Pilgrimage to Rías Baixas (Slideshow)
June 13, 2014
A wine-drinking homage to the fount of Galicia’s sainted Albariño
First stop is the square of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where a wearied but happy pilgrim joins dozens arriving daily. Walking the last 62 miles (100 km.) gets you a certificate.
Monument to St. James
Legend has it that the remains of the apostle St. James, who was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 AD, was returned to Galicia and buried. Construction of his cathedral began in 1075.
Take It for Granite!
Galicia may be green, but almost everything is made of granite, including the region’s signature granaries, such as this one at the Pazo de Señoráns estate and winery.
Benito Castelo, 89, was instrumental in forming the large, progressive Bodegas Martín Códax cooperative in 1986 and the Rías Baixas appellation in 1988. He still knows how to green-prune vines.
Rain in Spain
Rías Baixas’ best-known sub-region is the Val do Salnés near Pontevedra, where approaching storm clouds signal another rainy night in Galicia. Salnés is considered Albariño’s birthplace.
Farther south, the Condado do Tea and O Rosal sub-regions share a common border with Portugal — the Miño River. These regions are warmer and often feature Albariño blends.
Women in the Lead
Fact: Most head winemakers in Rías Baixas are women, including those from 7 of the 10 wineries I visited. At Castro Martin, Angela Martin explains the pergola system, laid out across huge granite posts.
At Martin Codax, Katia Álvarez loves to experiment, and her dazzling dry table wine made with botrytized grapes — one of her several enticing elixirs — shows that the reward is worth the risk.
From the Terraces
The elegantly terraced vineyard at Pazo San Mauro — that’s Portugal in the distance — is one several venues where the versatile Cristina Mantilla makes wine or consults.
There’s more inside Mar de Frades’ famous blue bottle than Albariño by the glass. Winemaker Paula Fandiño also is producing some delicious bubbly — alas, not yet sold in the U.S.
What Goes with Albariño?
Albariño is a great match for Galicia’s famed and varied seafood. A morning’s visit to Pontevedra’s mercado finds an array of ocean fare fresh from the Atlantic Ocean and its inlets.
Lunch with Jorge Peláez at Marqués de Vizhoja is awash in seafood, starting with simply- prepared clams with a sauce that demand sopping with tasty homemade breads.
Lamprey at Its Best
Lampreys are one of God’s ugliest creatures, but here they look — and taste — ravishing, rolled up and stuffed with eggs and peppers, then sliced thinly. Another glass of Albariño, please.
The Pies Have It
Seafood pies are a staple in the Galician diet, and my favorite at a picnic lunch at the lovely Pazo Baión estate is this crusty tuna pie. Cod pies are also popular.
All good wine trips and all good Albariño advertising campaigns must come to an end. These relics in the Marquéz de Vizhoja shipping department leave me with a big smile.