A Journey to the Heart of Rías Baixas

 


Have you ever tasted ten wines in sixty minutes? In my experience this is one of the best ways to get a crash course in a grape or region. You’ll come away with a wealth of understanding and ready to learn even more. I shared this kind of tasting experience with Advanced Sommelier Jill Zimorski plus several hundred wine writers and wine lovers during our Rías Baixas Albariño virtual tasting. We tasted a special collection of ten Rías Baixas Albariño highlighting three of the region’s five sub-regions. In the hour-long discussion we unpacked a lot about Albariño, a very old grape variety with Galician roots. Albariño vines once grew wild in Galicia which is a really good indicator of the vines’ provenance and age. Can you imagine finding wild Albariño growing along the road in lieu of, say, dandelions? Nowadays Albariño is expertly cultivated by some of the best winemakers in the business. Albariño is one of the most sought-after white wines in the United States and a favorite of the somm set thanks to its ripe fruit, mineral freshness, and marine notes. This is a place, and a grape, you’ll want to know more about.

About Rías Baixas

Rías Baixas is a bastion of white wines in a country dominated by reds. It is unlike any other wine growing region in Spain. Its northwestern coastal location creates humid conditions which are perfectly suited to the thick-skinned, disease-resistant Albariño grape. The landscape of Rías Baixas is comprised of ocean inlets called “rias”. Some say they look like the fingers of a hand. The region’s rolling hills, lush greenery, and granitic sandy soils deliver aromatic wines alive with an ocean influence you can’t find elsewhere.  

Drinking lots of Albariño from Rías Baixas is a great way to fine-tune your palate. I’ve always been struck by the classic peach, apricot, and sea spray notes in these wines, but a keen palate will detect differences between sub-region, vintage, and producer. In this respect Rías Baixas  Albariño is perfect for all types of wine drinkers – from the most casual to the most serious. It’s a delicious drink, but it also can make you think.

Winemakers  in Rías Baixas  are dedicated to craft. They individually create wines true to their desires. As a result, no two Albariño will be exactly alike. We tasted ten different interpretations of  Rías Baixas Albariño in three separate flights based on sub-region.


Flight #1: Val do Salnés

Val do Salnés is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape. It is the oldest sub-region with the greatest number of wineries.  It is also the coolest and the wettest of all sub-regions.  A glass from Val do Salnés is likely to deliver Albariño in a classic style: stone fruit, apricot, peach, with a touch of wet sand and saline.

Condes de Albarei Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $15
Vionta Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $15
Martin Codax Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $16.99
Pazo Senorans Albariño Rias Baixas 2016, SRP $25


Flight #2: Contado do Tea

This sub-region is furthest from the coast and therefore quite warm compared to the other sub-regions. Its name translates to “The County of Tea”, a reference to the river Tea which is a tributary of the Miño River. Warmer temperatures can make for extra ripe fruit that packs a punch.

Pazo de San Mauro Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $17
Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño Albariño Rias Baixas 2016, SRP $18


Flight #3: O Rosal

This sub-region rests on the Portuguese border. Warmth is moderated by the nearby coast. Here the vines ring around the Miño river, and many vineyards are carved out of terraced clearings on south-facing hillsides.

Valminor Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $18.99
Bodegas Terras Gauda Abadia San Campio Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $19.99
Altos de Torona Albariño Sobre Lias Rias Baixas 2015, SPR $14
Santiago Ruiz Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, SRP $20


Get to know more about Albariño from Rías Baixas. Click here to watch the full tasting now!

Photo: Rías Baixas Wines

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Comments

  • Amongst the unique qualities of Albariño wines is that they are very fine even when not really chilled. Another quality is the result of doing a second fermentation that converts the still wine into a sparkling wine, quite similar to Champagne and Cava. More than a dozen Rias Baixas wineries are producing Albariño sparkling wines, and many are really exceptional.

    May 19, 2017 at 4:39 PM


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