Rías Baixas (ree-ahs-buy-shuss) is the most important Denomination of Origin (DO) in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain. The DO was formally established in 1988 and owes much of its acclaim to the white Albariño (al-ba-ree-nyo) grape, which has been elevated by many in Spain and abroad to cult status.
The history of the DO dates back to 1980, when an official denomination was created specifically for the Albariño grape variety. When Spain entered the European Union (EU) in 1986, however, the denomination was changed to Rías Baixas because EU wine laws did not recognize a DO named for a single grape variety. Since 1988, the DO has complied with all Spanish and EU wine regulations. The Rías Baixas DO is regulated by the Consejo Regulador (local governing body) which ensures adherence to permitted grape varieties, viticultural practices, winemaking and aging procedures.
Location and climate: A beautiful green area, Rίas Baixas has been likened to a vision of the Garden of Eden. This lush land is characterized by rίas – deep, wide inlets of water encroaching many miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The southern group of these rίas is known as Rίas Baixas (the lower estuaries).
Rίas Baixas vineyards are all located within the province of Pontevedra in Galicia. There are 8,650 acres under vine with more than 6,500 growers and almost 20,000 individual vineyard plots ranging from 330 feet to 985 feet in altitude. Almost 100% of the wine produced in the region bears the DO designation. The cool, damp climate is dominated by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean; however, there are varying micro-climates within the five different designated sub-zones of the region.
The five designated subzones in the Rías Baixas DO:
Val do Salnés: This is the original and oldest sub-zone with the most area under vine and the highest concentration of wineries. Located on the Atlantic coast, it surrounds the historic town of Cambados. The soil is granitic and rocky with alluvial top-soil. It is also the coolest and wettest sub-zone with an average temperature of just 55º F. Val do Salnés is the birthplace of the Albariño grape.
Condado do Tea: “Tea County” is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River. Located in a fairly mountainous area along the Miño, this is the second largest sub-zone. The most inland, it is a warmer, drier area, with an average temperature of 59º F that can soar to 104 º F during the summer. Soils contain granite and slate.
O Rosal: Also lying along the Miño River where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, this sub-zone forms the border with Portugal. With granite bedrock and alluvial topsoil, the vineyards are terraced along the sides of the Miño.
Ribeira do Ulla: The newest Rías Baixas sub-zone, this area was registered in 2000 and is composed mostly of alluvial soil. It is located inland, southeast of Santiago de Compostela, and east of Padrón, a town famous for its small, green frying peppers, a popular tapa.
Soutomaior: Nestled in the hills at the head of the Rίa de Vigo, it is the smallest of the sub-zones and was registered in 1996. Soils are light and sandy over granite bedrock.