Exploring Rías Baixas, Spain: The Home of Albariño!
Each year we embark on “Misión Inversa” – a trip that takes us from the US to the lush, green region of Rías Baixas on the Atlantic coast of northwest Spain. We are joined by wine professionals who travel to immerse themselves in the origins of Albariño, the region’s local culture and discover a diverse range of world-class wines. We arrived during the 2023 harvest, allowing our group to have a rare window into the complete winemaking process.
DO Rías Baixas has risen to international prominence for their world-class wines, due in part to the climate of the region with its cool, ocean breezes and abundant rainfall which Albariño grapes are clearly adapted to. We stood under the parras, or pergolas supported by two-meter high local granite pillars often used to train the vines, allowing for circulating breezes to dry the grapes in humid conditions. Vineyard walks in three of the visited subregions, Val de Salnés, O Rosal and Condado do Tea, also showed us variations of well-draining granite, schist, sedimentary, and alluvial soils that influence the wines. The unique blend of climate and terroir creates the perfect conditions for these grapes to flourish.
The tastings were a sensory exploration of the native Albariño. We uncovered subtle nuances that different subregions impart to the variety and how varying climates play a crucial role in shaping the final product. The lively, crisp wines from the Val de Salnés dazzled with their green apple and citrus noses. O Rosal and Condado do Tea wines showed us a rounder palate, with stone fruit and floral notes. From youthful and vibrant Albariños to sparkling variations and the sophistication of age-worthy Albariños with oak contact or extended lees aging, we traversed a spectrum of styles. Unique blends hailing from subregions like O Rosal and Condado do Tea underscored the diversity available.
We were greeted at the wineries by the aroma of fermenting Albariño grapes. With the 2023 vintage in nearby tanks, the winemakers offered tastes of both must and recently fermented wines; it was nothing short of magical. The harvest visit this year allowed our group to have an even deeper appreciation of the dedication and hard work that goes into crafting the region’s world-class wines each year. With the anticipation of the upcoming releases, the excitement was palpable after another year of hard work.
Our annual Mision Inversa is not just a trip; it’s a celebration of the many families who tend the more than 22,000 small parcels in the DO, the art of winemaking and a testament to the unyielding passion of the winemakers who craft these exceptional wines. Rías Baixas, with its rich heritage, diverse terroir and commitment to sustainability, remains a jewel in the world of wine. Join us in raising a glass to the home of Albariño. Salud!