It's no secret that we love wines made from the Albariño grape. Nestled up in the far north-western corner of Spain by the wind-swept Atlantic coast, the wine region of Rías Baixas produces this much admired and popular, elegant white wine to such a high level that it is considered the spiritual home of the grape.
Rías Baixas gained Denominación de Origen status in 1988. It is full of lush, verdant grassy hills and has a misty, drizzly climate. Albariño thrives here as its thick skin can withstand the potential threat of mildew and rot caused by the damp conditions. If you were to visit a vineyard you'd also notice that the vines are trained high up, above head height, on wooden pergolas to encourage air circulation.
The region runs along the Atlantic coast where five Rías (shallow inlets running inland from the ocean) bring in mists and salty sea water which mixes within rocky fjords with freshwater from inland, creating a unique environment.
The name is pronounced ahl-bah-ree-nyoh and refers to the white-ish colour of the grapes skin. Albariño’s aroma is fresh and inviting with notes of lime, grapefruit and nectarine. You might also notice gentle hints of beeswax, melon and honeysuckle too, depending on the wine. On the palate, you get mouth-watering acidity and intense stone fruit flavours. Peach, apricot and a touch of lemon zest give it such an energetic character. The finish is fresh, fruity and can sometimes have nutty elements.
There is an abundance of fantastic quality seafood found on the Atlantic coast, so it's no surprise that Albarino is a perfect match with fish and particularly octopus, which is a local delicacy. Try it grilled with a big squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of paprika and washed down with a glass of this wonderful wine.
Albarino's popularity outside of Spain has been growing since the late 90s and is an easy alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. On August 1st every year, Rias Baixas celebrates Albarino day and the timing is no accident. These wines are made for summer, so during August why not pour a glass of Albarino?
Here are our favourites:
Luzada Albariño, 12%
Here's the place to start if you've never tried this grape before. This is light, easy drinking Albariño that offers straightforward refreshment. It has lots of pure citrus, peach and apple fruit with crisp acidity and a dry finish with a minerally saline note that gives you a taste of the typical character of the Val do Salnes area.
This is a really delicious and zesty Albariño. Fresh almost tropical aromas then stone fruit and citrus on the palate with a creamy texture, mineral notes, vibrant acidity and a slight seaside saltiness. It is ripe and complex in style but with fresh balancing acidity and good length on the finish.
Try with a seafood stew.
Pazo Señoráns Albariño, 13.5%
Made by one of the most highly-regarded wineries in Rias Baixas, this is benchmark Albariño. It has beautiful aromas of nectarine, fresh figs, orange zest and white flowers, each delivered with vivid intensity. On the palate it is dry, with citrus flavours and a mineral-driven finish, which expands and deepens, offering a satisfying balance of power and finesse.
Producer Spotlight - Pazo Señoráns
Pazo Señoráns is housed within a magnificent 16th century ancestral Galician house built in the countryside and launched its first vintage in 1989. It was established as a winery by husband and wife Marisol Bueno and Javier Mareque and is now in the hands of their four children - Marisol, Vicky, Javier and Santiago.
Their site is 10km from the sea and has a unique type of loose sandy soil that contains a granite rock called xabre. It's full of tiny holes and means the soil has good drainage which is essential to keeping the vines in good condition in the moist and humid conditions.
The fruit used in their wines comes from a combination of their own 29 hectare vineyard and around 160 growers and 500 specially-selected micro parcels that are inspected and sampled rigorously.
Anna, the winemaker, has worked with the same growers over many years, and there are no secrets to their success. It is all about the quality of the fruit. It is gently pressed and fermented naturally in stainless steel which helps to retain the exuberant fruit character. The use of so many growers adds the complexity to the wine that Pazo Señorans are known for.
The high natural acidity in their grapes makes them very suitable to ageing and when aged on lees (dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation process), the wine develops texture, spice and complexity that really sets it apart.
They've established themselves as the leading producer in Rias Baixas and are now widely recognised as one of Spain’s finest producers. Their wine has frequently won “Best White Wine” trophy at the Wines from Spain awards and they routinely receive scores of 90+ from Robert Parker, Decanter and other guides.