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An impressive new Spanish white

Wine of the week: 2002 Nora as deliciously bold as its label
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

You’ll be forgiven if you haven’t heard of Rias Baixas, but this once obscure part of Galicia in northwest Spain has moved onto my list of hot wine regions. Geographically, it is defined by its rias, inlets and rivers that extend from the Atlantic Ocean and along which vineyards thrive. The signature grape here is the white Albariòo, and one of the best examples I have tasted is a $12 (or so) wine called Nora from a winery called Viòa Nora.

It's a long way from Galicia to my neighborhood wine store in New York. But when I asked Tyrone Carter, the manager at Martin Brothers Wines & Spirits, for something that would go well with mildly spicy lamb and chicken takeout from a nearby Indian restaurant, he went straight to the cooler and extracted a bottle with a boldly artistic label that simply said “Nora.”

In it was a delicious, lively and accessible dry wine, well balanced with ripe fruit, minerals and good acidity, somewhat fuller in style than, say, a Vinho Verde from neighboring Portugal, which is sometimes made from the same grape, known there as Alvarinho.

The 2002 Nora explodes with pear, lime, peach and pineapple and has a touch of vanilla on the finish. It is fermented in stainless steel. The grapes are grown on 48 acres on the banks of the Miòo River in the Condado do Tea sub-region in the south of Rias Baixas. (Jorge Ordoòez, whose company, Fine Estates from Spain, represents Viòa Nora in the United States, points out that the winery is not far from one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Spain; the culture of Galicia, by the way, has a strong Celtic influence.)

This is Viòa Nora’s first release and is the creation of an interesting triumvirate. The property is owned by Javier Alen, a lawyer who also has a top vineyard in the Rebeiro area of Galicia, and Victor Rodriguez, director of a well-known food and wine magazine. The winemaker is Andrew Anderson, a 34-year-old New Zealander who was brought in for a fresh perspective on things. Clearly, the region is on the wine radar screen.

As for my dinner, Nora worked well with the spicy pungency of the Indian food. It would be a natural choice for Chinese. I opened another bottle a few nights ago as I prepared some freshly caught bluefish, roasting the fillets over potatoes with a mix of olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Again, the wine provided a nice counterpoint to the strongly flavored fish and the aggressive seasonings.

These days, the flow of exciting and affordable wines from Spain seems almost endless. Nora is a versatile and attractive addition. With 5,000 cases shipped to the U.S., its availability should be good.

And in case you were wondering about the name, Ordoòez explained that Nora happens to be the Galician word for daughter-in-law. More importantly, he said, the owners wanted a feminine name to go with the delicacy of the wine, and one that was “short and easy to remember.”