Nobody however would dispute that it was the Cistercian monks who taught us how to tend our established grape varieties and get the best quality wines from them. These monks arrived in our area in the 12th century, either on their pilgrimage to Santiago or to accompany the Burgundy dynasty to Galicia for the wedding of Raymond of Burgundy and Queen Urraca.
White wines, which were more refined than red, were kept in the cellars of monasteries up till the 18th century and the dissolution of the monasteries under Mendizábal. The dissolution was a long historical, economic and social process beginning with the so-called “Confiscation of Godoy” in 1798. Confiscation consisted of the forced expropriation of land and property from the “mortmains” (i.e. the Catholic Church and religious orders, which had accumulated it from grants, wills and intestates) and from municipalities.
From this period onwards, the wines of Galicia began to be produced at the region’s pazos or large country estates. Only noble families could afford to use their properties for the growing of fine wine, since these families were better off and were not forced to devote all their land to subsistence farming.
It was not until the middle of the 20th century that Albariño spread to the whole of the region. This was probably due to wine estates being abandoned or changing hands and through the region’s wines becoming better established and gaining renown.
By the 1980s, these grape varieties and the wines produced from them, had achieved widespread recognition, while the newly created Rías Baixas appellation and its Regulating Council succeeded in enhancing the prestige of its wines and bringing their outstanding quality to the attention of consumers.
The Rías Baixas Designation of Origin therefore began its short history in 1980. In that year, on 11th October, the Denominación Específica Albariño was officially recognised by the Spanish government. Then on 30th April 1984, the regulations of the Denominación de Origen Específica Albariño and its Regulating Council were officially approved.
In a process that involved adapting Spanish legislation to that of the European Community’s, Spain’s Agricultural Council, following an order of the 17th March 1988, provisionally recognised the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin; and by order of the 4th July in the same year, the regulations of the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin and its Regulating Council were officially approved. The ministerial order of 28th July 1988, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, ratified the Designation of Origin.
The appellation’s evolution was accompanied by the expansion of the sub-zones. While in 1988, the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin consisted of 3 perfectly distinct sub-zones within the Pontevedra province (Val do Salnés, Condado do Tea and O Rosal), by October 1996, the sub-zone of Soutomaior was also incorporated, and in May 2000, Ribeira do Ulla became the fifth.