Rías Baixas wine region: Home of the albariño grape and amazing seafood!

Rías Baixas wine One Foot in the Grapes

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
rias baixas Jane Clare One Foot in the Grapes
I take a rest from sipping wines and enjoy the bracing air on the Atlantic coast in Rias Baixas

Next time:
Bodega Santiago Ruiz: The story, pictures, and wine


I travelled to Rías Baixas as a guest of the Consejo Regulador of Rías Baixas.

 rías baixas regulatory council logo Follow the Twitter accounts @AlbarinoUK  @riasbaixaswines @rias_baixas or search for the hashtags #riasbaixas and #albariño. There’s some terrific food pairing ideas at www.riasbaixaswines.com


Balblair 97 whisky is delicate and “Bryan Ferry smooth”

Balblair 97 whisky review

What was going on in the world in 1997? A  book about a  schoolboy  wizard hit our bookshelves, Pierce Brosnan enjoyed his second outing as a Martini-shaking secret agent, while Tony Blair became Prime Minister for the first time.

Oh, and a Scotch  whisky  was laid down in Bourbon casks.

Sixteen years on and the eighth Harry Potter Hollywood blockbuster is fading from   memory, Daniel Craig has enjoyed three outings as James Bond – and Blair has been and gone.

But the 1997 vintage of Balblair has just matured.  Balblair whiskies are unusual in that they are named after the year they were made.
When it comes to whisky I know that Irish whiskey has an ‘e’ in it. Scotch doesn’t. I know I enjoy whisky, with or without the ‘e’.  I even raised a glass to a Scot who won Wimbledon. Did you hear of him?

But when it came to an expert view,  I asked  a whisky  buff colleague  for his thoughts.

Dave – for that is his name –  says it  is “a lovely delicate spirit, aged perfectly, combining freshness with depth and complexity.  At around £55 a bottle it doesn’t tick every box. The colour is a little underwhelming.

 “Distillery notes claim a ‘deep golden amber’ – but in reality it’s more a pale, washed out yellow.
Balblair 97 whisky review
Balblair 97 whisky
“But the  tropical fruits, hints of honey, vanilla and butterscotch  which the label promises are all evident, as is a hint of Love Hearts for those who spent too much time in sweet shops as a kid. It has tingly spiciness, but is  Bryan Ferry smooth.
“Bourbon casks help import fudge, honey, spices, sultanas and hard toffee onto the palate – and there’s also a lovely, long creamy finish.”
I don’t think you need me any more.

In my glass this week …

A couple of  lovely summer whites from The Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com).

The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) and Exhibition Albariño (£12.95) are on offer until August 11 (£5.50 and £11.50 respectively).

The vinho verde splashes into the glass  like sea foamily glancing onto a pebble. The bubbles frizzle, frazzle and disappear. On the nose there’s refreshing pears apples and … well,   garden daisies? Spritzy summer sipping.

The albariño was made for the  Society  by  Pazo de Señorans, one of the  top estates in  Rías Baixas.  It  has a classic  peachy, rich mouth feel. I love albariño and this has the classy balance of  an on-form Rafael Nadal serving an ace. From a tightrope.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 13, 2013