The White Wines of Galicia

Albariño has also become a standard listing for most wine bars and restaurants

As the cold autumn weather begins to make itself felt, we will slowly gravitate towards more red wines. Our consumption of white wines may decrease, but we still drink plenty of these and even rosé wines throughout the winter months. Today, a few of the most fashionable white wines of Spain.

At the recent O’Briens press tasting, the first five wines all came from Galicia, and this did not include their full range. A few years ago, they might have offered one, possibly two wines from the region. It is a measure of how far Galicia has come in a very short space of time.

Up on the north-western tip of Spain, Galicia is more familiar to some as the final destination of pilgrims on the various routes of the Camino de Santiago. This is green Spain, where the climate is cool and the wet Atlantic winds blow in along the coastline. It is still warmer than Ireland though, and grapes, even some red grapes, will ripen in most years, producing wines that are distinctively different. Galicia has its own unique collection of grape varieties, some of them very good indeed. Best known is Albariño from the Rías Baixas region, right on the Atlantic coast – some the Albamar (see below) vineyards are 300 metres from the sea. Albariño has also become a standard listing for most wine bars and restaurants. As it goes well with a wide variety of foods, it is a good option if you find yourself ordering wine for a crowd of people.

Albariño is now being trialled by a few intrepid estates in France, New Zealand and Australia. In the north of Portugal, which shares many of the Galician grapes, it is called Alvarinho, and produces some exceptional wines. But Rías Baixas has more than anywhere else, and produces the finest examples.

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Further in from the coast, the lesser known regions of Ribeiro, Monterrei and Valdeorras grow a range of other white grapes, including Godello, Treixadura, Loureira and Caiño. Godello has lived in the shadow of Albariño for many years, but is now proving itself to be every bit as good if not better – certainly at the moment it is producing the most exciting white wines in Spain.  I have featured a number in this column.

All of the wines, Albariño, Godello and others, have a lovely refreshing hit of acidity, usually combined with ripe fleshy fruits.  They also have a natural affinity with one of the other Galician passions, seafood. Visitors to Santiago de Compostela and other towns can gorge themselves on a huge variety of the freshest shellfish, often sold at very reasonable prices, with a glass of the local wine.  Here at home, we can match them with our own seafood.