimental basis in 1986, Albariño began to emerge as a varietal, both locally and internationally. Its recent emergence as a varietal led the wines to be “crafted for the palates of Europe, America and beyond and for wine drinkers who wanted clean flavors and rich, ripe fruit” and led to wines completely different from those produced across the river in Portugal.

Albariño is now produced in several California regions including the Santa Ynez Valley, Clarksburg, and Los Carneros AVAs.

In recent years Albariño attracted the attention of Australian winemakers, several of whom are now producing varietal wines. However, it has recently been discovered that grape growers and wine makers in Australia have been supplying and selling wrongly labelled Albarino for over a decade. They thought they were pouring money into the market for the Spanish grape, only to discover they were incorrectly sold cuttings of the French Savagningrape instead.

A French expert visiting Australia raised questions in 2008, and DNA testing confirmed that the grapes are in fact French Savagnin. Almost all wine in Australia labelled as Albarino is Savagnin.

JOSÉ ANTONIO main concern was the intangible heritage of old traditions passed on by Oral transmission from generation to generation throughout the ages.

This is a very important aspect for the future of any culture,  this particular subject needs careful consideration and preservation as it holds crucial natural wisdoms from times were man was much more intuitive living closely with nature attaining deep knowledge of the land and how to grow and cultivate things through generations of direct experience dating back hundreds of years. This is often the key to finding clues about evolution and new ideas.

By understanding the principles of old traditions and knowledge we can firmly develop new concepts based on valuable experiences from the past.

A lot of the cultivation techniques were by direct observation and very close contact to nature as people were more simple not applying science conciously for example.

At present these ancient oral transmitted agricultural aspects are unfortunately not taken care of  or are not valued enough in the process of winemaking in rual Galicia.

Jose Antonio came from a matriarchal family structure following the Galician tradition. His Great grandmother Francisca (the one in the photo), his grandmother Antonia and now his aunty Esther kept working the land as ever resisting the neglection of the land and keeping unaware of their mission to preserve the relation between land and man, and the tradicional forms of agriculture transmitted orally through generation to generations for hunders of years.

It was not just these important family ladies that were transmitting this passion but also his father Salvador who was a Albarino wine maker and he use to sell cuttings of the Albariño vines and other local varieties in most farm markets in the South of Galicia, spreading the goodness of the vines of this area of the Miño to other areas of the county.

JOSÉ ANTONIO grew up with this and he is fully aware of bringing together the ancient knowledge of his elders verbal tradition passing on from generation to generation together with the new knowledge to bring the winemaking of Galicia up to modern requirements without loosing its key characteristics and heritage.

He saw that the quality of the Albariño grape and wanted to explore and develop it to it’s deserved full potential. His experimentations with Albarino by producing the wine to its best quality possible, was due to the use of good raw materials, with the result of a wine that can perfectly challenge other great wines in Europe.

He Commercialises his brands Trico and Nicolas from 2010 in 2012 which was unthinkable to do at the time.

His method is a combination of good product and passion farming, something that only a small winery can have, but we can not forget the main ingredient  working with the grapes in an old traditional way learned from the elders in his family. He does not harvests all grapes at one time, he lets vines to do what they do naturally and organically.

Natural watering by rain and sometimes even letting the roots fight for water almost making the vine suffer slightly to make sure that they become stronger plant and grape.

Combination of a good product and cultivating only a small winery, he looks after grapes in old traditional ways learned by his Grandfather. For example he does not harvests all grapes at one time, he lets vines to do what they do naturally and organically.

He lets little herds of sheep grace around the grape vines who in turn fertilise the vine grounds.

Many producers will water  additionally and use modern big production methods inorder to produce quantity but therefor significantly compromising on quality which is also one of the reasons the wine is more sensitive to storing only for shorter periods.

JOSÉ ANTONIO always says “the vines are not in a hurry, so I am not either”

Modern agressive agriculture is definitely not allowing nature to cultivate in its natural time therefor lacking in flavour, nutrients and most importantly the seeds or cuttings will get also weaker leaving a weak heritage for to the future generations.

He explained that several plots, at different hight’s  the grapes evolves in different ways and times he looks at this individually and harvests them specifically taking only the grapes that are ready and ripe at that very right moment.

JOSÉ ANTONIO produces 3 Albariños:
Trico is the main wine were he uses the more selected grapes and is kept for one year in the tank with temperature control, and another year in bottle before its commersilised, so the wine has time to develope all its potential and grow. The label is a drawing of his mother when she was a child in 1938, where she painted the village where they are from and were the vinyards are.
Nicolas follows a similar procedure of production but he does not produce it every year, the first Nicolas is from the grape of a particular vineyard where  the grape was of a particular excellent quality. Jose Antonio keeps the grapes from the different vineyards in different tanks to study carefully its development, In 2010 he decided to keep one of those tanks exclusively for a special wine becoming Nicolas as it had a special quality. And its called Nicolas because coincided with the birth of his first male grandson called Nicolas! The label is another drawing by his mother as a child, depicting a greek soldier , symbolising the strength and uniqueness of a child that without trying is irrepetible as its this  wine.
JOSÉ ANTONIO mother  Adelaida passed away when he was 10 years old so this is a small homage to her.
Tabla de Sumar (adding table in English) is the wine he produces with the rest of the harvest and the wine is not left to mature in tank  or bottle and is commercialised straight away resulting on a young and fresh Albarino of more traditional character. The label is an adding table card that Jose Antonio used as a child  at school; symbolises the wine as a result of the addition of the good grapes and the vineyard terraces by the Mino which equals to the wine.


This was the adding up table in the schools from Jose when he was a child and has used it as one of his labels for the wine.

Compañía de Vinos Tricó was created with the aim of displaying the vast experience José Antonio López had gained since 1985 in winemaking as well as in viticulture. Formerly with Bodegas Morgadio and later with Lusco, José Antonio came to several conclusions:

  • The total and absolute conviction that the Rías Baixas subzone, Condado do Tea, is the most suitable for the kind of viticulture they need.
  • Albariño, despite much being said to the contray, is a variety with vast aging potential, comparable to any great European wine.
  • In order to reach the above-mentioned goal, they have a wide range of plots, which are located at different altitudes on the slopes of the river Miño. This allows them to stagger the various harvests (with differences among them up to 15-20 days of ripening), thus getting a perfect balance in the grape juices and avoiding any correction on the wines, essential for their longevity.
  • Their grapes come from vines, some of them more than 25 years old, which are planted in decomposed granite, sandy and poor plots. They grow in a very sunny and dry land, without watering, and that is why their yields are low. They respect nature and work the land using organic fertilizers, allowing the plants their own rhythm.
  • They are not in a hurry, as neither is the wine. They believe in what they do, and have enough experience to make as few mistakes as possible.

With all these convictions and a great dose of hope, they started their journey in 2007, without any partnership, in order to keep focused on their goals, accompanied by a team that is fully integrated in this modest project that nevertheless has a great future.

Winery, vineyards and process:

The soil of Tricó’s grape production is primarily poor, sandy and decomposed granite, which in Galicia is known as “Xabre”. The sub-area is called Condado do Tea, a traditional area of viticulture located on the southern side of Miño River, in its international tranche in front of the area of “Green Wines” and its tributary Tea River, that gives its name to the sub-area. Their grapes come from 5 hectares of their own vines, 5 rented hectares of old vines, and 3.5 hectares of grapes purchased from old vines of very high quality.

The viticulture is very simple: based on the principle of non-intervention in the winery, the wines are gestated in the vineyard. In the perfect moment of harvest, respecting the characteristic climate of each vintage, allows them to develop of wines that are very raw in its concept but with enormous potential.

The preparation is very simple. Based on the high quality of the grapes, they try to process the grapes as quickly as possible after the harvest using pneumatic press, racking in cold and controlled fermentation in steel tanks. They then let the wine rest for a minimum of one year and bottle. As far as lees are concerned, they understand that they are not adequate for their wines, which have great aromatic potential and body. Their experience tells them that lees should only be used in wines with little structure.

Except for the grapes that they buy (which they control) the rest are from their own organically cultivated vines. We use organic fertilisers and cultivate the land to eliminate weeds and incorporate fertilisers. They do not use irrigation, despite the fact that their vineyards are in upland and extremely dry areas.

The TRICÓ 2009 production was 27,000 bottles.

About the name:

Trico is the name that is known to last child arrives without being expected, by far the brothers in years preceding it. This Trico is the last son of Jose Antonio Lopez , formerly Lusco and much earlier in Morgadio. Jose Antonio Lopez is one of those responsible for the resurgence of Albariño wine and quality wine (the other big name of the Rias Baixas is held by Gerardo Méndez).

The beginning of Trico can not be more encouraging standing, since the first vintage, head of quality Albariño wines. Over time, this Trico, will be talking, as now does the Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas.

The Trico is a wine that is kept for a year at its lees, with the intention of, on the one hand to preserve the floral and fruity character of the Albariño variety, and on the other to give more structure, more voluptuous in the mouth and a more extensive and long. Ultimately, preserve freshness and acidity and gain presence and intensity . was wearing the Trico a nice golden yellow with green iridescence, clean and bright and intense, insinuating tear.

In nose shown in a frank and intense freshness of green apple leads to no less fresh citrus notes accompanying the stone fruits, peach and apricot and tropical pineapple and passion fruit. Interesting floral hues adorn the persistent fruit. Delicate herbaceous notes and closed a circle aromatic balsamic crisp and extensive.

In mouth is tasty, untusoso with good input. A pleasant acidity prolongs the presence and intensity of the wine in the mouth, which ends with a successful and fruity finish. 

During this interviewe many parallels of the visions between the V&A, the wine making of JOSÉ ANTONIO LÓPEZ DOMÍNGUEZ, and my work of developing a Keiseki that is based in the west seemed to be synchronising in essence perfectly.

For me the moral of the sorry is that nature does hold more answers to our life on earth for the future more then we can imagine.

For example:

Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of Nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry andbiomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Similar terms include bionics.

Over the last 3.6 billion years, nature has gone through a process of trial and error to refine the living organisms, processes, and materials on planet Earth. The emerging field of biomimetics has given rise to new technologies created from biologically inspired engineering at both the macro scale and nanoscale levels. Biomimetics is not a new idea. Humans have been looking at nature for answers to both complex and simple problems throughout our existence. Nature has solved many of today’s engineering problems such as hydrophobicity, wind resistance, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy through the evolutionary mechanics of selective advantages.

This is a fascinating and important subject that I feel lies very deep in mans evolution till this day however now it is harder to realize being surrounded by many man made environments and the fact that we buy food rather then grow it and make it ourselves.

Looking into the past and what ancestors have done, aswel as learning here and now are all important factores.

In terms of creating a cuisine  that has heritage and culture as in Kyoto Keiseki this is also fundamentally important to relate to nature and man from past and current investigations.

If we take it out of its historic environment and geographical location completely and place it into a city without looking at any of the important references we will end up with a very week “Vine cutting”. A weakened concept, a weakened gene etc.

Inorder to have authenticity and linage as well as a natural internal development with keiseki, we need to work with many things in mind, that are not very apparent to people here in the west due to real cultural and climatic differences.

The appreciation of Japanese historic aesthetics, art and culture is very different and unique and it needs to be experienced at a very intimate and educational  level otherwise it could never be truly understood.

A true appreciation needs to be cultivated and developed and best through experience.

At the hart of all the above mentioned story is Vision, passion and therefor is an art and worthy of maintaining preserving and cultivating for the future generations to also appreciate.

Here is a pictures of the beauty of oral passing from generation to the next in the midst of nature:


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