Green Spain and Albarino…Viva la Diferencia!
Few typical tourists visiting Spain make the northwestern portion of the country a priority on their journeys, besides perhaps those on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Wine tourists usually spend their time in and around Barcelona; exploring the Cava country within the region of Penedes to sip sparkling wine, tromping on the grey/blue llicorella soils of the Priorat region, or taking a trip north of Barcelona to flirt with the French border around the region of Ampurdan-Costa Brava.
Other wine explorers visiting Spain will opt for Madrid as a home base; rolling through Toro, Rueda and Ribera del Duero en route to Rioja to take in the most heralded of Spanish wine regions before looping back to the nation’s capital. Few have the time or inclination to make a trip to Spain’s northwestern corner, and even fewer make it to Rias Baixas. Though the Portuguese influence, the Celtic past and the profoundly green surroundings of the region belie one’s typical notion of Spain, those who make their winery touring base in the heart of ‘green’ Spain are able to discover some of the most beautiful and unique wines in the world.
The wine region of Rias Baixas has long been subject to the sea, as it’s the only Spanish wine region which is in part situated smack on the Atlantic. Even the name Rias Baixas, meaning ‘low estuaries’, indicates that the sea’s touch has never been far away from this region’s vineyards. The sandy, alluvial soils that have been washed to rest over the area’s granite subsoil have become the spiritual home of one of the world’s great white grapes – Albarino.
Wines labeled “Rias Baixas” must contain at least 75% Albarino, while those labels stating the word “Albarino” are always 100% varietal. The heavy rainfall and relatively high humidity of the Rias Baixas region can whip up a nasty mix of viticultural challenges, but amiable vintage conditions can make for sparklingly brilliant expressions of the Albarino grape.Continued on the next page