Dollar for dollar, some of the world’s most compelling white wines can be found in the remote corner of Spain known as Galicia, especially the area just north of Portugal called Rias Baixas on the Atlantic coast. I’ve written about this region before, most recently in the context of light and refreshing summer whites from the Vinho Verde country just across the River Mino in Portugal.
But one can also find wines of elegance and depth that deserve to be better known and that can take their rightful place among other, more celebrated white wines. The most important grape here is albarino, which can be wonderfully aromatic and expressive and is the foundation of the 2004 Terras Gauda Rias Baixas from Bodegas Terras Gauda, a leading producer in the O Rosal sub-region in the southern corner of Rias Baixas.
The wines from this area, just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic, benefit from the ocean’s moderating influence and are marked by a slightly less acidic style than is often the case with albarino. So, why they are lively and crisp on one hand, they also have a fruit-driven richness that is especially evident in the O Rosal. The wine’s many components include notes of apple, strawberry, mango, minerals and a lemony, somewhat creamy finish. The wine is about 70 percent albarino with the rest from two other local varieties, loureiro and caiño blanco.
All of which make it considerably more than a basic little fish wine, although fish, from broiled flounder or sole fillets to the richness of lobster and scallops, are its natural pairings. It will also go well with simple chicken, pork and veal dishes.
The Abadia, which is 100 percent albarino, is a bit more austere with notes of lemon and lime, orange peel and herbs. A bit enclosed at first, it had opened up nicely when I tasted it again the second night. It, too, has a long, slightly creamy finish.
The whites of Rias Baixas are fresh, lively and complex. They offer the chance to taste unique, small-production wines at still quite reasonable prices.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him atEdwardDeitch@hotmail.com.