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!
The 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The 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!
In 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:
- Steve at Children of the Grape shares Troubadours, Love, and Wine.
- Terri at Our Good Life discusses One Grape: Three Unique Experiences with Albarino.
- Andrea at The Quirky Cork writes about Albariño and Bacon: A Love Affair.
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest recommends A Region and Wine You Must Explore: Rias Baixas and Albariño.
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! shares A Tale of Two Rias Baixas Albarinos.
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm talks about My Virtual Trip to Rias Baixas.
- Allison and Chris at ADVineTURES discuss The White Wines of Rias Baixas.
- Nicole from Somm’s Table shares It’s Raining Rias Baixas.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Sopa de Cebolla + 2020 Fillaboa Albariño.
- Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog talks about Bodegas Zarate; Setting the Standard for Rias Baixas Albarino – Then and Now.
- David at Cooking Chat pairs Pan Seared Sea Bass with Albariño.
- Jennifer at Vino Travels shares Refresh Your Palate with Rias Baixas Albarino.
- Melanie from Wining with Mel takes a Wine Romp Through Rias Baixas in Galicia, Spain.
- Rupal from Syrah Queen has Your Passport To Rias Baixas – Explore Three Incredible Albarinos.
- Susannah at Avvinare posts Rias Baixas – Green Spain Entices.
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares From California’s Camino Real to Galicia’s Camino de Santiago: All Aboard for Albariño 2!
- Liz at What’s In That Bottle? says Pack Your Bags: We’re off to Rias Baixas for an Albariño Adventure.
- Linda, your host, from My Full Wine Glass offers 5 Things that Might Surprise You About Rías Baixas, Home of Albariño.
Sources and Information:
- Rias Baixas Wines
- Rias Baixas DO
- Bodegas Fillaboa
- Martin Codex
- Bodegas Rubalino
- If history interests you, head here to learn how Albariño ended up in Galicia.