Tag Archives: spain

Summer in a Bottle: The Albariño of Rías Baixas

Many regions throughout the world are known for a particular specialty—gastronomic or otherwise—but some more than others have the ability to conjure up vivid sensory memories. One such region is northwestern Spain’s Rías Baixas. To the uninitiated, this may just look like a confusingly-spelled set of words. But to those who have visited or tasted the wines and cuisine of this region, the phrase “Rías Baixas” is enough to make the mouth water, evoking the sensation of salinity in many different forms: a refreshing glass of white wine, a briny seafood meal, or the crisp, fresh air of a picturesque oceanside vista.

The wines of Rías Baixas owe much of their personality to the geography and terroir of the lush, verdant region. Situated along the Atlantic Coast, the relatively modern DO (established in the 1980s) is unique within Spain for its focus on white grapes, which thrive in this relatively cool, damp corner of the country. The name “Rías Baixas” (pronounced “re-ass by-shuss”) comes from Galician—”rías” is the word for the sharp estuaries that cut in to the “baixas,” or the lower-altitude region of southern Galicia. These narrow, finger-like bodies of water that stretch inland from the Atlantic Ocean contain a mix of fresh and salt water, making them an ideal home to an incredibly diverse array of delicious maritime creatures that make up the cuisine of the region. Hard granite soils combined with mineral-rich alluvial top soils provide optimal growing conditions for top quality white wine production.

The other key component of this region is its star grape variety: Albariño. While other varieties are permitted, Albariño makes up the vast majority of plantings, and with good reason. It has the ability to produce distinctive wines that maintain their unique varietal character in a wide range of styles, owing both to the diversity of the five different sub-zones and to winemaking decisions such as maceration length,  the use of wild yeast, barrel fermentation and ageing, malolactic fermentation, and lees contact.

Texturally, Albariño typically falls somewhere between a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay, while flavor-wise, floral perfume, zesty citrus, stone fruit, and minerality are ubiquitous. In the warmer sub-regions of Rías Baixas, ripe melon and peach flavors dominate, while bottlings from cooler climes are often marked by lean acidity as well as grapefruit and lemon notes. An undercurrent of salinity runs through most examples, making them an unparalleled pairing with the region’s plentiful seafood offerings. The Albariño grape is so integral to the style of the wine produced in Rías Baixas that the name of the variety is printed on every bottle—a practice rarely seen elsewhere in Spain (or most of Europe, for that matter).

Thanks to the adaptability of Albariño and its friendly, near-universal appeal, the Rías Baixas DO has something to offer just about every white wine drinker. These wines can be enjoyed year-round, but are especially delightful during the summer, when warm, sunny weather calls for a crisp, refreshing beverage. They sing when paired with any kind of marine life—particularly oysters or scallops—but are equally fantastic on their own. If you can’t make it to Spain for a vacation this summer, a bottle of Rías Baixas Albariño just might be the next best thing.

 

 

 

Experiencing Rioja

14_04_16 1130 Rioja at The Wine Bar_1600_Blog

Let’s take a trip to Rioja. The three hour drive from Madrid to Haro, the westernmost city in the district, is well worth the trip. This area is a natural for fine dining: known for lettuces, peppers, onions, artichokes, asparagus, beans, peas, goat, beef and sausage making. Then there is the wine.

The magnificent and internationally acclaimed Rioja longs to be poured into a glass. Rioja is available in white (Blanco), rosé (Rosado) and of course red (Tinto). The white, made from Viura, and rosé, crafted from Garnacha, are fine wines, but I choose to spend most of my money on the Crianza.

Why is Rioja so cool? The wine is incredibly versatile and food-friendly. Plentiful in the marketplace, Rioja is ready to be paired with any cuisine, from classic American fried chicken to Sichuan chicken. Rioja has what it takes to make the experience memorable so feel free to experiment. The notion that “one must serve Spanish food with Rioja” is as old a tale as red wine with meat and white wine with fish. Go on and draw from the garden, search the pantry and grab the butcher’s or fish monger’s choice of the day before you crack open a bottle of Rioja.

My personal pick is the 2010 Cune Crianza. This wine is fresh, fruity and substantial. Some tannins for firmness on the palate, yet nice and rounded in the finish;  perfect for a buffet while relaxing in the backyard with family and friends. In the end, one does not have to visit Northern Spain to enjoy the Rioja experience.

International Tempranillo Day

November 8th marks the second annual celebration of #TempranilloDay. And what a perfect day to celebrate a grape that produces wine so reminicent of fall.

So what do you know about Tempranillo? Here are a few facts.

– It’s the 4th most planted grape in the world
– Spain has ove 60 different regional names for this grape
– It’s the base for the majority of Rioja wines
– Flavor profiles include plum, strawberry, leather, spice and tobacco or tea leaves
– The variety takes well to oak and can produce long-lasting wines
– Medium-bodied, medium-acidity, medium-tannins and medium-alcohol – a nice all-around medium wine!
– Favorite food pairings include: tapas, paella, plate of spanish cheese & meat, ham bocadillos

So grab a bottle of Tempranillo today. At Wine.com, we have 1-cent shipping on Rioja Tempranillo for today only, so stock up on your favorites!

Gaga for Godello

One of my favorite wines to drink in the summer is Godello (pronounced go-DAY-oh), a seemingly obscure white variety from the northwest Spanish region, Galicia. I discovered this grape a few years back when I snagged a bottel of Bodegas Godeval from our Berkeley retail store. I was immediately hooked and found the balance and character of this wine simply addictive. It’s crisp and refreshing, with a delicious minerality component. The aromas and flavors are complex, the mouthfeel is textured and almost creamy, the finish lingering and in all, the wine is completely balanced. You can read more of the tasting note on our website, but it may interest you to know a bit more about the grape.

The hot spot for Godello is the Valdeorras DO, a sub-region of Galacia,  best known for the trendy Albarino grape. Godello is a native of the region, and has picked up in popularity these past few years. But just 30 years ago or so, it was nearly extinct! Luckily, winemakers in the area believed in its potential, and vineyard plantings increased. Known for great aromatics, high acidity and layers of flavor, Godello will probably continue to grow, in both the vineyard and on retail shelves.

Like many grapes (and wines) from the Galicia area, Godello is a perfect companion to seafood dishes, though with it’s range of flavors and weighty texture, its all-over a food-friendly wine.

We have a few Godellos on the site, but I hope to see more. Give a bottle a try and you’ll see why we’re gaga for Godello!

The Wine Academy of Spain

As a fan of Spanish wines, I was lucky enough to attend a three day intensive Spanish wine course in San Francisco last week. It was offered by The Wine Academy of Spain, which is dedicated to the education of wine professionals and enthusiasts, and the promotion of Spanish wines.

They offer courses all over the country, so keep an eye on their schedule for next year.

spain mapThe Academy’s president is Pancho Campo, the first Master of Wine in Spain and a member of Al Gore's Climate Project. The class instructor was the very passionate and knowledgeable Esteban Cabezas, who is a partner in the Academy and founder of the Wine Business School, and a Master of Wine student. You couldn't help but get excited about Spanish wine listening to him speak! The class was filled with wine geeks and wine lovers of all kind: retailers, wine radio personalities, specialized Spanish wine shop folks, sommeliers, distributors and importers.

We studied in depth the many wine regions of Spain, along with its important producers, and learned a great deal about the culture through Esteban's anecdotes about the food and his travels. We also tasted 50+ delicious wines. I was particularly intrigued by the section on Sherry. I knew a bit about the production of Sherry, but had tasted very little of it. It can be an acquired taste. Spanish people drink it much more than Americans do, but I encourage any wine lover to read about it and give it a try. There are so many styles, you are bound to find one you love. For a dry Sherry, I suggest trying Gonzalez Byass Amontillado Sherry, and for those with a sweet tooth I recommend Alvear Pedro Ximinez 1927. This one is excellent with vanilla ice cream.

Spanish winemakers produce many varied styles for all budgets, and each region is pretty unique. If you are a fan of lighter whites with refreshing acidity, try a Txakoli from the Basque Country, like my latest favorite, Bodegas Berroja Berroia Txakoli 2008, made predominantly from a grape called Hondarribi Zuri. Don’t worry about pronouncing it, just drink it. It’s delicious. If you like a red with some intensity and concentration, try a yummy Garnacha and Carignan blend from Priorat. If you are the more traditional type, grab a Tempranillo from the Rioja, which typically has more wood ageing and is great with all kinds of food. Or you can sip what many young Spaniards drink, “calimocho,” a mix of red wine and Coca Cola. I’m not too sure I’d like this (it sounds like a hangover waiting to happen), but Esteban told me not to knock it until I try it.

Salud!