DO (Denomination of Origin) Rías Baixas is renowned for the Albariño grape, which is an indigenous variety that produces some of the world’s most prominent white wines. Rías Baixas is located in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, where Albariño dominates this coastal region. Back in 1980 the official DO was created for the Albariño grape variety, however in 1986, Spain entered the European Union and the DO was changed to Rías Baixas. Wondering why? Well, the EU (European Union) wine laws did not recognize a DO named after a single grape varietal. This region is known for white wines and over 99% of all wine produced in Rías Baixas is white. Luckily for wine lovers though, we get to enjoy wines from this region made using 100% Albariño as well as white blends using some other fantastic indigenous varietals such as: Loureiro, Godello, and Caiño Blanco!
Rías Baixas is a coastal region where the ocean, mineral rich soils, and cool climate beautifully influence the vineyards and grapes such as Albariño giving the grape distinct acidity, salinity, and citrus forward aromas and flavors. This area of Spain bares a strong resemblance to that of Ireland, with green fields and rocky coasts, and is often referred to as “Green Spain”. This wet coastal climate is compiled of hard granite, clay, silt, and sand that bring about certain aromatic characteristics within the wines that are a sensory delight. Now, without getting to “wine geeky”, because I am sure you are totally thinking about drinking wine right this second (I know i’m craving a crisp glass of Albariño while writing this) but there are five important sub-regions within Rías Baixas that you may want to know about: Ribeira do Ulla (newest sub-zone), Val do Salnés aka birthplace for Albariño grape, Soutomaior, Condado do Tea “The County of Tea”, and O Rosal, which forms the border with Portugal.
Time to talk food and wine, as I tasted some fantastic wines from this region recently with pretty amazing food pairings by Chef Katie Button and Felix Meana, co-founders of Heirloom Hospitality Group. Chef Button is an award winning chef and married to Felix Meana, who is the Wine Director of Heirloom. Both inspired by their love of Spain and passion for food and wine, they recently joined us in NYC to showcase some incredible Rías Baixas wines and pairings. Eight wines, three perfect pairings, and one incredible afternoon at The Kitchen Table was spent with Katie, Felix, and some amazing wine ambassadors from this region in Spain.
Esparragos Blancos, Blue Point Oysters, and Braised Pork with apricot Albariño sauce was up first with eight Rías Baixas wines. Out of the eight, my top five favorites with the pairings were a mixture of 100% Albariño and some blends. I enjoy Albariño for the acidity, citrus flavors, and mineral driven notes, but I also love the blends because I think they showcase the variety of the country as a whole. The 2015 Altos de Torona Rosal is a blend of Albariño, Loureiro, and Caiño Blanco grapes and paired beautifully with the oysters and pork due to the wines mineral driven qualities and beautiful acidity. The 2015 Morgadio, which is 100% Albariño paired beautifully with the white asparagus, tarragon, lemon vinaigrette, and a “light as air” mayonnaise due to it’s savory and citrus notes. White asparagus has this unique texture and the mayonnaise being as light as it was really complimented the medium body mouth feel and yellow apple skin flavors and aromas in the wine. Other wines tasted and adored with the pairings as well as on their own were: 2015 Bodegas As Laxas, 2015 Santiago Ruiz, and the 2014 Martín Códax.
Want to more about the region of Rías Baixas? Keep an eye out on the blog for more fun Spain inspired spring and summer pairings (coming soon). Always remember to eat what you like and drink what you love… please pair responsibly!