A Modern Day Wine Crusader | Q&A w/ Sonia Costa, from Lagar de Costa, Galiza, Spain
Updated: 6 days ago
Driving along the scenic road where Galicia, Spain meets the Atlantic Ocean one’s senses are seized by the spectacular raw energy of wild waves crashing against high cliffs below and the seemingly infinite horizon. The landscape is beyond beautiful, reminiscent of Big Sur, California, and yet the gastronomy, wine and cultures which have culminated through the centuries is unparalleled.
In Galicia one can walk through various timelines and experience Neolithic dolmens, a mythical Roman lighthouse, Celtic fortifications dating back to 6th century BC as well as the legendary Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral made renowned by the most popular pilgrimage within Europe since the 11th century. The pilgrimage itself is called the Camino de Santiago, also known as Walk of St. James, which was created by kings, knights, crusaders and cardinals who spread their faith across the land like chessmen across a board.
Beyond the delights of history this is a land of absolute deliciousness, with over a handful of Michelin star restaurants to discover and multiple vineyards with excellent wines to sip and savour.
Our choice winemaker being Sónia Costa from Lagar de Costa, a family vineyard specializing in white wines made by the Alvarinho grape. What most people do not know is that she is a modern day crusader, and much like Virginia born celebrity chef Sean Brock reintroducing Native American corn varieties, Sónia is in the process of bringing back to life the indigenous Espadeiro red grape whose wine is aptly called “Viva la Vida,” or “Live Life.”
Q | How did winemaking start for you?
A | For me, wine is a family story. Going back to my grandfather, father and now myself.
I decided around age 22 to invest in winemaking, a bit jealous of my mother spending the entire day at the vineyards, working in the fields.
Together with my younger brother I took over the family business from my parents and now here I am loving it.
Q | Can you tell us a bit more about Galicia?
A | I really love being here and do not see myself anywhere else. Galicia has been a pilgrimage landmark for centuries. When I was sixteen I walked to Santiago de Compostela by foot with friends, for hours…It was more about a night out than anything else. We obviously came back by bus. But, in spite the fact that I am not a religious person that does not mean that I do not feel passion towards this place, I feel quite rooted in it and that is the reason why I put so much of myself into my work and also into recovering some other native features about wine such as the Espadeiro grape variety.
My grandfather always told me that we should make wine as the elders. And I am making an effort to bring and show that same identity to Lar de Costa wines. We still produce wine by instinct, based on family knowledge.
Q | These reasons you mentioned have something to do with the fact that your Espadeiro grape variety wine is called “Viva la Vi-da”?
A | Yes! It has to do with the roots that my grandfather talked about...and how the elders made wine, especially red.
The Alvarinho grape variety almost entirely dominates this wine region. Espadeiro is something that you can seldom find but it was what my grandfather usually drank, not Alvarinho white wine.
Red wine was a standard production here but the astonishing success of the white Alvarinho grape almost removed the red Espadeiro from sight.
Which is why, “Viva la Vi-da” (Live Life) is a celebration, a way to feel happy about bringing diversity to our wine choices and, at the same time, recover part of the Galician identity that was almost lost.
Q | How would you describe the Galicia terroir?
It is mainly influenced by the Atlantic ocean.
All our vineyards do not stand higher than 10m above sea level and so the soil is mainly sand and granite, which makes it quite permeable.
Rain and humidity is almost a permanent fixture and the fact that temperatures do not reach high peaks allows the Alvarinho grapes (which are our main production) to show freshness without much alcohol, allowing our wines to be quite enjoyable and still show structure without being too complex.
Q | Are there more grapes varieties you work with?
A | We work with Alvarinho and Espadeiro: Due to humidity we grow them over pergola so they can benefit from more airy conditions to avoid fungus and diseases.
Q | Is Climate Change having an impact?
A | Actually, the impact of climate change is helping us. It may seem strange to say but we notice that nowadays it is easier to produce wines with an alcohol percentage that is higher than the ones we had years ago. Now our most recent wine reaches 13.5% alcohol, where years back 12% was something rare and very hard to achieve.
Q | With what kind of cuisine pairings do you recommend your wines to be drunk?
A | Alvarinho is made for seafood...so oysters, clams, fish, octopus, sushi. The Galician speciality of barnacles pair amazingly well with the freshness and low alcohol of our alvarinho wines. Even “jámon ibérico” (free range black pork fed on acorns) should be tried with our older white wines from 2017 or even 2016 like Lagar de Costa - Barrica.
Q | Speaking of food, what is your favorite restaurant in Galicia?
A | Casa Solla, is a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Pontevedra. It blew my mind, the first time I went there: spectacular. A short time after I decided that winemaking would be my living and the gastronomic experience that I had there (I can still taste the Merluza Foam I ate) made me sure of my decision.
It was the freshness of Alvarinho wine and of the products (the reason why you can find many Michelin star restaurants in Galicia) that made that experience unforgettable.
Another Michelin favorite is Coller de Pau.
One thing is certain: you can eat and drink wonderfully around here!
Q | And what do you usually drink at home?
A | We have a rule: just to have wine on weekends. But when that happens white wine is always the preferred one, and obviously the one we produce.
The fact is that because they are fresh and acidic, without much concentration, they do not tire you, something that I usually experience when tasting white wines from other regions, which many times show plenty of nose as well as more complexity and alcohol percentage. Anyway, I still enjoy drinking wines from other places such as Duero, Cava or Burgundy wines, which are wines that I admire because of their balance between nose and taste.
Q | What do you do in your free time and what are your plans for your next holidays?
A | My world goes around wine. We are a family business and there are always things to be done so my free time does not come that often. Regarding holidays, right now, there are not many plans. I love to travel and I do it often. Usually I go to Italy or France and even if it is for amusement, wine usually comes in along the way.
Photos provided by Lagar de Costa and free online photo platforms
Interview and writing by Antonio Moreira
Edited by Seanna Marie
SHOP ALL LAGAR DE COSTA WINES HERE
Lagar de Costa "Rego do Sol" 2018, Rías Baixas, Galiza | Spain
The tart lime and grapefruit, chalky mineral, and floral aromatics undeniably convey the essence of a coastal wine. Incisive flavors of citrus peel and orchard fruit open up to ripe melon and peach. Classic saline flavors become the focus on the finish as the fruit fades.
This wine is definitely friendly with anything from the sea. It is exceptionally good with white fish and meats as well as leafy green herbs. Try it with ceviche, seafood risotto, oysters, mussels, clams, soft cheeses and salsa verde.
Grape Varieties: 100% Albariño