I love Spanish wines, just not the international, modern, highly stylized, press friendly Spanish wines that completely dominate the market here in the US and pretty much everywhere else these days including Spain itself. The Spanish wines I'm really enchanted by are traditional Rioja - Lopez de Heredia et al - great Sherry, the quirky wines of the Basque region and way, way out to the extreme northwest of the country, the whites of Galicia's Rias Baixas region like this Albariño. This wet, temperate, I'd even say downright cold, region on the Atlantic coast is the western outpost of what's referred to as the "green" Spain, a strip of Atlantic coastlands stretching from San Sebastián at the French border to the western edge of the country above Portugal and sandwiched in between a chilly ocean and the Cantabrian mountain range separating this lush, green paradise from the practically desert like conditions to the south. Wines here tend to be white, high in acidity and low in alcohol. If you like great Muscadet, these are your wines.
The Albariño vine has a history stretching back to the 12 century for sure, and probably earlier, having been brought there by an order of Cistercian monks (the same wine loving bunch who split off from the Benedictines in Burgundy so dramatically about a thousand years ago). These were the most local of wines forever and only recently, maybe the last 20 years or so, have they been exported in any real numbers beyond the DO borders. The Rias Baixas, meaning "low rivers" in the local dialect, are a series of four estuarine inlets, rich in marine life, surrounded by undulating hills where vineyards are planted. There are 5 distinct subzones for wine and the one that sits right on the coast, and the coldest, is Salnés where Gerardo Mendoza's Do Ferreiro winery and vineyards are located. Gerardo farms over 175 tiny plots of Albariño here on alluvial, granitic soils scattered throughout Salnés, for a total of about 10 hectares of vines. The vines range in age from 50 to 200+(!) years old and his wines are the main reason why the Salnés sub zone is considered the finest one for Albariño production.
Gerardo's farming is impeccable, a real feat considering how morcellated his holdings are. Organic in all but name, no chemicals or synthetic fertilizers are used and. Hand harvesting, native yeast fermentations and aging in 100% stainless steel to preserve the wine's delicate freshness. This wine is just delightful with an exotic though fairly quiet nose that brings to mind the effusive qualities of great Viognier with bracing notes of Mosel Riesling where you can practically smell the acid. Lively to say the least. Focused and pointedly assertive with electric lemon-lime notes, a touch of honeysuckle, brilliant minerality and a subtle sappiness on the long finish, a telltale sign of low yielding old vines. This is one of the more exciting whites I've come across in awhile.
I love Spanish wines, just not the international, modern, highly stylized, press friendly Spanish wines that completely dominate the market...