The landscapes of the Rias Baixas wine region in Spain’s northwestern Galicia, starkly contrast with the image many have of Spain- dry, hot, with a splash of bullfighting and flamenco. Galicia is Celtic (whose legacy today is evident in the traditional regional instrument, the bagpipe, called “la Gaita”) spiritual and dreamy, with rolling emerald green hills covered in mist, medieval castles, “Pazos” (beautiful, historic manor houses, many converted into small, charming hotels). The coastline is stunning with romantic coves and sandy white beaches spotted with quaint fishing villages. The Galicians have their language distinct from Spanish, called “Gallego,” which resembles a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. Wine Labels from Galicia nearly always use Gallego.
The Rias Baixas climate is Atlantic with heavy rainfall and high humidity. Temperatures are mild, only dropping in December and January. There is an average of 2,200 hours of direct sunlight per year, not enough to make rich red wines but perfect for the production of the region’s famed white and light red wines. There is 2,200 ha under vine, and average yields are between 600 and 2,600 vines per hectare. The traditional white grape varietals allowed in the production of DO wine include Albariño (The star grape used to make wine with the same name), Loureira, Treixadura, Caiño, Torrontés (the later used as a blender grape in Galicia, but interestingly this grape is being used frequently as a single varietal in Argentina, perhaps evidence of the massive migration of Galicians to Argentina, where Argentines even refer to Spaniards as “Gallegos”), and Godello (also used in other nearby wine-producing regions including Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei and Ribeiro). Grapes allowed in the DO for red wine production include Mencía and Brancellao (although the best Rias Baixas wines are white).
The wine production area is subdivided into five areas: The Val do Salnés, the best sub-region, scattered around the picturesque village of Cambados, made up of 70% Albariño; Rosal, the southernmost sub wine region located just south of the lovely town of Baiona (which happens to have a beautiful Parador hotel). Albariño and Loureira are required to account for 70% of wine production, Condado de Tea, a mountainous region along the right bank of the Miño River. Albariño and Treixadura are required to account for 70% of wine production; Soutomaior, south of Pontevedra and famous for a gorgeous castle; and Ribera del Ulla, the most recent addition to the Rias Baixas DO, located east of the Valle del Salnés.
Top wine producers include
Martin Codax (known for superb Albariño wines, under the Martina Codax, Burgans and Organistrum brands); Adegas Galegas (equally known for their fantastic wines as their gorgeous wine labels, commissioned by top artists. Brands include: Dom Pedro de Soutomaior, Gran Veigadares, and Rubines); Adegas Morgadío (hugely successful excellent value Albariño under the Morgadío label); Bodegas Terras Gauda (again, known for its Albariño, made in the Rosal sub wine region. Wines include: Abadía de San Campo, Terras Gauda and an interesting Terras Gauda Etiqueta Negra, made with 70% cask fermented Albariño); and Bodegas Pazo de Barrantes (a very stylish, upmarket Albariño made by the same family that own the world-famous Rioja estate, Marqués de Murrieta, run by the Count of Creixell, Vicente Cebrian and his sisters).