I start off this post once again by mentioning the fact that I used to be a cycling tour guide. Why?
The more I write about wine the more I realize that much of my appreciation of the beverage stems from my time abroad, riding around the (mostly French) countryside.
So what does riding around France have to do with an article about Rías Baixas, a decidedly Spanish region that produces a mouth-wateringly tart white wine?
Another good question.
The company where I worked had few hard and fast rules, but one was that the guide had to be proficient in the local language. We did not have any trips in Great Britain or Ireland, so that meant I was pretty much limited to France, Switzerland, and Belgium.
One of the trips, to the Basque region, encompasses two countries, France and Spain, requiring the trip leader to speak both those languages (yes, many people in the Basque region of France and Spain speak Basque, but let’s face it–no one else does). Once in a while, due to the logistics of transporting guides across the continent, I was “forced” to lead the French portion of the Basque trip (if you have ever been to St. Jean de Luz or Biarritz, you know what a “sacrifice” that was).
I would literally stop at the border, however, as the Spanish speaking guide would arrive just in time to take the group into Donostia (or San Sebastián as most know it). On just a few occasions, though, my Spanish speaking replacement would somehow get delayed (the Basques separatists still blow up railways from time to time) and I would get to lead the group into the capital city of the region (the only rule that supercedes the linguistic requirement is that a guide, no matter how linguistically challenged, is decidedly better than no guide).
It was in San Sebastián that I got my first real experience with Rías Baixas and Albariño. Sure, they throw back a ton of Txakoli there, but there is nothing better with the vast array of tapas available in the Parte Vieja than a tart glass of Rías Baixas. (A point of clarity: Rías Baixas is actually located in Galicia, the Western most area of Spain, just north of Portugal.)
These past several weeks I have been reliving my cherished time in San Sebastián through a series of online tastings hosted by the Queen of Online Tastings, Protocol Wine Studio. Each week, since the beginning of April, we have tasted a couple of Albariños from Rías Baixas in the comfort of our own homes.
If you consider yourself a wine drinker (even a “red only” type, which is dumb, but that is for another post) and you do not get all giddy when you open a bottle of Albariño, well, you are not even trying. So grab a bottle, get giddy, and join in the discussion tonight on Twitter (#winestudio), we start at 9 p.m. (East Coast time).
No more questions.
Here are the wines we had the first couple of weeks:
2015 Adegas Gran Vinum Albariño Rías Baixas Nessa: Retail $17. Classic Rías Baixas nose of bright citrus and white pear with a lingering minerality that frames all the other aromas. On the palate, this cuts right to the point: this is an acid driven wine that drags everything else along for the ride. When you were in high school, this was the teenager with that acerbic wit that kept everyone entertained. Sure, he was a bit much at times, but there was plenty of substance, and even a little depth. And when that kid was not around, you not-so-secretly hoped he would be back soon. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Martín Códax Albariño Rías Baixas: Retail $17. Much more aromatic than the Nessa with rounder, tropical fruits (guava and even kiwi). The theme continues en bouche as there certainly is acidity, but it is much softer and rounder overall. Having said that, without the laser-like acidity, there seems to be even more depth and intrigue. If you are looking for the more “typical” style of Albariño, this might not be your best bet, but if you are looking for a great patio sipper with plenty of flavor, this is an excellent option. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Señorio de Rubiós Robalino Rías Baixas: Retail $18. This, for me at least, is the best of the lot thus far. Aromas that are far more floral than fruity are followed by a wine with considerable focus and impressive acidity. The fruit, however, comes through in spades on the palate and delivers quite an impression. Like I said, this is the best of the four I have tasted thus far, and is right up there with the best Rías Baixas wines I have ever had. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Rectoral do Umia Viñabade Rías Baixas: Retail $15. This one is a bit muted on the nose, with not much peeking out at all, even once it warmed. On the palate, perfectly pleasant with balanced fruit, acidity, and the aromatics started to kick in a bit. There is much more depth on the palate than the nose suggested there might be. This is a varietally correct, tasty wine, but not the best of the flight. Very Good. 87-89 Points.