The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 111 of 148

{ }  111 The Grape Albariño has long been the flagship of DO Rías Baixas, a coastal, Atlantic region in Spain's northwest Galicia area. In fact, the two are so interconnected that the DO was first named Albariño—but in 1986, when Spain entered the E.U., the denomination was officially changed to Rías Baixas. Nonetheless, the ties between the region and its superstar variety run very deep. More than any other region in Spain, 99% of all wine produced in Rías Baixas is white—and Albariño represents 90% of all plantings. Albariño, at its ripest, can taste of rich stone fruits (peaches, nec - tarines and apricots) interlaced with their own fuzzy skins. It can appear as perfumed and weighted as Viognier or Gewürztraminer, or mistaken for Riesling in blind tastings with its tell-tale mineral traces. In fact, Albariño literally means "white grape from the Rhine." The grape's thick skin and high ratio of skins and pips to flesh gives Albariño an intense aromatic profile. The wines show aromas of green apple, honeysuckle, citrus, ripe melon, peach, pear, and apricot. Often released without oak aging, Albariño is fruity yet bone-dry with bright acidity, mineral overtones, and moderate alcohol. Northern subzones Ribeira do Ulla: The newest Rías Baixas sub-zone, this area was registered in 2000 and is composed mostly of alluvial soil. It is located inland, just southeast of Santiago de Compostela, and east of Padrón. Val do Salnés: Val do Salnés is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape. Located on the Atlantic coast, it surrounds the historic town of Cambados. This is the original and old- est sub-zone, with the most area under vine and the highest concentration of wineries. The soil is granitic and rocky, with alluvial topsoil. It is also the coolest and wettest sub-zone, with an average temperature of just 55° F. Central subzone Soutomaior: Nestled in the hills at the head of the Ría de Vigo, it is the smallest of the sub- zones and was registered in 1996. Soils are light and sandy over granite bedrock. Southern subzones Condado do Tea: "The County of Tea" is named after the River Tea, a tributary of the Miño. Located in a fairly mountainous area along the Miño, this is the second largest sub- zone, with granite-slate soils. Located the most inland, it is a warmer, drier area, with an aver- age temperature of 59° F. O Rosal: Also lying along the Miño River where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, this sub-zone forms the border with Portugal. With granite bedrock and alluvial topsoil, the vineyards are terraced along the sides of the Miño.

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