At first glance, Rías Baixas may not give the appearance of a privileged grape growing region, but in fact, the climate, landscape, soils and indigenous grape varieties – like the hardy Albariño – combine to make up a region capable of producing distinctive, high quality wines.
Nestled in Spain’s northwest region of Galicia, Rías Baixas more closely resembles coastal Ireland than it does other parts of Spain. Known as “Green Spain”, the region is characterized by moderate year-round temperatures, ocean mists and an average annual rainfall that in some spots is nearly three times the national average. Galicia’s damp Atlantic-influenced climate is, however, balanced by over 2,200 hours of sunshine, sufficient to ensure Rías Baixas’ signature grape Albariño ripens fully and is capable of producing wines with good natural acidity and an aromatic profile that makes it a sensory delight.
From the river to the sea
The coastal landscape of Rías Baixas is irregular, marked by a series of jagged inlets and shallow fjords known as “rias”. The name Rías Baixas literally means “lower rias.” The five distinct sub-regions that make up Rías Baixas differ according to their topography and proximity to rivers and the sea. Val do Salnés, situated in the northern half of the region, features the most coastline and is consequently the coolest and dampest of the five sub-regions. Equally cool but drier, Ribeira do Ulla is the northernmost sub-region, fully landlocked but dissected by the Ulla River. Bordering Portugal are Condado de Tea and O Rosal, the region’s two southernmost sub-regions. Condado de Tea is inland and warmer, whereas O Rosal is coastal and cooler – both hug the Miño River and feature an array of hillside and terraced vineyards. Soutomaior, the smallest of the sub-regions, sits on the coast in the center of the region tucked in the hills at the head of the Rías de Vigo.
Rich in minerals
The soils of Rías Baixas are fairly uniform throughout the five sub-regions, dominated by granite and in some places, schist. Large rivers and tributaries have also left alluvial and colluvial deposits – a combination of clay, silt, sand and gravel. There is a limited amount of organic material in the soil and an extremely high level of minerality – ideal conditions for Albariño and for producing the sleek and characterful white wines that Rías Baixas is famous for.