The white wine producing region from Spain you need to know about!
Rias Baixas is located in North-East Spain and is located in the 'Green' part of Spain. Most know Spain as being hot and dry, however in this North-East area there is a lot more precipitation as it is located next to the Atlantic coast and hence the wines here reflect that climate. The wines found in this region are 99% white, produced from the Albariño grape variety which produces refreshing, crisp and saline textured wines with notes of peach, lemon zest and sea salt. These wines are meant to be drunk young, however certain producers are now using oak and hence can age up to 15 years! In blind tasting some confuse these wines with a Viognier or Muscadet.
So, Rias Baixas is located in North-East Spain and the wine region covers around 4,000 ha ( Spain total 1,000,000 ha). The DO of Rias Baixas is split into 5 sub-appellations:
- Ribeira Do Ulla
- Val Do Salnes (Largest, most important and wetest)
- Soutomaior (smallest)
- O Rosal
- Condado do Tea (warmest)
The two most important sub-regions are Val Do Salnes and Condado Do Tea. Val Do Salnes produces over 60% of the production and is very typical and is the most seen in the market place. Condado Do Tea on the other hand still produces around 22% of the production and tends to have a slightly warmer climate, this leads to a slightly richer mouthfeel and riper stone fruits.
A few more interesting facts about this region. The soil is majority granite with a cover of alluvial soil which is rich in Iron. The trellising used is Pergola which allows for maximum expose to the sun, good air circulation and manual harvest. The weather is wet around 1600 mm of rain per year (vs around 700mm in Bourgogne), a decent amount of sunshine (2200 hours), and an average cool temperature of 10*C summarizes this as a maritime climate, since the sea influences the climate of this region. So as you can imagine the wines reflect this style of climate.
99% of the wines are white and a majority is made from the grape Albariño. If the word Albariño is mentioned on the label it has to be 100% Albariño. Other main white varieties include: Treixadura and Loureiro. In general most are fermented in stainless steel to keep the freshness, however some include oak, lees stirring as well as Malo, which might sound strange since this tends to be more of an aromatic variety.
So now for the tasting: I tasted through 5 white wines from different sub-appellations across the region. What is great about all of these wines was that none were above $25. Also most will pair wonderful by themselves, with simple fish, oysters or even a simple salad of feta and peaches...mmmhmm
Tasting Notes of white wines from Rias Baixas
1) Bodegas AS Laxas 2019 - $19,85 - From Condado do Tea (warmer sub-region), Aromas were quite aromatic along with ripe stone fruit such as peach and nectarine. The palate was more concentrated than the other wines on show and showed great stone fruit concentration along with crushed almonds and dried floral. The acidity was bright and the finish felt slightly rich along with classic saline texture finish. This Albariño screams for food, and I could have mistaken this for Vigonier 89 points
2) Paco & Lola 2019 - $18,40 - Produced from a CO-OP of 400 member located in the Val Do Salnes region, this has a distinctively lighter palate of fresh lime zest, grapefruit and slice of nectarine. Very nimble and refreshing, I felt this lacked true personality and I just kept going back hoping to get a little more, but no. The finish was quite short - 86 points
3) Granbazan Etiqueta Verde 2019 - $19,60 - Produced from the Val do Salnes region, this was a step up in price ($1,20), yet a huge step up in quality. This showed zesty notes of citrus peel, ripe nectarine, crushed stones and mouthwatering acidity. The finish was zappy and highly refreshing. This is a very well balanced Albarino and one which perfectly showcases the quality of the Val do Salnes region - 89 points
4) Zarate Albarino 2019 - $22,95 - This felt a lot more herbal compared to the other two wines from the Val do Salnes region, this had notes of more savoury notes of fresh herbs, cut grass, granny smith apple and a certain smokiness. The palate was more serious, with lip-smacking acidity, a pro-founding saline texture accompanying with stone fruits, green apple peel, crushed oysters, crushed stones and a savoury lingering finish. I might have confused this with a Muscadet - 88 points
5) Pazo Senorans 2019 - $23.95 - Albarino of the night. This is everything to look for and perfectly describes the region. The nose shows notes of notes of peaches, nectarines, lemon zest and oyster shells. The palate is wonderfully textured with refreshing acidity, saline notes along with a mid-palate of concentrated stone fruit, crushed rocks, sea salt and a medium lingering mouth watering finish. 90
These wines all showed how even though Spain is famous for it's reds; it whites's should not be overlooked, and there is no better place to start than Rias Baixas. What are you favourite Spanish whites?