It took me awhile to put up this post. The PR folks representing Rias Baixas wines had sent me 2 bottles to try a few weeks ago. However, the weather in Chicago has been so cold and grey, I just was not in the albariño wine drinking mood. Finally, it was a blue sky day today, a little cold but at the least the sun was out so time to break out the albariño. I invited two friends to a BYOB lunch at Old Jerusalem restaurant in Chicago and we tried both of the bottles below, Laxas, Albariño, 2016 from Bodegas as Laxas in Arbo, Pontevedra, Spain and Robaliño, Albariño 2016 from Bodegas Coto Redondo from the Pontevedra area as well.
A couple of wine and language nerdisms to get out of the way. I tend to fuss a little bit about the pronounciation of words. If you are going to drink something, part of the fun is to know how to pronounce the grape or the wine appellation as much as possible, (give me a German bottle and I get totally lost). I quasi-speak French so I am okay with the diacritical marks over the e’s, è (grave) or é (aigu) but when it comes to Spanish, I am not so comfortable. The squiggly mark over the n in albariño is called a tilde. This is the best link I could find on how to pronounce albariño, the n becomes an nj, sort of. Here is a link on vimeo showing winemakers from the region pronouncing Rias Baixas.
Rias Baixas (lower rivers) is in the southern end of the northwest corner of Spain and the border with Portugal. The region is considered green Spain becomes it is a much cooler Atlantic climate compared to the other regions of the country and has so many rivers and bodies of water within it. Some compare the climate and landscape to Ireland. It has a celtic heritage and the best vineyards are on the steep banks of rivers which is always a good sign for grape growing which leads to great wine.
The wines we tasted had 2 different personalities. The Laxas had aromas of peach and apricot, very viognier like and then a nice fresh, crisp, acidity with a slight finish of brown sugar. A well respected sommelier once described albariño as viognier on the nose and riesling on the palate and this Laxas fit that description. We all enjoyed it and it went well with our humble lunch of hummus and baba gonoush and tabouleh with pita. The Robaliño had a completely different character more lime and grassy notes, a lighter body and more of a summer quaffer.
The thing with these wines is that they are very approachable price points and the acidity and freshness makes them good companions to most summer meals. If you are going to grill a ribeye that is a whole different wine ballgame but these bottles were perfect for one of my few wine lunches in a long time. Living in Chicago I am so appreciative of the sun, blue skies and warm weather and sipping these wines just brings on happy thoughts of the summer season to come!