Pazo de Villarei Albariño, Rías Baixas 2016
I have an personal affinity for Galicia with its rain-swept rocky coastline and its Celtic links, my own being Hebridean. (Galicia & Gaelic are from the same etymological root.)
Having always been hot on geography (the kind of guy who would happily ‘read’ an atlas for hours on end), so at a recent tasting when pouring our Exhibition Albariño I was surprised when I mentioned Galicia and was asked “Where’s that?”
Well here it is!
And the D.O. Rías Baixas, where this wine hails from, looks like this. The vineyards for this wine are situated in the Val do Salnés, while the wine is made is at a winery situated in the O Rosal.
Map from riasbaixaswines.com
This picturesque area is the logical geographic extension of Portugal. Roughly the size of Belgium, it consists of four provinces: La Coruña, Lugo, Pontevedra and Ourense.
With its fabulous Atlantic coastline, west and north, this is a veritable fish and shellfish paradise on its extended coastline. But the interior, into which few venture, is as spectacular with huge valleys, mountains and rivers and big-flavoured culinary traditions based on pork and the traditional killing (matanza) of home-reared pigs.
The language (Galego) is a combination of Portuguese and Spanish with major Celtic influences. The latter is reflected in its deep-rooted musical traditions which involve bagpipes and country dancing.
While twelve grape varieties are permitted in the DO, albariño represents 96% of all plantings. For info, other grapes within the remaining 4% of plantings include treixadura, loureiro, caiño blanco, torrontes and godello.
As for Vinho Verde over the border in Portugal (closely related linguistically and vinously (the alvarinho of Portugal is, of course, the one and the same grape as albariño), the vines are traditionally trained along high trellises, or parras
As Rías Baixas can be very wet, growing the grapes in this way allows for very quick wind-drying once the rain has stopped. In some areas, this also allows for polyculture, and as the picture shows, it’s not just today that it’s been happening.
The vineyards are located at altitudes between 100 and 300 m above sea level. An ideal micro-climate is created there with a temperate and humid climate. Mild temperatures in the summer allow the grapes to ripen slowly, thus maintaining all the aromas of the varieties as well as a significant level of acidity, both necessary for producing fresh fruity wines.
The banks of the River Umia provide shallow and sandy soil, abetting the humid Atlantic climate, which helps the maturation of the albariño grape used in making their single varietal wines. A natural and long fermentation in stainless-steel tanks at very low temperatures preserve all the aromatic potential of the variety.
Anyway enough from me already! On to the wine!