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17/06/2020 Breaking news

Luis Gutiérrez, a taster on the Robert Parker team, says that Rías Baixas red wines are here to stay

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As the Parker scores for this Denomination of Origin’s wines are being updated, Luis Gutiérrez, an experienced taster on the Robert Parker team for the renowned Wine Advocate publication, is taking the opportunity to give us a tour of the current wine scene in Rías Baixas, an area that has been awarded some very high scores.

A significant presence of red wines

Rías Baixas, a denomination of origin in Galicia, Spain, is pretty much synonymous with Albariño, the region’s flagship white grape. Just five years ago a significant presence of red wines seemed unthinkable or even impossible.

Although Rías Baixas is the largest and most successful wine region in Galicia, there is still a strong emphasis on the traditional Galician practice of working on smallholdings with around 4 thousand hectares divided into about 22 thousand plots, which makes the average size of a vineyard less to 0.2 hectares. 99.21% of this land is planted with white varieties, 96.5% of which are the Albariño variety. Red varieties only make up 0.79% of total production in this denomination of origin, which is a huge imbalance.

Luis Gutiérrez rated wines from 43 wineries, 19 of which presented red wines. That means 44% of producers, and 23% of all wines in the tasting sample were red, which shows that red wines made in Rías Baixas are here to stay.

5 sub-regions with some Atlantic influence

Rías Baixas is the most western denomination of origin in Galicia, which has a more Atlantic climate and a greater marine influence, however, these characteristics are not reflected equally in the five sub-regions it is divided into.

Ribeira do Ulla is the latest addition to the Denomination of Origin, lying in the north, on the banks of the Ulla river and producing fresh and very fruity wines.

Soutomaior is a small area halfway between Val do Salnés and Condado de Tea and has only three registered wineries.

Val do Salnés is the home of Albariños that grow in sandy granite soils and with a strong marine influence.

The Condado de Tea area lies inland and very close to Portugal. Wines made there have a stronger influence from the Miño river than the Atlantic.

O Rosal is the sub-region next to Condado de Tea. It is protected from the influence of the sea by a mountain range and is warmer.

The importance of location

Rías Baixas has different kinds of soils, sub-regions and grapes beyond the dominant Albariño variety. There are also red varieties, which allow high quality producers to make surprising and exciting wines that are nothing like the high production whites. They can be enjoyed straight away, and in the short time between becoming available and being opened, they reveal the identity of their origin.

This Denomination of Origin has predominantly granite soils, but there is also sand and clay, quartz and iron, as well as shale, slate and gneiss.

Granite gives the wines an electric and salty touch that is reinforced by the influence of the sea. Coastal soils are usually more sandy and lighter, however, inland they may have more clay, making them stronger. These characteristics define the personality of wines, which are usually lighter in coastal areas and deeper when they are made inland. So despite being from the same Denomination of Origin, the place the grapes grow really shapes the character of each wine.

What can we expect from the 2019 vintage?

The youngest wines from the 2019 vintage are already available to buy but you will have to wait patiently for some others.

2019 was an unusual year. It started late and the grapes ripened quickly and without rain. This vintage has the highest levels of alcohol of recent years but the same level of acidity. Yields were low so the grapes were powerful and concentrated. The months of September and October were warm, which caused many wines to begin malolactic fermentation just after alcoholic fermentation, including those that do not usually go through this process. 
Wines of the 2019 vintage were pretty much ready from the beginning. A unique year that will produce strong and fresh wines with greater acidity, that can be enjoyed straight away but will also last well.

When it comes to red wines, producers have all agreed that 2018 is the all time best vintage for red wines!

In short, the latest DO Rías Baixas vintages have resulted in more wines and a higher quality. They have led to a surprisingly strong presence of red wines that are undoubtedly here to stay, and likely to grow.

Here are some of the wines tried and highly rated by Luis Gutiérrez, from the Robert Parker Wine Advocate team that are definitely worth experiencing for yourself.

Forjas del Salnés Leirana Finca Genoveva 2018. A world class white wine. Extraordinary work from the small family winery of Rodrigo Méndez, one of the great names in Rías Baixas. An aged Albariño with 96 Parker Points for less than 25 euros. Unbelievable!

Alberto Nanclares 2018.  An organic Albariño from the granitic soils of Val do Salnés,. It is aged on lees, tasty and powerful. An exceptional 94 Parker Points that is definitely worth much more than it costs.

Rodrigo Méndez O Raio da Vella red 2017.  A red made with two of the area’s typical varieties: Caíño Tinto and Espadeiro and the personal project of Rodrigo Méndez, one of Galicia’s most renowned winemakers. 92 Parker Points for this very fresh red Galician gem.

Nicolás Tricó 2015The Compañía de Vinos Tricó is emerging as a leader in terms of quality in the Condado do Tea sub-region. This Albariño comes from plots with granite soils and is aged for 12 months on its lees. 93 Parker Points for a wine that proves that Albariño whites can have extraordinary aging potential.

This is a small selection of what is on offer from this Galician Denomination of Origin. Why not take a look at the Decántalo online catalogue and explore our extraordinary Rías Baixas wines? We have a wide range of styles and for all budgets. These wines are perfect for opening now that the weather is getting warmer.