Where is Rias Baixas and what kind of wines are made there? This could easily be a question on a WSET exam. But luckily for you, this is not a test, and I am going to give you the answer.
Rías Baixas is located in Spain’s northwest region of Galicia. Coastal and green, this region is said to resemble Ireland more than it does the interior region of Spain. Galicia’s damp oceanic climate is balanced by over 2,200 hours of sunshine, which allows the region’s grapes to fully ripen. The coastal landscape of Rías Baixas is irregular, marked by a series of jagged inlets and shallow fjords known as “rias”. The name Rías Baixas means “lower rias.” The five distinct sub-regions that constitute Rías Baixas differ according to their topography and proximity to rivers and the sea. Depending on their elevation, proximity to the ocean, and the Miño River you can get very cool climate to warmer, but not hot sub-subregions. The soils of Rías Baixas are fairly uniform throughout the five sub-regions, are dominated by granite, and in some places, schist. There are also rivers and tributaries that have also left alluvial and colluvial deposits (i.e. clay, silt, sand, and gravel). There is limited organic material in the area and combined with the minerals and river deposits produces ideal conditions for Albariño to thrive and show off minerality in the wine.
Winemaking in Rías Baixas dates back thousands of years, but the modern winemaking history of Rías Baixas began in 1980 when an official denomination was created specifically for the Albariño grape variety, and then an updated DO Rias Baixas was established in 1988. Up to 12 different grape varieties are allowed in DO Rías Baixas, but Albariño is king, accounting for 90 percent of all plantings. 99% of the wines made in DO Rías Baixas comes from white grapes, and as noted Albariño is King in this region. The vines are traditionally widely spaced and trained on stone pergolas. To counter the region’s rainfall and humidity, most of the vines are trained on a wire trellis called a “parra” anchored by the granite posts.
There are approximately 60 wineries shown as belonging to the DO Rias Baixas, but I have read that overall there are around 180 wineries in the region. I received 3 bottles of Albariño wine from 3 different DO Rias Baixas wineries to review for you and offer my west coast food pairings. Just as wine and food naturally grow together, with the coastal influence of Rias Baixas, that seafood works very well with Albariño. As such, with our bounty of seafood on the west coast, we should have many great seafood pairings. But some of us are not seafood fans, so I will try to also identify other dishes you could pair with Albariño.
Much of the wonderful detail about the region above comes from https://www.riasbaixaswines.com, which I recommend if you would like to learn more about Rias Baixas.
The three wines that I received to review for you are:
The wines have a little bit of ageing, but that is OK as Albariño can age well.
My Wine Tasting Notes
Rectoral do Umia Abellio Albariño 2019
Appearance: an intense bright lemon colour.
Nose: Medium intensity deep aromas of ripe stone fruits, ripe apricot, dried fruits, honey, and some grape stem. With decanting the aromas progress toward tropical fruit, pineapple, in particular, dried tropical fruit and honey. Less stone fruit aromas.
Palate: Dry with a thicker, round mouthfeel. Nice texture to the wine which I think comes from the 9 months of lees ageing. Ripe stone fruits, along with a touch of floral, pear and citrus. Some grape stem as well. Nice balance between acidity and fruit. Tropical fruit flavours with decanting along with baked pears. The wine still stays very smooth and round.
Finish: Medium length and finishes with a lighter mouthfeel Dried apricots, some minerality, and a touch of pepperiness. With decanting the wine finishes with tropical fruit flavours, but still some dried apricots and pepperiness. Delicious.
I paired this wine with BC spot prawns panfried in butter and oil, with garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian parsley. And a dash of the Abellio Albariño! A wonderful, complementary pairing. It only takes 4 minutes to cook the spot prawns. They are so soft and juicy. The sweetness of the prawns plus the acidity of the lemon juice plus garlic really worked well with the tropical fruit (pineapple) of this decanted bottle of Abellio.
Rating: – If you prefer stone fruit aromas and flavours drink this wine as soon as you open it, but if you enjoy tropical fruit, give this wine a decant. This is a delicious full-bodied wine with again either stone fruits or tropical fruit aromas and flavours. This wine has a thick, round mouthfeel, and is very smooth.
Attis Albariño Lias Finas 2018
I was not expecting such a big wine given the coolness of Rías Baixas, but the vineyard for this wine must be in one of the more interior regions that get that extra solar energy. I checked and the winery is located in the heart of the “Val do Salnés” region. The vineyard is 50 years old, is situated on granitic soil with a sandy-clay character and faces west. The wine was aged on lees in steel tank and oak vat for 6 months with battonage. “Val do Salnés” is situated in the northern half of Rías Baixas and is in theory the coolest and dampest sub-region. The vineyard must be in a unique microclimate with the western exposure. I checked on the 2018 harvest and read that it was “sunny and dry weather with moderate temperatures over August and September the key ripening period was very positive and grape quality.” (thedrinksbusiness.com)
Appearance: A very deep, bright golden colour.
Nose: A medium intensity nose with lemon, honey, marmalade, apricot and dried fruit aromas. With decanting there is a strong presence of stone fruit aromas along with the other aromas mentioned.
Palate: Dry, very full-bodied, thick and round, with a bit of a waxy texture and some acidic prickle on your tongue. Dried apricots and other fruits, marmalade, and oak with honey toward the finish. The wine body and mouthfeel lightens a bit as does the acidity with decanting. The fruit flavours stay the same, plus you can add more stone fruits and a mineral component.
Finish: A long length, with the fruit flavours still strong and the mouthfeel still thick. Light pepperiness, that gets stronger with decanting.
I paired this wine, just opened, with grilled tuna loin topped with homemade mango salsa. I grilled the tuna for 9 minutes, which left a tiny bit in the middle of the tuna raw. I should have removed the tuna one minute earlier to have a larger raw spot in the middle of the tuna, but luckily it was not overcooked and dry. The mango salsa had a mixture of flavours; sweet mango fruit, cilantro herbaceousness, capsicum, and tartness from the red onion. Strong flavours together need a strong wine and this wine fit the bill. A complimentary tasting. The tuna had a nice firm texture, not chewy, which melted in your mouth with the salsa and wine. Very tasting. A recommended pairing. The tuna loin came from Organic Ocean seafood.
Rating: Just opened you get a big unctuous wine with ripe stone fruit, marmalade, dried fruit and honey aromas and flavours. A thick, round mouthfeel with medium acidity. With decanting the wine lightens up a bit and you get stone fruits added to the nose and the palate.
Paco & Lola Albariño 2019
Made from free-run must of selected grapes from their best vineyards. The vineyards are grown on sandy loam soils, granitic and slightly acidic. Fermentation in stainless steel at 16°C for 21 days, remaining on its fine lees until the stabilization and bottling.
Appearance: A bright medium-plus intensity lemon colour.
Nose: Medium intensity with a mix of citrus and honeyed stone fruits, along with a hint of white flowers, and with air, some pineapple. After decanting you get the same aromas but they are slightly lighter.
Palate: Slightly off-dry with a thicker, round mouthfeel together with a light acidic prickle. Tart citrus, some citrus rind and pineapple flavours, plus stone fruits on the mid-palate. A touch of salty minerality in the background. The wine is not as tart after decanting and there is more stone fruit and pineapple flavours.
Finish: A medium-plus length finishing with tart citrus and citrus rind, and lingering acidic prickle on your tongue.
I paired this wine with three Filipino dishes. The first is a mixed noodle dish with shrimp (pancit bihon-canton), the second is milkfish sisig (chopped, deboned milkfish that have vegetables added then cooked on a hot castiron pan, usually over a grill, then topped with freshly squeezed lemon), and lastly, not a seafood dish, but I had to try, roasted pork belly. I had to see if the fattiness of the pork belly would pair up with the acidity of this wine, and it did, brilliantly. The noodle dish was ok. The pairing complementary but nothing special. But the milkfish sisig was a very good pairing. The sisig had crunchy vegetables, plus some saltiness and citrus flavours. The citrus plus pineapple flavour in this wine merged together very nicely. I would recommend this wine, or other Albariño to enjoy with sisig and roasted pork belly.
Rating: – Citrus and honeyed stone fruit aromas. Bright citrus fruit followed by lighter stonefruit and pineapple flavours. Medium-plus acidity leaves a light acidic prickle on your tongue. Medium-plus length finishing with tart citrus and the acidic prickle.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
These wines are not yet available in BC as far as I can tell, as I searched the BC Liquor Stores, and a few private wine shop websites, but maybe they will arrive soon on our shelves. If you are in Ontario or Quebec, you can purchase the Paco & Lola Albariño 2019 for ~$18.25. The Rectoral do Umia Abellio Albariño 2019 is available at the SAQ for price of $16.30.