Galicia is located in the Northwest of Spain on the verge of the Atlantic, it is known as the seventh Celtic nation. The language is peppered with Celtic words, pagan customs still abound and numerous Celtic symbols can still be identified in the stone relics of the region.
Interestingly, and perhaps because of this historical kinship, the white Albariño wines from this region seem to suit the Irish palate very well. Indeed, the current export figures show that Ireland is the seventh largest importer worldwide and these numbers are on the increase as the Irish fan base for the wines continues to grow.
Vines of between 200-300 years of age have been discovered in the region, but the Rias Baixas DO was only established in 1980. This is in stark contrast to Rioja for example, where the protection of the region for quality grape growing started in the 16th century.
Prior to 1980, and today, a meander through the region will highlight a local culture of grape growing to make local wines for personal consumption. In fact, numerous houses can be spotted with two or three rows of vines growing alongside, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and other garden vegetables.
The style of the wines made from the Albariño grape range from refreshing greengage and green apple notes from the Northern cooler areas of the region to melon, peachy and floral in character from the more Southern parts. Both style share an integrated refreshing acidity and can also have an underlying saline note.
Whilst the wines are usually unoaked, they can be oak fermented or aged in oak with the intention of adding a touch of depth, concentration and roundness to the palate.
Wines from this variety are very versatile and work remarkably well with food especially shellfish, fish, vegetable dishes, risotto and typical casual Spanish dishes such as tortilla.
For fans of Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño is certainly an excellent alternative if you want to experiment with something a little different. The grape is now being more widely planted and apart from Portugal beside the border of Galicia, Albariño can also be found in New Zealand, US, Uruguay and the Languedoc.
Lagar de Costa Albariño
€19.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This is a small family winery located on the Galician coast in the heart of Albariño country near Cambados. The mother and father established the vineyards and winery a few year ago and their son is now managing the vineyard and their daughter is making the wines.
The style of the wine shows some peachy fruit, hints of melon and crisp acidity.
Granbazán Contrapunto Albariño
€18.45 – Available at O’Briens Wine
Started in 1980 in the early days of quality Albariño growing, this family estate is located in the Salnes Valley close to the sea.
The property is dominated by a Chậteau style villa nestling amongst Albariño vineyards with the modern winery housed within the villa. The wine is crisp, refreshing and elegant with a hint of ripeness mid palate.
Marqués de Murrieta Pazo Barrantes Albariño
€22.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This small twelve hectare estate is owned by the iconic Marqués de Murrieta Rioja producer.
Also located in the Salnes Valley, this single vineyard wine is known for its highly developed aromatic profile of fruit and flowers and a concentrated palate with depth and intensity. This wine due to its complexity has the potential to age.
Domaine Les Auzine Alaina Albariño
€13.95 (on offer from €16.95 to Feb & March 2018) – Available at O’Briens Wine
This Albariño is in fact from the Languedoc, a family estate owned by an Irish lady Neasa Miguel, married to French wine maker Laurent Miquel.
Their Albariño vines are planted on limestone, in a cool high altitude microclimate. Laurent’s wine is beautifully balanced with notable minerality and freshness hints of citrus and a ripe mid palate.
If you would like to learn more about Galicia and its wonderful wines, Albariño Day will take place in Dublin on 22nd February where I will be hosting an Albariño masterclass. There will be the chance to learn more about the region and you will have the opportunity to taste six Albariño wines. For tickets and more information visit obrienswine.ie
Lynne Coyle MW is one of less than 355 Masters of Wine worldwide who have undertaken and passed the gruelling Master of Wine examinations.
Starting her career in the hotel and restaurant industry, she is still a passionate foodie as well as being a member of the Champagne Academy and is Wine Director for O’Briens Wine.
Lynne has consulted for wineries in Chile, Spain and Italy, judges at international wine competitions and regularly hosts tastings and talks on wine.