Wednesday, April 6, 2016

An Introduction to Galicia's DO Rías Baixas #WineStudio

Spain wine regions are usually noted for their dry desert-like conditions and bold red wines. The major exception to this rule is the Galicia region of north-western Spain, located along the Atlantic coastline and bordering Portugal to its south. This is a wet and green region, plenty of vegetation that feeds off the 71 inches of rain per year. In comparison, Bordeaux averages half that at 37.4 inches/year. In this  moisture rich environment red wines are a rarity and the white Albariño grape dominates. In fact it consists of 90% of all grape plantings and is the primary reason for the DO Rías Baixas denomination. 

During April and May we will be learning more about this region through the twitter based project #WineStudio. Protocol Wine Studio provides an agenda which elaborates on the many characters and pairings available with Rías Baixas Albariño. Below is some information you may have missed from last night. 

The DO was created in 1980, but when Spain joined the EU in 1986 the DO was changed to simply Rías Baixas as EU laws did not recognize a DO named for a single grape variety. I don't know why. In order to be labeled Rías Baixas, the wine must consist of at least 70% Albariño - and with the amount of this grape grown, a rather easy goal. The denomination also permits six other types of wines which includes the Rías Baixas Albariño - 100% Albariño from any sub-region. (See box.) According to Rias Baixas Wines, DO Rías Baixas encompasses five distinct sub-regions. Ribeira do Ulla is the newest (formed in 2000) and is the most northern region. Val do Salnés is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape. This is the original and oldest sub-region and it's fingers reach out into the Atlantic.  Soutomaior is the smallest of the sub-regions and was registered in 1996. Soils are light and sandy over granite bedrock. Condado do Tea (The County of Tea) is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River which separates the border with Portugal. O Rosal also resides against the Miño River -- adjacent to the Atlantic.
DO Rías Baixas Wine Types:
  • Rías Baixas
  • Rías Baixas Albariño –100% Albariño, grapes can be sourced from any sub-zone
  • Rías Baixas Salnés
  • Rías Baixas Condado
  • Rías Baixas Rosal
  • Rías Baixas Barrica – wines aged in oak, can be red or white
  • Rías Baixas Tinto – red wine, less than 1% of all production

Because of the high rainfall and humidity grape vines are widely spaced and trained on stone pergolas and a wire trellis called a “parra".  These parras can reach up to seven feet tall, allowing breezes to prevent mildew and to promote even ripening. During harvest, workers must stand on grape bins in order to collect the grape bunches.

Despite the high rainfall amounts,  Rías Baixas vineayrds are blessed with ample sunshine - averaging over 2,200 hours of sunshine per year. This sunshine in conjunction with the cooler climate provides an environment for high natural grape acidity. Albariño wines are also known for their floral and mineral character, most likely impacted soil composition within Rías Baixas. The bedrock is primarily hard granite with a top layer of  mineral-rich alluvial (a combination of clay, silt, sand and gravel) formed from deposits eroded from running water.

Hope to see you online next Tuesday night 9PM ET. Cheers.
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