Summer is quickly approaching. Now is the time to embrace crisp and refreshing white wines to pair with a warm summer’s day. There is no shortage of refreshing white wines to choose this time of year, but if you want a wine that embraces its home: green as far as the eye can see, salty coastal breezes, and fresh crisp fruit on a bed of rugged minerality, then you want Albariño from Rias Baixas.
Snooth recently hosted an epic Rias Baixas Albariño tasting. I hope you were able to join in the fun. We tasted ten wines in one hour! This is actually an easy feat since the wines are so refreshing and delicious. Furthermore, Rias Baixas Albariño is a great value wine so I hope you will seek out some of these wines to add to your summer sipping. Rias Baixas is a fascinating wine region with an interesting history. Read on to learn more about the region and the grape.
About Rías Baixas from their web site:
Denomination of Origin (DO) Rías Baixas is renowned for the Albariño grape, an indigenous variety that produces some of the world’s foremost white wines. Located in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, the DO was formally established in 1988. Albariño has always been the flagship of this coastal region. In Rías Baixas’ unique climate, Albariño shares the same mineral-rich soils and cool climate as the world’s other renowned white wine-producing regions, including France’s Loire Valley, New Zealand, and the Rhine region of Germany.
Nine things to know about Rias Baixas:
- Galicia bears a strong resemblance to the green fields and rocky coasts of Ireland.
- Referred to as “Green Spain,” with hillsides covered with mist that hide granite castle vineyards.
- Galicia has a strong Celtic influence dating back to 800-400 BC when they occupied most of modern Central and Western Europe. The Romans drove the Celts to the far western extremes of Europe, including Galicia. This explains the Galicia’s desire to follow in the vinicultural Celtic heritage.
- Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it has a cool maritime climate, ample rain, and abundant during the growing season.
- Soils of the region are uniform, consisting of hard granite and a mineral rich alluvial top soil with limited amounts of organic material and loads of minerality resulting in world-class white wines.
- Over 99% of wines produced here are white; however, overall they do permit eight different types of wines.
- Although 12 different grapes are grown in Rias Baixas, Albariño represents 90% of all plantings.
- Rias Baixas has five different sub-zones and a host of different wine making techniques resulting in diversity for their wines. These sub-zones include:
- Ribeira do Ulla: newest sub-region, located inland, mostly alluvial soil
- Val do Salnés: located on the Atlantic coast, the birthplace of Albariño, oldest sub-region with the most concentration of vines, coolest and wettest, granite and rocky with alluvial soil.
- Soutomaior: nestled in the hills, smallest sub –region, light and sandy soil over granite bedrock
- Candado do Tea: means “County of Tea,” named after the River Tea, warmer and drier with soils containing granite and slate
- O Rosal: lies along the Miño River, forms the border with Portugal, granite bedrock and alluvial topsoil, vineyards are terraced along the Miño
- Legend has it that after God created the earth, he rested his hand in Galicia for a moment, Rias Baixas five regions are the traces of the fingers of God’s hand.
“Whatever your belief, the beauty of the landscape inspires divine feelings.”
Characteristics of Albariño as explained by Rias Baixas:
Pale golden lemon, they are all crisp, elegant and fresh. These wines are bone-dry and aromatic, packed with flavors of white peach, apricot, melon, pineapple, mango and honeysuckle. They share good natural acidity, have mineral overtones, and are medium bodied with moderate alcohol (12%).
We tasted wines from three of the five sub-regions. Here are my thoughts on the ten wines I tasted.
Sub-region: Val do Salnés: Overall impression, these wines were all highly aromatic, refreshing and crisp on the palate with a nice mineral foundation underneath bright fruit and loads of acidity.
2015 Condes de Albarei Albariño Rias Baixas ($15): medium lemon in the glass; medium+ youthful aromas of fresh picked white flowers with a basket of stone and tropical fruit along with some crushed stone; bone dry with pronounced acidity that coats the palate creating a refreshing pucker and a long, tart lime zest and grapefruit finish.
2015 Vionta Albariño Rias Baixas ($15): medium- lemon in the glass; medium youthful aromas of orchard fruit, with some fresh picked herbs, and citrus notes of lemon zest, along with softer notes of crushed stone; mouth fills with tart Meyer lemons and lime zest as the pronounced acidity wraps the palate, crisp yet slightly creamy with a long mineral driven finish.
2015 Martin Codax Albariño Rias Baixas ($16.99): pale lemon, almost iridescent; medium inviting youthful aromas of peaches, melons, white floral notes, and creamy lemon curd; minerality is first to penetrate the palate, followed by lots of lemon curd and green apples and pears; medium acidity that is refreshing but does not create a pucker, crisp and elegant, light with a long mineral driven, tart finish.
2016 Pazo Senorans Albariño Rias Baixas ($25): pale lemon in the glass; pronounced youthful aromas of yellow peaches, ripe Korean melon, pineapple, ripe Meyer lemons, and graphite; pronounced lime juice, lemon zest, grapefruit, and under-ripe melon dance across the palate, fresh and crisp with pronounced acidity, light body, long tart finish.
Sub-region: Contado do Tea: Overall impression, not surprise this warmer sub-region results in wines with more pronounced ripe stone and tropical fruit notes, still firm acidity, but a slightly richer mouth-feel
2015 Pazo de San Mauro Albariño Rias Baixas ($17): pale gold in the glass; medium- youthful aromas of white nectarines, under-ripe melon, white flowers, mango, passionfruit, graphite, and crushed stone; intense minerality on the palate, rich and textural with high acidity, bone dry, light body, crisp, tart, and long finish.
2016 Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño Albariño Rias Baixas ($18): pale gold almost iridescent in the glass; pronounced youthful inviting aromas of ripe yellow peaches and nectarines, ripe melon, pineapple, mango, kiwi, fresh picked white flowers, grapefruit, ripe Meyer lemons, orange blossoms, and a backbone of crushed stone and granite, think Chiquita banana woman’s hat; creamier texture on the palate with lots of grapefruit and orange; high acidity and a firm minerality creates a pleasing mouth-feel, super refreshing, light body, long finish.
Sub-region: O Rosal: Overall impression, this sub-region presented lots of green notes, from orchard fruit, to under-ripe melon, to fresh herbs, a true testament to the green area of Spain, with loads of graphite and crushed stone.
2015 Valminor Albariño Rias Baixas ($18.99): medium- youthful lemon in the glass; medium- aromas of lemon, orange blossoms, white peaches, and lemon zest; high acidity, clean and zesty palate, firm vein of minerality, light body with medium- flavor intensity with a long, mineral finish.
2015 Bodegas Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio Albariño Rias Baixas ($19.99): pale gold in the glass; medium- youthful aromas that lead off with graphite and crushed stone, followed by green apples, white nectarines, pineapple, lemon zest, and fresh picked herbs; zesty upon entering the palate, fresh picked citrus gives way to crushed stone, light body, high acidity, long pleasing finish.
2015 Altos de Torona Albariño Sobre Lias Rias Baixas ($14): medium- lemon in the glass; medium youthful aromas leading with graphite and crushed stone, followed by yellow apples, Meyer lemon, under-ripe melon, white nectarines, orange blossoms, and fresh herbs; loads of graphite on the palate create a crisp and mineral driven mouth-feel, high acidity, bone dry, light body with a long, tart mineral finish.
2015 Santiago Ruiz Albariño Rias Baixas ($20): pale gold in the glass; medium- aromas of green apple, pear, white stone fruit, fresh herbs, and lime zest; tart zest and graphite on the palate, high acidity, crisp and refreshing, light body, long clean finish.
*Disclaimer: these wines were provided to me for participation in the tasting; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Let Rias Baixas Albariño bring a taste of Spain to your summer cuisine. I have been to Spain already twice this year and know Albariño is a great match for Spanish foods including: Iberico jamon, white asparagus, Spanish anchovies (nothing like canned variety in the US), clams, mussels, octopus, eggplant, and lamb. Your palate will sing with these foods paired with Albariño. Don’t stop there embrace all of the Mediterranean cuisine, pasta, fresh fish, olives, potatoes, etc, with a bottle of Albariño. To be inspired for delicious pairing ideas visit the Rias Baixas web site.
So welcome summer Spanish style by embracing the wonderful Albariño wines of Rias Baixas. Cheers!