Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Expand Your White Wine Repertoire With Albariño From Rias Baixas

I got into Albarino in my early 20s, when I began seriously studying and exploring different wines of the world. I would snag an inexpensive bottle of Martin Codax to sip with friends and family during summer cook-outs, as these were reliably delicious and fan-friendly wines that didn’t cost more than $12 or so.

The Albarino grape and Rias Baixas are a perfect match for each other. More than 99% of the wine here is made from white grapes, which is very rare in a wine region. This is a diverse and exciting area for vineyards, located in Spain’s wettest region, the northwestern coastal are of Galicia. Here, Albarino has developed its own unique spot on the spectrum of white table wines. 

If you’ve tasted a handful of Albarinos, you may think you know what to expect: fresh acidity, juicy tropical fruit, lots of bright floral tones, something simple to pop on a hot summer afternoon. But I recently tasted 10 Albarinos from Rias Baixas (sponsored by the wine site Snooth), and was really impressed by the distinctiveness of these wines. I was expecting variations on a theme, but what I found was a diverse, distinct, nuanced group of wines.

There were salty, ocean-influenced, Muscadet-like interpretations alongside, floral, perfumed, pineapple-laden, Viognier-like elements. Aging the wine on the lees gives some wines a creamier texture, while brisk, lighter styles abound. And the price points are extremely attractive.

The wines came from three of the five Rías Baixas sub-regions: Val do Salnés, a thumb-like peninsula that reaches into the North Atlantic, and Contado do Tea and O Rosal, which abut the Mino River that divides Spain from Portugal. They were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Sub-region Val do Salnés

SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Aromas show apricots, peaches and nectarine with lilies and honeysuckle. Plump but fresh with crisp acidity. Salted lime on top of peaches and apricots, the fruit is laced with notes of chalk dust and honeysuckle. This is a bright and crisp wine with lots of chunky fruit and floral tones. Nice. (87 points)

2015 Vionta Albariño Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $15
Bright yellow color. So, so zesty with tons of key lime and lemon pith, and then some honey with sea salt and floral perfume on top. Medium/light-bodied but a very pleasant slightly waxy texture (relatively) and fresh acidity. Nectarine and key limes and doused in yellow flowers and perfume shop with notes of almond, sea salt and lingering minerality. Very vibrant, lip-smacking but shows boldness and depth as well. This spends 4-6 months on the lees. (90 points)

2015 Martín Códax Albariño Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $17
Pale lemon color with a slight spritz. Nose shows juicy peaches and papaya drizzled with lemon juice and topped with yellow flowers and honeycomb. Palate shows fresh acidity and a light texture with lots of minerals and briskness. Lemon and orange pith with white and yellow flowers. Zesty with lemon peels and baby’s breath and dandelion, but a juicier mouthfeel because of some maloactic fermentation. This is probably the most widely available Albarino in the U.S., and it is so solid for the price. (87 points)

2016 Pazo de Señoráns Albariño Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $25
Pale lemon color, very slight spritz. Bright but deep aromas of orange blossom and honeysuckle, on top of apricot and limes, with some new tennis ball and white pepper notes. Medium body with a nice round/fleshy aspect, buttressed by fresh acid. Lemon and apricot fruit mixes with cucumber water, lily pad, white pepper, topped in orange and yellow floral notes. Mineral and saline notes on the finish. Impressive complexity but goes down so easily.  Equally delicious and intriguing. (90 points)

Sub-region Contado do Tea

2015 Pazo de San Mauro Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $17
Light yellow color with little to no spritz. Lots of lemon and lime zest on the notes with honeysuckle, buttercups and baby’s breath, a sea breeze and clean laundry element, too. Medium-bodied with vibrant acidity and a slight creaminess, but lots of verve. Apricot and lemon/lime topped with a hint of oregano and white pepper to accent the white flowers. It grows in complexity and boasts a crisp, salty finish. (88 points)

2016 Robalino Albariño Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $18
Bright lemon color, slight spritz. A more tropical punch with white peach and apricot on top of salted lime and lilies. Medium-bodied, pleasant slight creaminess to contrast with the bright acidity. Chalky, salty notes on top of papaya, banana, pineapple, drizzled with lime, followed up with some lilies and dandelion notes. (87 points)

Albarino grapes being harvested in Rias Baixas, Spain. Credit: Rias Baixas Wines.

Sub-region O Rosal

SRP: $19
Slight spritz and a light lemon color. Bright and floral with nettle, honeysuckle, lilies, on top of lemon/lime, white peaches, banana. Medium-bodied, very focused and crisp with a salty-mineral aspect to the lime and lemon fruit. Notes of white pepper, cut grass and floral potpourri. Brisk and delish with a long, stony, chalky finish. (89 points)

2015 Bodegas Altos de Torona Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $14
Med yellow color. Juicy peach and orange on the nose along with the white and yellow flowers, hints of honey and sea salt. A fleshy and juicy texture balances nicely with the acidity and creamy but tart fruit (nectarine, yellow plum, lemon), add in complex notes of salted almond and cut floral stems. Stony minerals and crusty sea salt on the finish, impressive and tasty stuff. I may have guessed Muscadet in a blind tasting, but this has juicier fruit. (88 points)

2015 Santiago Ruiz Albariño Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color with the faintest spritz. So bright and breezy with sea salt and jetty rocks underneath the lemon/lime, orange peel, yellow and white flowers – lots going on. Medium bodied with some flesh on its acidic backbone. Lemon and apricot fruit with some saline and seaweed notes (kind of cool), and notes of dandelion greens and honeysuckle. Long and crisp finish. Interesting flavor profile, but it’s all put together well. Albarino with some Loureiro, Godello, Treixadura and Caiño Blanco. (87 points)

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