Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune
Even the name of what is perhaps the most famous white-wine region in Spain sounds rugged, crisp and splashed by seawater each time you say it out loud: Rias Baixas. Pronounced REE-ez BAI-shez, this small, verdant appellation in the autonomous region of Galicia in northwestern Spain is named for the four estuaries — Ria de Muros y Noia, Ria de Arousa, Ria de Pontevedra and Ria de Vigo — that spill inland, close to 20 miles at the deepest point, forming five earthly fingers.
Rias Baixas — or "lower estuaries," as it translates to in Galician — sits in the southwestern seaside corner of Galicia, just above Portugal. Since adopting modern winemaking techniques and receiving its official DO (Denominacion de Origen) status in the 1980s, Rias Baixas has become one of Spain's top white wine-producing regions, if not the very top one. A scant amount of red wine is produced there, but it is not even worth mentioning by name, since more than 99 percent of Rias Baixas wines are white. The star among them all is made from, and named for, the albarino grape variety. Unlike most Spanish wines — and most wines from other European countries, for that matter — Rias Baixas albarino carries a varietal identification on its labels, not just the name of the region.