Spring is on our doorstep, days are getting longer and brighter. Already I am eagerly looking forward to sitting outside, relaxing, while sipping a refreshing glass of wine.
So on that note, I thought that I would take you on a little journey to that hauntingly beautiful and isolated northwestern corner of Spain, Galicia, and its most important wine region, Rías Baixas (ree-ahs-by-shuss) - a verdant coastal region, where rushing rivers and rolling hills sweep down to the misty Atlantic ocean, more reminiscent of Ireland than of Spain.
Rías Baixas is the home, and indeed the birthplace of the Albariño (al-ba-ree-nyo) grape, a white variety. Even though it has been growing in Galicia for centuries, no one is certain as to its origin. Many theories exist. One claims that the grape was brought by German pilgrims, who were making their journey to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. Who knows?
While the origins may be disputed there is little to dispute about the quality and uniqueness of these wines. Some liken Albariño to Riesling for its crisp acidity and mineral notes, to Pinot Gris for its floral aromas and, even to Viognier for its texture and peachy/apricot character. So what of the wines?
Refreshing, elegant and food friendly are words that immediately come to mind when I think of Albariño wines. Varietal wines (100% Albariño), they have crisp acidity, are unoaked, and moderate in alcohol. They are packed with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, citrus fruit, peach, apricot and other tropical fruit, with overlaying mineral notes.
These wonderful wines are ready to drink upon release, but have the structure and complexity to age for up to five years, developing more honeyed aromas and flavors. Extremely food friendly, Rías Baixas Albariño wines can be enjoyed with a diverse range of foods. From their traditional pairing with the local seafood (over half of Spain’s seafood is caught off the coast of Rías Baixas), these wines are proving to be equally at home with Japanese, Thai, Indian and Vietnamese dishes. Or, simply enjoy it on its own, with little plates or even ‘salsa and chips’!
Many Rías Baixas Albariño wines are available throughout the United States, and are modestly priced between $15 and $20. Here are a few of my favorites producers. However, I have to say I have yet to find one that disappoints.
• Albariño de Fefinañes 2006 $19
• Dona Rosa Albariño 2006 $19
• Laxas Albariño 2006 $17
• Martín Códax Albariño 2006 $15
• Pazo Seiñorans Albariño 2006 $16
• Terras Gauda Rosal 2006 $20
• Valmiiñor Albariño 2006 $15
A few reliable online wine retailers