Mailbag Monday: White Wine in Small Bowl (Orujo)?

Hello Alleigh—
In 2008 I was enjoying the end of my pilgrimage in Santiago de Compestella.  My fellow pilgrims and I found ourselves in a local tavern that seemed to be filled with nothing but locals, all of which were enjoying a beverage in a small shallow white bowl. We ordered the same and were rewarded with a very tasty white wine that was a bit sharp and was somewhat cloudy. 

Do you by any chance know what we were drinking?

Hi…and thanks for emailing!

Santiago de Compostela is close to the the Galacian coast wine region of Rías Baixas, where they make an amazing white wine—Albariño—that goes perfectly with the seafood dishes that are typically found in those tiny finishing villages along the Spanish coast.  However, it doesn’t sound like the drink you were referring to was an Albariño.  Therefore,  you definitely are testing my wine and alcohol knowledge.

After some more research, I think you may have been drinking Orujo (also known as Orujo de Galicia and “aguardiente”).  Orujo is actually a pomace brandy that is made from the grape skins, seeds, and stalks leftover after wine production.  According to Wikipedia, the skins, seeds, and stalks are fermented in closed vats and then distilled during a six hour process using stills made from large copper kettles that are heated over an open fire.  The resulting liquor is 100 proof and usually is colorless, although it can be aged for more than two years in oak barrels to produce “aged orujo,” which is an amber in color.

Once distilled, Orujo is usually poured into a large china or earthenware bowl for drinking, which is why I thought this may be what you and your companions were drinking.  However, a number of the references I saw to Orujo also said that it was often mixed with other things—cherries, sweet sherry, lemon peels, sugar, etc.—and set on fire.  I figure if your drink was flaming or noticeable mixed with something else, you probably would have mentioned it, so I’m honestly not sure if I have the wrong drink or if it was the right one, but that yours was without all of the extra flare.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a more definitely answer, but maybe one of my readers might have some additional thoughts.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had Orujo?  I would love to hear your thoughts on it…and do you think this may be what my reader was drinking?


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  1. Michael says


    I’m the source of the question! Thank you for taking up the challenge!

    I’m going to hit the shops this weekend to pick up a bottle of Orujo de Galicia if I can find it. I’ll let you know if it strikes my memory. 🙂


    • says

      Hi Michael–
      It was my pleasure to take up the challenge. The big question, though, is how things went your weekend shopping trip. I’d definitely like to know if you find it and if it tastes familiar. Good luck!


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