The Wines of Rias Baixas

31 May 2009, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in beverages, travel, videos

I am off on another exciting food and wine adventure, this time for my first visit to Spain! Interestingly, I’m visiting what some might consider to be the most atypical region of the country, Galicia, to explore the wines of Rias Baixas.

When one thinks of Spain, one immediately thinks of red wine and paella; however, Rias Baixas is most well-known for its signature grape, Albariño (al-ba-REEN-yo). A protected varietal, Albariño is the only DO (Denomination of Origin) white wine in Spain, and wines labeled as such must be made with 100% Albariño grapes. Known for flavor profiles of honeysuckle, citrus, pear, melon, and even bright green apple, these wines have grown on me over the years, and I now find them to be a refreshing summer favorite.

Galicia is situated on the Atlantic coast of Spain, just above Portugal. The region was settled by Celts in the 11th Century BC, so it is not unusual to hear bagpipes in a ceremony or two, as one can see a very strong Irish influence in the local culture. (Last year at NYC’s Rias Baixas celebration, the wines were, in fact, piped into the room.) The cathedral at Santiago del Compostela in Galicia’s capital is well-known to Catholics, as it is the final destination of a pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, which begins in Germany and winds its way through Italy and France, ending in Compostela. I do hope said pilgrims take the time to savor a glass or two at the end of such a long journey.

Given the region’s coastal location, Albariño wines are perfectly paired with seafood, so I’m looking forward to exploring the freshest of the ocean’s offerings, particularly given the time of year. We’ll be visiting a number of sub-zones, including Val do Salnés, O Rosal and Condado do Tea, with visits to the vineyards and fish markets, so this trip should provide much fodder for summer cooking creativity. Best of all, we’ll be staying in paradors, which are castles and other ancient buildings that have been converted to hotels. The first, Parador Hostal Reyes Católicos, is considered to be the world’s oldest hotel, and the second, Parador de Pontevedra – Casa del Baron, is the former residence of the Counts of Maceda. (This is my kind of traveling, ladies and gentlemen.)

Along with our hosts from Wines from Spain and Wines of Rias Baixas, two of my travel mates for this journey include wine expert (and sassy gent) Anthony Giglio and Amy Zavatto, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending. Based on brief meetings I’ve had with both in the past couple of weeks, I’m counting on them to keep me entertained throughout the trip. Otherwise I can refrain from spitting and keep myself entertained. What inspires me is that Anthony is known for being one of the funniest, most approachable wine experts out there, so all hail those who see wine as a fun source of exploration.

I will do my best to send updates from the road, including photos, tweets and quick videos when possible, but I never know how good internet access will be when I’m abroad. If I can manage to conjure up access, you can find updates here on Food Philosophy, where I’ve also added a Twitter widget to the sidebar, as well as on my Facebook page.

Wines of Rias Baixas:
Wines from Spain:

Chef Mark and I recently attended a luncheon in NY to preview some of the Albarino wines, so here’s a quick little video including an informative conversation I had with Paul Grieco, co-owner of Hearth Restaurant: