Rías Baixas: 10 Things we love about you
Get acquainted with the Rías Baixas wine region. From geography and climate, to tasting notes and even a buyer’s guide and food pairing tips, we’re sharing the top 10 things you need to know (and love) about Rías Baixas. Hold on to your butts!
Every bottle of wine is an opportunity to learn something.
This is why I enjoy participating in wine chats on the interweb. Most often, they’re live discussions on wine education and tasting.
We discuss things like terroir winemaking, grape varieties, culture and pairings.
There’s usually a focus on a singular theme, but wines and/or wineries change each week.
The theme for this month’s chat is Albariño from Rías Baixas.
10 Things To Know About Rías Baixas
Here are 10 things to know about Rías Baixas.
Rías Baixas Geography
Rías Baixas is located in northwestern Spain, in a region called Galicia (aka Green Spain), which looks more like coastal Ireland than the typical mental picture of Spain, which is hot, dry and dusty.
The Terroir Of Rías Baixas
Granite and schist soils mix with the influences of the Atlantic to create the high natural acidity, citrus flavors, and sea spray minerality.
Rías Baixas Translation
Rías Baixas translates to Low Rivers. It’s pronounced Rías Baishas.
The Climate In Rías Baixas
The climate in Rías Baixas is coastal, averaging 1800 mm (that’s just over 70 inches) of rainfall per year. By comparison, the rainiest city in the United States (Mobile, Alabama) gets 67 inches of rain per year; Seattle checks in at a paltry 38 inches.
Rías Baixas DO Designation
In 1980, a specific Denominación de Origen, or DO, was created specifically for the Albariño grape.
However, when Spain entered the European Union in 1986, the name of the DO was changed to Rías Baixas because EU laws don’t recognize DO’s named for a single grape variety.
Although its genesis is uncertain, prevailing thought says Albariño is a Riesling clone, brought to the area by German monks in the 12th (ish) century. Another theory is that Albariño is related to Petit Manseng.
Albariño is characterized by high acidity, intense aromatics, and low alcohol.
Sometimes, there’s a slight saline quality to the wines.
Most Albariño is unoaked, but there are examples of oak-aged Albariños available.
Grape Varieties Of Rías Baixas
There are 12 grape varieties permitted in Rías Baixas.
- Treixadura (traditionally blended with Albariño)
Crossing The Minho River From Rías Baixas
Across the Minho (or Miño) River from Rías Baixas into Portugal, Albariño is made as Vinho Verde (technically, Vinho Verde is both a wine and a region).
Vinho Verde translates literally to green wine (aka young wine).
Portuguese Alvarinho has lighter body, lower alcohol, and a slight effervescence. It’s meant to be consumed very young.
Sub Regions Of Rías Baixas
From north to south, the DO Rías Baixas encompasses five distinct sub-regions.
These subregions all share a unique, coastal climate, but the soils are slightly different, allowing for a wide range of Albariño styles.
The coastal soils in Rías Baixas are principally granitic, acidic and shallow.
They are frequently located less than 300 meters away from the sea.
The intense rainfall causes the soils to crumble, breaking the granite particles and turning them into sand, a phenomenon that is referred to locally as xiabre.
Ribeira do Ulla
The newest Rías Baixas sub-region (registered in 2000). Soils here are mostly alluvial.
Val do Salnés
Val do Salnés is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.
Val do Salnés is the original and oldest sub-region, and has the most acres under vine.
It’s also the coolest and wettest sub-region, and known for a crisp, aromatic style of wine. Soils here are alluvial over granite.
The smallest of the sub-regions (registered in 1996). The soils here are alluvial over granite.
Condado do Tea
The furthest inland sub-region, named after the Tea River, a tributary of the Miño. The climate here is warm and dry. It’s known for earthier styles of wines — more powerful, but with less acidity.
Soils here are granite and slate, and appear on the surface with lighter granite subsoil.
Lying along the Miño River, this sub-region forms the border with Portugal.
It’s known for a soft, stone-fruit style of wine.
Many O Rosal producers blend Albariño with other allowed grape varieties, such as Treixadura and Loureiro.
Soils here are alluvial over granite.
This top rated set of eight glasses includes with four Cabernet/Merlot & 4 Pinot Noir style glasses. Try your wine from different glasses and discover how the shape and size of your glass affect your perception of aroma and flavor.
Rías Baixas Buyer's Guide
Order today and have it in time for your weekend dinner party you’re no doubt hosting.
- Lagar de Cervera Pazo de Seoane 2020
- Blanquito Albarino 2021 /91 points
- Pair with bay shrimp salad.
- Bodegas Fillaboa Albarino Rias Baixas 2021 /92 points
- Aromas and flavors of chalkiness, ripe apples, and savory spices. Pair with a fish stew.
- Bodegas Rectoral do Umia Calazul Albarino 2021 /91 points
- Forjas del Salnes Leirana Albarino 2021 /94 points
- The salinity of Leirana makes it a natural pair for scallops, oysters and shellfish of all kinds.
- Do Ferreiro Albarino 2021 /94 points
- Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio Albarino 2021 /91 points
- La Cana Albarino 2021
- Pazo de Barrantes Albarino 2019 /94 points
#57 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2021
This new Pazo de Barrantes will surprise with an extremely elegant and expressive nose; fine aromas of white stone fruits, hints of citric fruits, balsamic nuances, acacia blossoms and bay. Liveliness and freshness in the palate, with a fluid texture and a balanced, long finish.
Pairs beautifully with grilled queen scallops over truffled potatoes and cavia, mille-feuille filled with smoked eel, white asparagus pudding, white shrimp with mint, marinated sardine, grapefuit jam and blood orange.
The suggested serving temperature is 52ºF.
This dual zone cooler holds up to 24 Bordeaux size bottles of your favorite wines. Two temperature zones make it perfect for storing red, white, and sparkling wines.
Rías Baixas FAQ
Rías Baixas translates to Low Rivers. It’s pronounced Rías Baishas. The landscape is a rocky coastline with green hills and forests. Can you imagine anything more beautiful?
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