Rias Baixas – Green Spain Entices

Topographical Map of Spain from @iStock

In February of this year I started taking the Spanish Wine Scholar program at the Wine Scholar Guild. Our first stop on the study tour was Green Spain. Green Spain includes four of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions – Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Pais Vasco. For this month’s #WorldWineTravel group we traveled to Galicia.

Galicia is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and to the North, by Portugal to the South and by Asturias and Castilla y Leon to the East. It has two different areas, ones closest to the coast and the inland areas. The climate here is maritime and is relatively temperate. It also has a lot of rainfall. It is known as the country of a thousand rivers. The two most important are the Mino and the Sil River.

Vines grow on steep terraces and in pictures it looks glorious but also like very hard work to harvest these vineyards. On this terraces vines grown in the en espaldera method. On the flatter lands though, they have a pergola system called Parrals that are built with granite columns and keep the vines high off the ground to allow ventilation under the canopy. In this very rainy part of the country, this is helpful to prevent rot from harming the vines.

Another important topographical feature in Galicia is the Cordillera Cantabria and its Macizo Galaico range which is the Western end of this long range. It has three mountain ranges: Serra do Eixe, Serra da Encina da Lastra and Serra do Courel.

Soils here are largely granite and sand along the coast. The soils in this part of the region are shallow and slightly acidic as well. Along the river valleys, the soils tend to also have granite but clay rather than sand. Farther inland, the soils are shale, slate and granite sand.

Albarino accounts for 90% of the plantings in Rias Baixas but Godello, a native grape, is also native to the area and is widely grown.

There are five DO regions in Galicia: DO Rias Baixas, DO Ribeiro, DO Ribeira Sacra, DO Monterrei and DO Valdeorras, most of the focus is on white wines except for in DO Ribeira Sacra.

DO Rias Baixas has five subzones: Val do Salnes, Condado do Tea, O Rosal, Soutomaior, and Ribeira do Ulla. The last two were the most recent, added in 1996 and 2000, respectively. Val do Salnes is the oldest of the regions and is said to be the birthplace of Albarino, it accounts for 50% of the Albarino under vine. Condado do Tea and O Rosal lie on the right bank of the Mino River. Soutomaior which is near the city of Vigo, is the only subzone that produces 100% Albarino.

Albarino is not the only white grape grown in Rias Baixas. Treixadura, Loureira and Caino Blanco are also a part of the picture and many of the DOP Rias Baixas wines.

I purchased this wine from popular producer Bodegas Martin Codax earlier this year as my Spanish Wine Scholar class was studying Green Spain. I love that this winery has a female winemaker named Katia Alvarez. They also have winemaker Luciano Amoedo, who comes from a long line of winemakers. He is the 9th generation. Bodegas Martin Codax started in 1986 and is a cooperative. They are attentive to sustainability which for them includes their local environment and workers. I just started on a Podcast and am doing a 10-week series on sustainability. It’s post on this blog site. Take a listen, let me know your thoughts.

Tasting note:

100% Albarino, this lemon yellow wine had aromas of flint, grass and citrus on the nose. On the palate it had stone fruit, herbal notes and saline mineral notes. Backed by great acidity, it had both weight and structure which surprised me but shouldn’t have. Some residual sugar together with the saline, salty quality brought out the umami notes I’ve been hunting for of late in wines that I pair with certain foods such as Salmon sashimi with Capers. A long finish completed the picture and made me wonder why I don’t drink Albarino more often. Burgans is a modern take on Albarino in my view.

For our April edition of #WorldWineTravel, Linda of My Full Wine Glass is hosting the group on a virtual trip to Rías Baixas. Read her invitation: here. Please join us for our live  Twitter chat on Saturday, April 24th at 11:00am EST by following the hashtag #WorldWineTravel.

Check out what my fellow #WorldWineTravel bloggers are saying:

13 comments

  1. That class sounds like so much fun. I can only imagine how much you are learning. I was shocked at how much I learned in just 90 minutes on the virtual bus trip with Rick.

    • Andrea hi-
      The podcast is about sustainability and it should be in the corner of Avvinare. Take a listen and let me know what you think. Cheers, Susannah

  2. Burgans was one of the first Albariño I tasted years ago! As you mention in the chat yesterday, I remember the bit of RS on it, yet it works. Go to love that acidity!

  3. Very cool that you’re doing the Spanish Wine Scholars Guild, I’ve been considering these programs for a while and would love to hear your take. Cheers!

    • This is my third. I have the French Wine Scholar and the Italian Wine Scholar. I have been very pleased with all three classes. Call me anytime you want to talk about them Cheers Nicole. Susannah

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