Galicia, located in the northwest of Spain, is riding the crest of a winemaking wave right now and their signature grape, Albariño, is leading the charge. An aromatic and versatile variety that tends to produce high acidity, light-medium bodied wines with plenty of pear, citrus and floral notes, Albariño is proving to be a worthy alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Rías Baixas (Ree-ass By-shass) is the most important D.O.* in the region and some of the O’Briens Wine Team were lucky enough to visit the area last week.
Our first winery tour was at the small family-owned estate of Lagar de Costa in the Salnés valley. The Costa family have been grape growers for four generations and in 2001 began bottling their own Albariño wines.
We were kindly given a vineyard tour by head winemaker, Sonia Costa. The winery is only 200 metres from the sea and their picturesque vineyards run down to the pristine sandy beaches of the shoreline, giving an extreme and unpredictable Atlantic influence. This area of the country is known as ‘Green Spain’ and has a similar climate to the west of Ireland: with high annual rainfall and damp Atlantic winds. Although good for most agriculture, this wet and cool climate creates challenges for Galician grape growers as the damp air spreads mildew and rot amongst the vines.
To help combat these challenges, Sonia explained the benefits of using the traditional pergola system of training her 35-80-year old vines. To keep the delicate foliage away from the damp ground, the Albariño vines are trained to grow up 6-foot granite pillars before the arms of the plant spread out to form a canopy overhead. The bunches of grapes hang down through this canopy, kept dry and healthy by the fresh sea breezes that are channelled through the vineyards.
Back in the winery we tasted Sonia’s wines over a feast of local seafood dishes where she discussed the challenges and typicity of growing Albariño in this maritime region.
Afterwards I managed to drag our Director of Wine, Lynne Coyle away from the bountiful dining table to give her opinions on the fresh, fruity and salty minerality of Lagar de Costa.
The Costas have refurbished their century-old traditional farmhouse to accommodate 7 guest rooms for anyone wishing to visit this beautiful part of Spain.
*Wine Tip: The Appellation system in Spain is known as the Denominación de Origen