Manuel Moldes

Galicia, Spain

The Story

During one of our many extraordinarily long vineyard tours, I asked Manuel Moldes who this we is that he keeps referring to since most of his narration was accompanied by this pronoun. “I don’t see anyone else when I visit your vineyards and cellar but you,” I explained. “Is there someone else we should meet that we haven’t yet?” His ever-present smile grows. A shrug of the shoulders. His loud laugh. “Para mí, el mundo del vino siempre ha sido familia” (For me, the world of wine has always been family.) And despite the appearance of a one-man show, his family and friends are, in fact, his anchor when the work is too great for him to do alone.

Chicho and the Rising Tide of the Rías Baixas

Manuel (his friends and family call him Chicho) is also an insider in a collective of inspired minds: a group of winegrowers, restaurant owners and sommeliers who converge on different meeting places throughout the Rías Baixas numerous times each month to drink, eat and share their ideas and experiences. The community of Rías Baixas has an easier connection to the outside world from tourism, access to the ocean and the larger cities compared to its neighboring Galician regions, great local restaurants that boast superb wine lists (with extremely fair prices) and nearly absurd quality of raw ingredients from both land and sea. All of these factors, combined with the open culture among its inhabitants have pushed it to the top of progressive Galician wine culture.

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Lay of the Land

Most who have not set foot in or read about Galicia would be in for a surprise. This is Green Spain, and it looks nothing like the iconic Spanish images of sweeping desert landscapes, endless olive groves and vineyards, and arid beaches of the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava with their inviting crystalline blue water. Here the hillsides are dense with forest and green everywhere, the climate is cold and wet, the beaches mostly frigid and windy with very little influence, if any, from the Mediterranean.

The Galegos are Different

The Galegos are a soft and humble people, innocent in a way compared to other parts of Spain, and have gotten the short end of the stick on what most of us think of as an endless supply of Spanish sunshine. They are paler in complexion, revealing their Celtic past, and their traditional dance outfits look every bit as Celtic as they do Spanish. Even the dances can be more of a jig filled with joy, smiles and stiffness; quite the opposite of the Spanish flamenco with its free-flowing movements and sensuality, its physical poetry of love and sorrow. Bagpipes, called gaita galleo, accompany the dance and endlessly echo through the granite corridors surrounding the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, the final destination for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
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