It's Raining Rías Baixas! (#WorldWineTravel)

 

I love Albrariño and I’ve got a whole lot of it to share! In fact, we’ve got a deluge of Rías Baixas on our hands. Get your umbrellas ready. We’re headed to Galicia, Spain today and we’re going to dive right in!

Gregory + Vine PR put together a beautifully coordinated virtual trip to the region in advance of this event. In addition to samples, they included fun details like a "boarding pass"and luggage tags,  and it all came in an adorable box shaped like a suitcase. Thanks so much for a wonderful event! 

I last covered this region in northwestern Spain way back in 2018. I invite you to check this post out to get an overview of the region, but here are some very quick basics as a recap:

  • Albariño is the star grape. It must make up 70% of the blend. Fourteen grape varieties are permitted in the DO, but Albariño grape represents 96% of all plantings. Treixadura and Loureiro are two other important grapes, and Caiño Blanco, Torrontes, and Godello are also planted to a lesser extent throughout the region. 99% of the wine produced is white, but some red wines are made and it’s definitely worth grabbing a bottle if you see one! Permitted red grapes include: Caiño tinto, Espadeiro, Loureira Tinta, Sousón, Mencía and Brancellao. (Hopefully, we’ll get into one of those here someday.)
  • The rain in Spain falls mainly in Rías Baixas. The region is right on Spain’s Atlantic coast, so it has a maritime climate that’s cooler, wetter, foggier, and much greener than most of the rest of the county. Global warming is definitely having an effect here though, and winemakers are reporting warmer temperatures leading to higher alcohol levels in the wines.
  • Oceanfront property is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, cooling ocean breezes help Albariño grapes retain their crisp, mouth-watering acidity. On the other hand, that maritime climate causes a lot of disease pressure. Albariño grapes have thick skins which help them stand up to the humidity, but they can also use an extra hand standing up to all that moisture. Most vines are trained on a pergola called a “parra”. These are wire trellises that are anchored by granite posts. These can be up to seven feet high and allow breezes to flow around the grapes for maximum circulation, preventing mildew and promoting even ripening. As you can imagine though, this makes harvesting more difficult, and in this case, the grapes must be picked by hand.


ALBARIÑO’S  FLAVOR PROFILE & WHAT IT PAIRS WITH


Peaches and salt are my personal flavor markers for Albariño. You’re also likely to get a mix of citrus fruits like lemon, grapefruit, or lime. Green apple, pear, pineapple, and green melons sometimes work their way in as well, depending on where the grapes are grown and how the wine is made. There tends to be a lot of stony minerality mixed in as well, particularly with the wines of Rías Baixas. Albariño has lots of bright acidity and can be made in numerous styles, although most typical examples tend to be quite crisp and light to medium in body.

As you can probably imagine from its proximity to the ocean, the wines of Rías Baixas are a natural match for seafood across the board. I also think its acidity tends to work quite well with tomatoes and the brininess of olives. I also enjoy Albariño’s seabreezy minerality with sushi and sashimi, as well as other umami-driven dishes from various Asian cuisines. It also plays well with herbs (think salsa verde!) and veggies. It can also present a really nice fresh counterpoint to fried foods. Rounder, fuller options can also work well with chicken or light pork dishes, depending on how it’s flavored of course.

The representatives of the region I spoke with during a virtual trip to the region also recommended the wines with Pulpo a la Gallega, which they described as a simple but delicious preparation where octopus is cooked in olive oil, salt, and paprika. Sounds good to me!


THE SUBREGIONS


Since we’ve previously covered and just recapped the basics, I thought we’d go a little deeper today and explore the subregions of the area. Rías Baixas is Galician for “Lower Rias,” referring to four estuaries that reach inland, mixing salt water and fresh water as they flow: Ría de Muros y Noia, the Ría de Arousa, the Ría de Pontevedra, and the Ría de Vigo. They contribute to the area’s distinctive geography as a whole, and the terrain around each of the Rías individually gives each one its particular characteristics. The region’s five subregions are largely organized around the Rías: Ribeira do Ulla, Val do Salnés, Soutomaior, Condado do Tea, and O Rosal. Wines can also be classified under the general Rías Baixas D.O., so you may or may not see the subregion on the bottle.

We’ll get to know each of these and take a look at wines from three of the areas. RiasBaixaswines.com gives the following descriptions for the subregions. I’ve also added some production details provided by Gregory + Vine, the PR company for the region.



Ribeira do Ulla

The newest Rías Baixas sub-region, this area was registered in 2000 and is composed mostly of alluvial soil. It is located inland, just southeast of Santiago de Compostela, and east of Padrón, a town famous for fried green peppers, a popular tapa. It accounts for 3.3% of production.

Val do Salnés

Val do Salnés is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape. Located on the Atlantic coast, it surrounds the historic town of Cambados. This is the original and oldest sub-region with the most area under vine and the highest concentration of wineries. The soil is granitic and rocky with alluvial topsoil. It is also the coolest and wettest sub-region with an average temperature of just 55º F. It accounts for 63.8% of production.

Soutomaior

Nestled in the hills at the head of the Rías de Vigo, it is the smallest of the sub-regions and was registered in 1996. Soils are light and sandy over granite bedrock. They exclusively produce Albariño. It accounts for 2% of production.

Condado do Tea

“The County of Tea” is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River. Located in a fairly mountainous area along the Miño, this is the second largest sub-region. The most inland, it is a warmer, drier area, with an average temperature of 59º F that can soar to 104º F during the summer. Soils contain granite and slate. It accounts for 21.7% of production.

O Rosal

Also lying along the Miño River where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, this sub-region forms the border with Portugal. With granite bedrock and alluvial topsoil, the vineyards are terraced along the sides of the Miño. The fishing village of A Guarda offers a picturesque setting to enjoy the foods and wines of the region. It accounts for 11% of production.

I’ll be sharing wines from three of these regions here today. I’ve had the chance to participate in a couple of different virtual tastings with wines from Rías Baixas, really allowing me to experience the varied styles and characteristics. I also buy a lot of wines from this region on my own, so I have quite A LOT of pairings to share along the way.


Some of the wines in this post were provided as samples. As always, all opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.

THE WINES & PAIRINGS

Val do Salnés


I found the wines from this subregion to tended to show the most intense minerality and the most tart and snappy fruit notes. This makes sense given that it’s the coolest and wettest of the subregions and has really stony soils.

Martin Codax Albriño Rías Baixas 2019 with Sushi



100% Albariño | Alcohol:  12.5% | Average Price: $14  , sample | Additional details here.

Bodegas Martín Códax is one of the largest producers in the region, so their bottles are pretty easy to find. There were founded in 1986 as a cooperative with about 50 local grape growers. In order to maintain a sufficient supply of quality Albariño grapes, the winery acquired its own vineyards over time and has also established long-term agreements with many family grape growers whose grapes met the winery's exacting standards. Today, Martín Códax oversees more than 1,400 small vineyard parcels farmed by 550 families in the Rías Baixas region around the town of Cambados. Although this is a large operation, they’ve put a lot of emphasis and investment in research, innovation, and talented, creative people, so as to maintain high levels of quality.

The winery takes its name from a famous, medieval Galician troubadour who sung of love, the sea, and the coastline. How lovely is that?

Tasting Notes: White peach, lemon, and lots of saline minerality on the nose, as well as a touch of white flowers. It’s very bright on the palate with lemons and sea salt hitting first, followed by white peach, green apple, and a hint of fresh green herbs. The most minerally of the three wines tasted during the virtual event.

Pairings: I decided to pair this particular bottle with take-out sushi and it worked well in general, but I tended to prefer it with sashimi and nigiri pieces best, rather than with the rolls. I’ve known this wine for a long time, and have drunk my fair share of bottles, so I have lots of experience with it. In fact, I have not one but two 8 & 20 pairings over on WineSpectator.com to go with it. 


Here are a few more from Val do Salnes I’ve had recently and what we paired them with:


Adegas Gran Vinum Mar de Vinas Albariño Rías Baixas 2019:  Seaspray, white flowers, lemons, and white peaches. Very fresh and bright. Crisp and minerality at start and finish, with juicy, roundness on mid-palate.



Adegas Grand Vinum was spotlighted in Cooking to the Wine: Adegas Gran Vinum Nessa Albariño Rías Baixas and an Umami-packed Twist on Fish and Chips. We enjoyed with cod with olive and tomatoes on roasted potatoes. The wine became more round and peachy with the briny dish. The recipe coming soon to NibblingGypsy.com.

Mar de Frades Albariño Atlantico Rías Baixas 2019 Seaspray, lemons, grapefruit, underripe white peach, freshly cut white flowers. Simple, refreshing, lots of minerality and a very Savory finish.




La Caña Rías Baixas: Round, juicy peaches lemon, a little tinned pineapple. The wine has a touch of plumpness at the very start but finishes briny and savory with minerals and hints of herbs.




Condado do Tea


This area is the warmest, driest, and most continental of the subregions. One would expect to see rounder, lusher fruit note, perhaps even some tropical fruit flavors to go with that added warmth, and these wines do reflect that.

Bodegas Fillaboa Albariño Rías Baixas 2020 with Salmon and Pesto Green Beans



100% Albariño | Alcohol: 13% | Average Price: $14 , sample | Additional details here.

The story behind the name of this winery is like a little fairy tale. The story goes that the count that originally owned the property had three daughters. Two of the daughters were bad, but one was good, so when the count died, he left the best piece of his land to his good daughter and Fillaboa translates to “good daughter” in Galician. Actually, strike the fairy tale comparison, this reminds of King Lear.

Bodegas Fillaboa is a historic estate and one of the oldest in Galicia. It was acquired by the Masaveu family in 2000, and Isabel Salgado is the winemaker. They make limited, small production wines from 100% Albariño. They’re also one of the only wineries in Rías Baixas that makes its wines with 100% estate-owned fruit. Their 54 hectares (approximately 133 acres) of vineyards are planted on the slopes, running along the Té and Miño rivers, and are farmed sustainably.

Tasting Notes: Green pear and green apples appear on the nose, as well as a light hit of white peach.  Lemon and tinned pineapples join in on the palate, which is textured through the mid-palate but has a burst of saline on the finish. This wine spent 6 months on the lees to give the wine added texture, and sure enough, it showed the most rounded body and mouthfeel of the wines tasted during the virtual event. I really enjoyed this bottle!

Pairings: This wine had me thinking of Tuna Niçoise. I didn’t have tuna on hand, so I decided to make a salmon dish that borrowed some of the flavor notes. The salmon was simply cooked in olive oil and I served green beans with cherry tomatoes tossed in pesto on the side. The wine paired nicely as it stood up well to the meaty fish. Given the wine’s texture, I think it could also work well with lighter chicken and pork dishes, particularly if they’re flavored with citrus and/or served with green veggies.

Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño Albariño Rías Baixas 2020 with Salmon and Roasted Asparagus



100% Albariño  | SRP: $18  | Additional details here.

A newer operation in comparison to some of the other, Señorío de Rubios was established in 2003. 105 partners work together combining traditional and modern techniques.

Tasting Notes: Flowers with freshly cut stems on the nose – like opening the fridge in a flower shop. Aromas of lemon, lime, green apple and pear, and hints of white peach also greet you on the rose. Similar fruit notes come back on the palate, with a mix of grapefruit, lemon, and lime, green apple, white peach, and little green apples.

There are lots of green herbs as well, and saline minerals joined in on the finish. I recommend not having this one toooooooo cold, as it shows more complexity when a bit warmer. Just pull it out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you intend to serve it. After the tasting, I put the bottle back in the fridge and it was much colder the next time I tried it. In this case, it basically smelled just like a basic Sauvignon Blanc with lots of gooseberry and green notes. As the wine warmed up again, Greg noted a starfruit note as well.

Pairing: The green notes in this wine were a perfect match for salmon with Roasted Asparagus With Crunchy Parmesan Topping. I highly recommend this asparagus recipe –– so yummy!


Here’s another bottle I enjoyed recently and how we paired it:

Valtea Albariño Rías Baixas




O Rosal


The O Rosal subregion is right next to Condado do Tea, running along the Miño River bordering Portugal, but closer to the ocean. My impression is that it would blend the characteristics of Condado do Tea and Val do Salenes, with lots of minerality and rounder fruit notes. I don’t have as much experience with bottles from the region (to my knowledge anyways), but this bottle from Santiago Ruiz would seem to bear that out.

Bodegas Santiago Ruiz O Rossal  Albariño Rías Baixas 2017 with Shrimp Sautéed with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes



Belnd: 74% Albariño, 10% Loureiro, 7% Godello, 5% Treixadura, and 4% Caiño Blanco,  per Year| Alcohol: 13% | Average Price:  | Additional details here.

I must admit that I’m partial to the last name.

Santiago Ruiz's winery is housed in a 17th Century building and surrounded by old vines on pergolas, which sounds so idyllic. The Santiago Ruiz family’s involvement in wine dates back to the 19th Century, but Santiago Ruiz himself wasn’t able to dedicate himself to winemaking until he was 70 years old. (Goes to show, you’re never too old to live a dream!) Prior to that, he’d sold machine and naval insurance, but after his retirement, he dedicated himself to working in wine. In 1984, he founded the winery and he began to focus on improving the process of making Galician white wine. He incorporated the use of stainless steel tanks and became a firm defender of using indigenous varieties, and they plant several in addition to Albariño.

Santiago Ruiz´s daughter, Isabel, created the whimsical labels. She was planning to celebrate her wedding at the winery house and drew a little map to help the guest to find their way. As soon as Santiago Ruiz saw it, he added his name and decided to use it as his label. The text on the label is his handwriting. Rosa Ruiz, the founder’s youngest daughter, continued the legacy of the winery and Luisa Freire is the current winemaker. Today, the winery is under the Bodegas LAN umbrella, and I had a chance to experience the wine during a wonderful lunch hosted by LAN – you can read more about that here, as that post has additional pairing options for that wine.

Tasting Notes: Nicely balanced with both tangy brightness and crisp saline finish. Lots of ripe citrus fruit and a little round peachiness on the mid-palate.

Pairing: This wine paired easily with shrimp sautéed with olives and cherry tomatoes on a bed of spaghetti squash with a little olive oil and Parmesan. Of course, if you have manchego on hand, that would be even better.


And you’ll find even more pairing options for Rías Baixas in these articles:

*****

Join the rest of the World Wine Travel blogging (#WorldWineTravel) as take a virtual trip to Rías Baixas, led by Linda of My Full Wine Glass. Read her invitation: here.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us for our live  Twitter chat on Saturday, April 24th at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #WorldWineTravel. Be sure to check what the others have on the menu.


This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.

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12 comments

  1. Wow, what a fantastic array of of wines! I love the story of the label on the Bodegas Santa Ruiz.

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  2. An impressive line-up of wines, as always, Nicole. That was such a fun event with Gregory + Vine, wasn't it?!?

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  3. Your albariño descriptions are making my mouth water! Can't wait to crack open my samples for next week's virtual trip for Canadians :-)

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  4. I loved reading about the different wines you tasted in addition to the wine tour wines. I'm intrigued about how you got your "live" Instagram posts into your blog post. Cool feature.

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    1. Thanks Terri. For the instragram posts -- if you go to your instagram page and click on a picture, you'll see three little dots in the top R corner. The embed option appears in the dropdown and gives you a code to pop into the html.

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  5. What an absolutely amazing line up of wines and pairings. Thanks for sharing them with us.

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  6. I should know better than to read posts before lunch! I'm seriously so hungry now - I mean, your descriptions, your tasting notes. Going to scour my fridge now, bye!

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Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!