With 2,600 hectares of vineyards, Rías Baixas is one of Spain's smallest wine regions. Just 20 years ago, it was virtually unknown outside of Galicia. Now, whenever we think of the white grape Albariño, we associate it to this region.
The region of Galicia is wet, cool and has plenty of coastlines. Fishing is one of the main economic industries. Growing grapes was an afterthought, and the vines are usually trained in a pergola style to allow other vegetables to be planted underneath.
Galicia is located in northwest Spain, bordering Portugal to the South. Celtic peoples lived here for centuries and called it “Gallaeci, then afterwards ruled by other civilizations, including the Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and many kingdoms of Spain.
The center of Galicia is recognized for its hilly landscape, although the coastline is mostly a series of rías (submerged valleys), which gives the wine region its name. These valleys were drowned with rising sea levels after the ice age. These are divided into the smaller Rías Altas ("High Rías"), and the larger Rías Baixas ("Low Rías").
There are many, many rivers, with the most important Ulla and Miño or Minho. The Climate is moderate, with a maritime influence, strong rains but relatively dry summers. The rains provide a very green landscape composed of cliffs, hills and rich, dense forests.
Albariño is the main grape planted in Rías Baixas. A very aromatic grape variety, similar in flavor profile to Viognier and Riesling. This variety originates in north-eastern Portugal where it is called Alvarinho and the principal grape for Vinho Verde. The first DO in 1980 was specifically for Albariño, however in 1986 the denomination was changed to Rías Baixas as the EU wine laws did not recognize a single grape variety for a DO.
To be called Rias Baixas, a wine must contain at least 70% Albariño, and depending on the region, these other white grapes are allowed in the blend:
Loureira, Caiño, Torrontés, and Trexiadura
The region also produces Rosés and Red wines from Caiño Tinto, Espadeiro and Loureira Tinta.
While most of the wines are unoaked, there exists oaked versions called barrica and must spend a minimum of 3 months in oak barrels before bottling.
There are five designated subzones of the DO.
Val do Salnés: This is the original and oldest sub-zone with the most area under vine and the highest concentration of wineries. Located on the Atlantic coast, it surrounds the historic town of Cambados. The soil is granitic and rocky with alluvial top-soil. It is also the coolest and wettest sub-zone with an average temperature of just 55º F.
Condado do Tea: “Tea County” is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River. Located in a fairly mountainous area along the Miño, this is the second largest sub-zone. The most inland, it is a warmer, drier area, with an average temperature of 59º F that can soar to 104 º F during the summer. Soils contain granite and slate.
O Rosal: Also lying along the Miño River where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, this sub-zone forms the border with Portugal. With granite bedrock and alluvial topsoil, the vineyards are terraced along the sides of the Miño.
Ribeira do Ulla: The newest Rías Baixas sub-zone, this area was registered in 2000 and is composed mostly of alluvial soil. It is located inland, southeast of Santiago de Compostela, and east of Padrón, a town famous for its small, green frying peppers, a popular tapa.
Soutomaior: Nestled in the hills at the head of the Rίa de Vigo, it is the smallest of the sub-zones and was registered in 1996. Soils are light and sandy over granite bedrock.
Producer: Viña Nora
The philosophy of the winery is to allow the Albariño grape to achieve maximum expression of its maturity. Although Albariño is an Atlantic varietal, it loves the sun. The grape only reaches its maximum potential when it is harvested fully ripe. This is achieved in this part of the appellation by careful vineyard and vine management, leaf control, and very detailed selection of grapes. It is a great gamble to keep the grapes on the vine as long as possible to maximize maturity because of the constant threat of the inevitable autumn rains.
“Finca Grande” (Viña Nora), is per tradition the first harvest in Rias Baixas but this is not the case for Nora, since we look for an extra of quality in terms of the ripening point of the fruit. For Nora vineyards from the property are used. The grapes for this wine come from 48 acres of 20-year-old vineyards which yield 2.5-2.9 t/acre, in the town of As Neves, which is in the sub region of Condado Do Tea on the banks of the Miño River.
Josephine Perry, an eonologist from Australia, makes Nora from the Native Albariño grape using the most modern wine making technology to coax the greatest expression of the varietal and terroir.
The harvest in Vina Nora is carried out manually, and the grapes are collected into small containers. The grapes are refrigerated for some hours in a cooling chamber, and the must and skins of the grapes undergo pre-fermentation maceration, also at a low temperature. The wine is 90% stainless steel fermented and 10% fermented and aged sur lie in French oak barrels.