The vivacious varietals of Spain are complex and expressive, with a strong sense of place. That’s why they are beloved by wine connoisseurs.
Spain’s designation system — Denominaciones de Origen, or D.O. — identifies wines from specific regions that promise consistent quality and value. There are more than 70 D.O.s across the country, enabling Spain to offer a wide range of flavor profiles for any occasion.
But for white wine lovers, there is only one D.O. to visit: Rias Baixas, in the northwestern sector of the country. It is known as the only exclusively white wine region in Spain.
All told, a dozen white grape varieties are permitted in Rias Baixas, but about 90 percent of all vineyard land there is devoted to a single variety: Albarino. That’s saying a lot about the variety, considering there are more than 6,500 growers and some 20,000 individual plots of land planted to grapevines.
While one might think that other varieties would command a larger share than a combined 10 percent, the simple fact is that Albarino seems to be tailor-made for Rias Baixas.
The soils are alluvial over granite in Val do Salnes, granite and slate in Condado do Tea, and mainly alluvial in Ribeira do Ulla. And the maritime climate offers the perfect combination of cool air and abundant sunshine — keys to a long harvest season that provides for optimum ripening of the grapes.
And what’s not to like about Albarino? It’s a wine that can show off aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, citrus, ripe melon, pear, apricot, mango and other exotic fruits. Some say the aroma reminds them of a piece of Jolly Rancher green apple candy. (Again, what’s not to like?)
At last count (in 2010), Rias Baixas was home to 187 wineries, 56 of which ship their wares to the United States. In addition to Albarino, you’ll find some growers devoting vineyard space to Treixadura, Caino Blanco and Loureiro.
Rias Baixas truly is nirvana for those who love white wines.
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To learn more about the wines of Rias Baixas, visit: http://www.riasbaixaswines.com/wines/index.php