I start this post once again by mentioning 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 in Galicia, the Western most area of Spain, just north of Portugal.)
For several weeks this Spring I relived my cherished time in San Sebastián through a series of online tastings hosted by the Queen of Online Tastings, Protocol Wine Studio. Each Tuesday, starting in the beginning of April, we tasted a couple of Albariños from Rías Baixas in the comfort of our own homes.
The Protocol Wine Studio has since moved on to rosés from Sonoma County (there is another such tasting tonight featuring 2015 Angels and Cowboys Rosé–join us on Twitter at 9 p.m. Eastern!), but I felt these wines from Rías Biaxas were so fantastic (and such great bargains), that they needed a little more exposure.
No more questions.
2014 Veiga Naum Rías Baixas: Retail $15. Synthetic stopper. This started rather slowly–a bit cold and quite closed, but after a bit of time, this really woke up. Nutty and clean, with impressive weight. I was really disappointed initially, but when I came back to the wine after a bit of a hiatus, and it was a completely different story. Tart and focused, this wine did a 180 as it warmed. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2014 Attis Xión Rías Baixas: Retail $14. Golden color and a honeysuckle nose. One of the richer Albariños I have had: unctuous and full, this really coats the mouth with honey and lemon. The finish persists for well over a minute; this is not your typical Albariño by any means, and that is perfectly fine with me. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Bodegas La Val Albariño Rías Baixas: Retail $17. Quite tropical on the nose with lemon and pineapple a go-go. Originally, this was too cold and a bit bland. As it warmed? Giddy-up. On the palate, plenty of acidity and verve. Initially a bit too round, but as it warmed it really kicked it in. Wonderful balance and flavors. Really nice. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Bouza do Rei Lagar de Bouza Rías Baixas: Retail $16. I would have to classify this as what most come to expect from Albariño: Tropical fruit with some peach thrown in that unleashes a refreshingly brilliant acidity instantly on the palate. The fruit also returns after that wave of tartness, and both the fruit and the acidity persist nicely together all the way through the finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Adega Eidos de Padriñán Rías Baixas: Retail $22. This wine was different right from the cork. I am not a huge fan of synthetic stoppers (can’t really call them “corks”), but I try to keep an open mind nonetheless about the wine. Glad I am still able to do that as this wine really surprised. It is certainly outside what I imagine most people imagine when they hear “Rías Baixas Albariño.” A bit on the dark side, with aromas of mango and quince. In fact, the aromatics caused me to look to see if this might have been another blend (with Muscat perhaps?) that the funny tricksters at Protocol Wine Studio slipped in. It wasn’t (100% Albariño). On the palate, the difference is underscored as this is perhaps the roundest Albariño I remember tasting. The wine has a longer maceration time than most and spent six months on the lees. What a difference. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Santiago Roma Rías Baixas: Retail $11. When I found out this was only $11, I almost fell out of my chair. This is one of my favorite wines over the course of the entire tasting thus far. Really impressive fruit, which rounds out the wine impressively. There is still that characteristic acidity, though, which makes this an outstanding choice for a variety of foods. Me? I would pair this with my wife’s haemul pajeon (Korean seafood pancakes). The creaminess of the wine would match the somewhat doughy nature of the dish and the tartness would slice right through the seafood and just the slightest heat. Fantastic. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.