Our "Viking" wine
The Norsemen sacked Rías Baixas 1000 years ago
At the far end of the Arousa estuary, near our Pazo Cilleiro vineyards, two ancient crumbling towers protect the mouth of the river Ulla, the natural gateway to Santiago de Compostela. These fortifications were erected more than a thousand years ago as a defence against Viking raids.
For several centuries, the Norse expeditions spread terror throughout the Atlantic coasts of Europe, from Holland and England to the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Aboard their fast and sleek drakkar, the Vikings reached the estuaries of Galicia, which they called Jakobsland, "the land of St. James". In fact, plundering the rich apostolic city of Compostela was often the target of the Scandinavian warriors.
During their frequent raids, they discovered something they loved: the wine of Rías Baixas. A legacy of the Romans, viticulture was well established in the area. It is unlikely that, back then, in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, Albariño was among the varieties grown in Rías Baixas, but we can easily guess that the wines of that period delighted the fierce beer-drinking Norsemen.
We can also assume that those wines helped to quench their thirst for blood and pillage. Over the years and as trade flourished, the peoples of the North mellowed. In 1108, only 80 years after the last plunder, we find a Norwegian king, Sigurd I Magnusson, travelling as a pilgrim along the maritime route of the Way of St. James. His royal ship, laden with monks and courtiers, sailed up the Arousa estuary and cruised peacefully past the Torres del Oeste (West Towers), just where perhaps Sigurd's own grandfather had slaughtered a few Christian defenders. Pirouettes of history.
The viking festival
The first Sunday in August, the area around Castellum Honesti, or West Towers, witnesses the arrival of a fearsome drakkar. The inhabitants of Catoira and other neighbouring villages reenact the landing of the crew commanded by the Danish Count Ulf, nicknamed El Gallego (The Galician), the last of the Nordic chieftains who ransacked the estuaries, in 1028. The cries of the Norsemen can be heard everywhere on this Viking Parade while delicious Albariño wine spills out of the hollow horns which, as it is widely acknowledged, have always been used by the Vikings as a drinking cup.