A Region and Wine You Must Explore: Rias Baixas and Albariño (#WorldWineTravel)

There are several areas in the world noted as being verdant yet the Rias Baixas region in Galicia, Spain tops many. One finds not only multiple shades of green landscape, the Albariño grape calls it home. With my suitcase, ticket and wine- the sleek Albariño of course- in hand, how about virtually exploring this region together!

Rias Baixas AlbariñoThe World Wine Travel group of wine writers and bloggers were invited to take this trip courtesy of Gregory+Vine and Rias Baixas. We chat on Twitter April 17th at 11am EDT, 17:00 CET. For an overview and details, head to our April host Linda’s website, My Full Wine Glass.

Disclosure: Wine samples were provided by sponsor Gregory+Vine, no other compensation was involved. All opinions are mine.

Rias Baixas, the definition of lush

The Atlantic coastline in Galicia averages 67-inches of annual rainfall, the most in Spain. A stark contrast to the rest of the hot and dry country. Yet it still receives ample sunshine (2,200 hours per year), mild temperatures, misty coastal fog and abundant sea breeze. This means exuberant vegetation to go along with many temptations: sites, smells and tastes.

That vegetation and life flows from the rías, or river estuaries and baixas means low. The region, Las Rías Baixas (ree-ahss-bye-shus), has four of these lower sea estuaries or long coves of sea threading themselves inland similar to a fjord. They provide unending opportunities for exploration.

A plethora of other activities exist for visitors too: hiking, cycling, exploring lighthouses, castles and ruins, spas and unbelievable seafood, to name a few. Fishing is the main industry employing a large percentage of the area’s population.

Many walk the Santiago de Compostela, a network of pilgrams’ ways that lead to the tomb of St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The scallop shell is a symbol that marks the route, the lines represent the different routes people take to get to the cathedral.

Yet wine is the biggest attraction for me! The area is home to the Rias Baixas DO (Denominación Origine) and five subzones: Salnés, Ribeiro do Ulla, Soutomaior, Condaato de Tea and O Rosal.  And as mentioned, Galicia’s prominent grape, Albariño.

You will find:

  • Vineyards at sea level and as high as 1,000-feet (304-meters) inland
  • 5,500 growers
  • 4,000-hectares of grapevines
  • 179 wineries
Galicia Rias Baixas D.O. Spainish wine region

Rias Baixas sits just above Portugal on what’s called Spain’s green coast. Map courtesy of Enobytes.

The Star of the Grape Show – Albariño

Among the fourteen permitted varieties, Albariño takes a 96% share of plantings. It grows in all Rias Baixas sub-zones and depending on where, you find subtle taste differences. An example is the Salńes Valley (Val do Salńes) closer to the Atlantic coast. With more granitic soils wines tend towards higher acidity and crispness. If we head inland to the Ribeiro DO where sand and clay are abundant you find riper wines with less pronounced acidity.

Most of it ends up made into mono-varietal wines yet tradition blends it with Treixadura, Loureiro and / or Caiño Blanco too. These three and Godello are other white grapes planted in smaller quantities.

Red wines are made too, albeit in very small quantities. Native grape varieties include Sousón, Pedral,  Caiño Tinto, Loueira Tinta, Merenzao, Brancellao and Espadeiro, and also Mencia.

In addition to the soils, winemaking styles add to the variety of Albariño styles too. Use of stainless tanks, barrels, lees aging, and malolactic fermentation all make a difference in the final wine.

How does Albariño smell and taste? The thick skins translate into expressive aromatics that tend toward mixed citrus, stone fruits, melon, salinity, and stoniness (minerals), to name a few. And because of generally higher acidity, a sip is clean, bright and crisp. As far as the taste…

Let’s Taste Some Wine!

Martin Códax Albariño 2020, Rias Baixas D.O.

Rias Baixas Albarino Spain wine The Martín Códax winery was founded in 1986 as a cooperative with about 50 local grape growers. At present, they oversee about 1,400 small vineyard parcels farmed by 550 families around the town of Cambados in the Salńes Valley sub-zone. This cool valley starts at the coast; coastal fog and sea breezes help Albariño here retain crispness and mouth-watering acidity.

If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you should try this wine! Such fresh aromas of green apple, green pear, lemon-lime and sea breeze salinity frame that first crisp sip- a high acid wine here with an inviting savory, saline side with a citrus punch. A very good quality, balanced, medium-bodied wine worth every bit of the 10.55€ / $15 cost. 12.5% abv.

Señorío de Rubiós, Robaliño Albariño 2020, Rias Baixas D.O.

Robalino Albariño Senorio de Rubios Rias Baixas

Located in the warmer inland Condado do Tea subzone in the town Rubiós, the Señorío de Rubiós wines are produced by the cooperative winery, Bodegas Coto Redondo. 105 member partners now work together.

It smells of lemon, citrus pith and white peach; this follows to the first sip, a dynamic and fresh dance across the palate. Almost mouth-watering acidity with a touch of salinity and herbs make this crisp and clean. Price: $18

Price: 14.50€ / $18. 12.5% abv

Bodegas Fillaboa Albariño 2020, Rias Baixas D.O.

Bodegas Fillaboa Rias Baixas AlbariñoThe Masaveu Bodegas family corporation owns five wineries (bodegas) around Spain, all are small production. Fillaboa in the Condado de Tea subzone has 54-hectares (133-acres) of Albariño and makes about 200,000 bottles of wine annually. For Brandy lovers, they also make Albariño brandy.

Upon opening, intense aromas of stone fruit (nectarine, peach) and mixed floral greet you. After sitting an hour these lessened, giving way to grapefruit, lime pith, green apple, grassiness and saline notes. Although the acidity is prominently bright (M+), it’s soft and lingers, finishing like a spoon of non-sweet, lime curd sprinkled with sea salt. I wondered if it spent time on fine lees and discovered it did: 6 months lees aging. A very good quality wine.

Price: 13.20€ / $16. 13% abv . Find here.

Wine Pairings: I paired the Robalino with oysters, both raw and grilled with toasted sesame butter. It worked best with them raw adding a touch of lemon juice. While the grilled version were fantastic on their own, the high acidity in the wine overwhelmed those with the sesame butter.

I went vegetarian with the Fillaboa. The lentils, cooked in vegetable stock with mirepoix, were topped with sautéed Swiss chard, goat cheese Buratta and pesto. The wine is moderate to high acid yet time aging on lees softened it, adding body. The earthy richness of the dish was a nice match.

I pulled from Greek cuisine pairing the Martin Códax Albariño with homemade spanakopita. It was the zinginess from the feta that sealed the pairing deal. Highly recommend this pairing!

Martin Codax Albariño Rias Baixas Spanich wineIn conclusion, depending on the winemaking, Albariño spans a spectrum from sleek, citrusy and bright to more stone fruits with mild creamy nuances, yet maintaining that crisp acidity. If you like aromatic and zesty wines, grab a bottle of Rias Baixas Albariño for a palate surprise.

Here’s what other #WorldWineTravel writers are tempting you with this month:

Sources and Information:

 

22 thoughts on “A Region and Wine You Must Explore: Rias Baixas and Albariño (#WorldWineTravel)

  1. Andrea

    What a great overview of the region, thank you! Love the pairings, especially the spanakopita! Definitely going to give that a try.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Andrea. Yep, the spanakopita was great! The tzatziki too which I didn’t mention.

      Reply
  2. Allison Wallace

    Albarino was such a fantastic discovery for us. Great wines that are very versatile and terrific value. Loved the lentil dish you thought to pair with the the Fillaboa!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Terrific value definitely stands out. Glad you liked that veggie dish! Always try to throw something in for the non-meat eaters.

      Reply
  3. Camilla M Mann

    I was sad to miss the live trip, but grateful for the replay. What a fun event. And the wines, as for you, were a highlight. Love your pairings, Lynn. I might have to make some spanakopita this weekend.

    Reply
  4. Martin D Redmond

    You know I had to click on that history link. Fascinating when folklore is debunked by science and I think it great that Albariño is native to the Rias Baixas regions. Oh, and I love your pairings! Cheers Lynn!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Cool, now I know another who enjoys digging into the history. Thanks for stopping by Martin!

      Reply
  5. Terri A Steffes

    I am a big fan of all oysters, so I cannot wait to try the wine with fresh or grilled oysters. We were just in Florida and a restaurant there has a grilled oyster that is outstanding. Gotta figure out a way to duplicate that taste!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Good luck with that taste duplication Terri! We hadn’t grilled them much, preferring raw but as you say, they are outstanding. And these wines generally shine with them.

      Reply
  6. Linda Whipple, CSW

    Three amazing pairings – each well suited to their particular Albarino wines. I was surprised and impressed by the range of expression in these wines. Good choices by the tour organizers!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks David! Not the prettiest photo yet the taste was fantastic and worked very well with Fillaboa

      Reply

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