I put myself through some challenges my friends. In the home of the albariño grape in Rías Baixas I ate the weirdest little barnacles called percebes which cling to wave-battered rocks in the Atlantic Ocean. I ate several. Google them and know I did this for you so I could sample native albariño wines alongside.
I absolutely loved my visit to Rías Baixas in Galicia, north west Spain. More than anything I’ll remember the amazing seafood of octopus, delicate prawns, oysters, lobster and razor clams served with chilled, fruity, dynamic white wines from the region.
I don’t expect you to eat barnacles but you can plan more normal food and wine pairings. Albariño is perfect for a Christmas Day seafood starter as you can’t go wrong with this grape which grows in a region influenced by the Atlantic. I was told that albariño is also spot-on with Asian and Mexican food. Who’d have thought.
I was pretty giddy to go to Rías Baixas. I can’t put my finger on when I first noticed albariño wines, but I love the back story that the grapes are grown under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. It just feels romantic somehow, windswept, defiant, rugged and carefree. I make these things up in my head.
Rías Baixas wine: Here’s some quick facts
- The region is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Picture a map of Spain and Galicia is in the top left-hand corner …. Rías Baixas is on its south western coast
- The temperatures are mild and there are high levels of rainfall during the year (it rained alot when I was there!!)
- There are five sub-zones: Ribiera da Ulla in the furthest north; Val do Salnés; Soutomaior; Condado do Tea and O Rosal which both hug the border with Portugal. I visited the Salnés and O Rosal areas
- The Rías Baixas D.0 has 181 wineries and 5,787 growers – at its heart are minifundismo – farmers who own small plots and grow grapes
- Albariño represents 95% of the vineyards in the region but other white varieties are also grown, including treixadura, loureiro, caiño blanco, torrontes and godello. There are some red varieties including caiño tinto and loureiro tinto.
- Over 99% of all Rías Baixas wine is white and the sub-zones all have subtle differences from crisp and aromatic in Val do Salnés, to a more tropical, softer style in O Rosal.
- The US was the biggest export market for Rías Baixas wine in 2016 (36%) then the UK (17%) followed by Germany, Puerto Rico and Mexico
Bodega Santiago Ruiz: The story, pictures, and wine
I travelled to Rías Baixas as a guest of the Consejo Regulador of Rías Baixas.