A few weeks ago I had a chance to visit one of my favorite destinations in the world, Spain, this time in the Galicia region of Northwest Spain to visit the wineries of Rias Baixas, traveling as a guest of the region.
Perhaps best known as the home of Santiago de Compostela, with thousands of people still taking their Camino, or walk, from parts of Spain, Portgul or France, to arrive in Santiago, known as the symbol of the resistance of Spanish Christians against Islam, dating back to 884 AD.
Agriculturally, it is known as “green Spain,” because unlike the rest of the country, this coastal region is soaked in rain, averaging over 70 inches in typical years with fog and mist from the Atlantic Ocean contributing to the overall cooler climates of the region. Happily, these conditions produce some of the freshest, most mouth-watering white wines in the world, predominantly Albarino, brought to the region in the 12th Century by monks, with high acidity yet balanced with complex citrus, herb and floral notes.
The region became a DO (Denominación de Origen) in the 1980’s, meaning that wines produced in the area are of a high quality, with producers following a strict set of guidelines to be a part of the region, regulated by the Consejo Regulador who is also responsible for marketing the wines of that DO.
Historically, it is also one of the most rural parts of Spain, and throughout the history of the area local businesses, along with raising the children and running the households, has been led by women as the men of the region often followed the dominant industry for Galicia as fishermen, often leaving their homes and families for months at a time.The bonus to this industry….incredible fish and seafood, like octopus, oysters, mussels and clams, so briny and fresh that it tastes like the sea, pairing well with their lively Rias Baixas wines.
We walked through a few of these beautiful wines and a bit about the region this morning on The Broadcast. Tasting notes on the wines are below.
Martin Codax Albarino, $17, made up of a cooperative of 300 shareholders purchasing fruit from upwards of 600 different growers, as many families in the region have a few pergola trained vines in their front yards, which they grow their family vegetable garden underneath. Both practical as this type of vine training allows a bit more direct contact with sunlight to help ripen grapes in these cooler climates, and helps with space management when everything occupies the same space. The Albarino wine is very clean, with lemon, green fig, apple and a touch of saline, with a light of creaminess from leaving it on the lees, or yeasts, for a period of time, perfect for enjoying with crab, clams or oysters.
Bodega as Laxas Albarino, $20, small production, family owned winery that started making just under 700 cases of Albarino when they started in the 1970’s to today making around 43,000 cases, with using advanced technology to create the best, highest quality product from their estate grown fruit in the warm Condado del Tea sub-region of Rias Baxias where the grapes are filled with mineral, floral, juicy citrus and delicate stone fruit notes.
Condes de Albarei Albarino, $15, another coop owned by over 400 partners who own over 420 acres of quality vineyards in the Salnes sub-region, producing exclusively Albrarino. Also from a cooler part of the region, yet slightly more inland the wine is filled with apple, apricot and white flowers with hints of fresh cut herbs.
Santiago Ruiz O Rosal Rias Baxias, $17, from one of the most southern parts of the region near Portugal, O Rosal, which is inherently warmer, and a few other approved varieties for the region can ripen to their fullest ability, creating juicy lemon, green apple and lime filled Albarino based wines with zest and freshness. Santiago Ruiz, considered the father of Albarino, began his winery at the age of 70, fiercely marketing the brand and the quality of his wines, as well as all wines of the region…following in the footsteps of his grandfather who was the first to produce a wine labeled with Galicia in 1860. Today, Santiago’s daughter, Rosa, runs the winery, maintaining the quality her father created and was so proud of.