As a devout Albariño lover for many years now, I’m a big fan of wines aged on their lees and have enjoyed awesome experiences with old vintages of Pazo Señorans Selección de Añada, Albariño de Fefiñanes III Año (3rd year) and lately also Tricó. Occasionally, I’ve also been positively impressed with certain Albariños aged in oak.
My best tip is to lay down outstanding Albariño vintages from your favourite producers for two to three years. Those who manage to wait will be rewarded with lush, richer, and rounder whites displaying well-defined fruit notes. Similar results are achieved by aging Champagne and other high quality sparkling wines in the bottle for a couple of years.
This is the reason why rather than focusing on the new 2014 vintage, which will only be remembered for its heavy rainfalls and the ensuing botrytis, I suggest looking a little back in time, exploring specific terroirs within the Rías Baixas appellation or finding out other regions within Galicia where Albariño starts to thrive. The “Albariño universe” —if I can call it so— is wider and far more complex than imagined.
As Bateas 2012, Adega Pombal A Lanzada. This white wine comes from the Salnés subzone, the largest Albariño vineyard in Galicia, stretching between the Arousa and Pontevedra estuaries (locally called rías). Since the wine was surprisingly disqualified by the appellation a while back, it is labelled outside the area’s boundaries and the owners have not bothered to apply again. The name comes from the family’s mussel farms business (bateas in Galician). As smallholder farming is the norm throughout the region, vine growing has traditionally been a side activity; vineyards were typically tended during the weekends, so it isn’t strange to find out that the wine comes from just one organically farmed hectare located in the hamlet of Noalla with schist and granitic soils. It has a strong citrus (lime) and briny character with distinctive pickle, herbs and sunflower seed notes. This is an austere, yet pure Albariño. Roughly 5,000 bottles have been produced. French winemaker Dominique Roujou consults for the winery.
Find this wine at Vila Viniteca (€16.90).
Quinta de Couselo 2013 (Rías Baixas). Bordering with Portugal, the O Rosal subzone is Rías Baixas’ southernmost area offering the highest grape diversity in the appellation. This blend of Albariño (90%), Loureiro, Caíño Blanco and Treixadura displays white fruit (pears, apples) and herbs aromas followed by a juicy, savoury palate. Around 60,000 bottles have been made. The winery occupies the ancient Cheira farm which was formerly dependent on Santa María La Real de Oia monastery and it is part of the Grandes Pagos Gallegos de Viticultura Tradicional group which also includes Finca Viñoa and Pazo Casanova, both of them in Ribeiro (Ourense), further east in Galicia.
Tricó 2009, Cía de Vinos Tricó (Rías Baixas). Last weekend I uncorked my last bottle of Tricó 2009. This Albariño definitely benefits from cellaring: it develops a richer and lusher texture with highly concentrated fruit and minerality. Made in Condado, the most inland area of the appellation, it is usually bottled in July-August after almost a year in contact with its lees and is aged for another year in the bottle before being released. A great connoisseur of the grape and the area, José Antonio López seems to have finally found “his Albariño” after an extensive career in Adegas Morgadío and Lusco.
Albariño de Fefiñanes III Año 2012 (Rías Baixas). Apart from its excellent entry-level Albariño, which is worth cellaring for two to three years, historic producer Palacio de Fefiñanes makes two additional wines. The barrel fermented 1583, with an increasingly moderate oak influence, and this III Año (3rd Year), which has been aged for 27 months in stainless steel vats. Despite not having vineyards of its own (Fefiñanes works with long-term suppliers based around the town of Cambados where the beautiful palace and winery stand), quality has been significantly high over the past vintages. This III Año is a seductive, Atlantic-style white with pickle, fennel and citrus fruit aromas and combines the depth and unctuous texture that Albariño can offer with a lively and fresh palate; the end is wrapped up with lovely briny and aromatic herbs notes. Still very young. 6,000 bottles produced.
Pintos Albariño Edición Los Nietos 2010 (Rías Baixas). I tasted this new wine at Fevino wine fair in Ferrol earlier this year. Located in Ribadumia (Salnés), the winery has a style of delicate and almost discreet Albariño but it is worth noting that they use natural yeasts and look for bright acidity to keep their wines lively and fresh. The name “Los Nietos” (grandchildren in Spanish) pays homage to the family’s two babies, born on consecutive days. After spending 42 months with its lees, the wine displays a fine nose with bay leaves and fennel notes. It’s a lively, well-defined, subtle wine with plenty of lively acidity and finesse. 5,000 bottles have been made from vineyards owned by the family.
Find this wine for €18 at Madrid’s Bordino wine shop in Azcona, 13.
Pazo Señoráns Selección de Añada 2007 (Rías Baixas). Arguably the best-known Albariño aged on its lees, it pioneered this particular style of winemaking in the region. Wine lovers with cellaring facilities should seriously think about buying it in a magnum bottle to ensure a slower development in bottle and some extra freshness. 2007 is the current vintage on sale and has been aged for 30 months in stainless steel vats. This is an elegant, concentrated and intense white displaying lots of white and stone fruit aromas together with bay leaves and syrup notes. Serious, well-defined, mineral and persistent, it could perfectly fit in the next category as it comes from a single-vineyard in Salnés’ Señoráns estate called Los Bancales with distinctive poor, shallow granitic soils.
Albamar Finca O Pereiro 2013 (Rías Baixas). No doubt Burgundy’s influence has reached Galicia. Bodegas Albamar is a fresh, new voice in Albariño making a wide range of wines. I’m particularly fond of this single-vineyard white coming form 25-year old trellised vines planted on clay soils almost touching the sea. It is a complex wine with fine balsamic and aniseed aromas followed by crisp acidity and showing nice depth on the palate. Atlantic in style and really well-made, it’s worth following its development over the next two to four years.
Zárate Balado 2013 (Rías Baixas). This historic producer has been increasingly focusing his efforts on single vineyard Albariño over the last few years. Launched in the 2006 vintage, Balado comes from one of its most iconic plots; actually, they are two small, ungrafted parcels surrounded by a granite wall (balo means wall in Galician) in a similar way to a Burgundian clos that were planted in 1950. The wine is kept in contact with its lees for about eight months. Minerality is particularly outstanding in this wine together with some petrol notes that add complexity. This is a dry, persistent white with a distinctive wet stone flavour on the finish. Only 2,660 bottles were made.
Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas 2013, Bodegas Gerardo Méndez (Rías Baixas). This is a truly iconic white wine in Galicia, just as much as the vineyard it comes from: a 200ish-year old pre-phylloxera plot with twisted vines grown on granitic and sandy soils next to the family house and winery at the heart of the Salnés valley. The wine ferments with natural yeasts and is kept with its lees in stainless steel tanks. It displays a floral and aniseed character with hay notes followed by crisp, marked citrus acidity on the palate. Deep and persistent with a distinctive chalky finish, it still feels like a baby. A wine to lay down. 8,000 bottles produced.
Ponte da Boga Albariño 2014 (Ribeira Sacra). The sole 2014 vintage in our selection, this is a rather exotic wine given that Albariño is rarely found as a single-varietal white in Ribeira Sacra, a region packed with vertiginous terraced vineyards stretching down towards the rivers Miño and Sil in the Galician provinces of Lugo and Ourense. Grapes come from different villages (Escairón, Abeleda and Quiroga), altitudes (370 to 500 metres) and soils (schist and sandy clay on pebbles) with 20% of the wine aged in 500- litre French oak barrels. This is a floral Albariño with green apple and lemon zest aromas, followed by a fresh, savoury and full palate. A different Albariño that exceeds expectations and offers good value. 12,000 bottles.
Find this wine for € 12.69 on the winery's online shop.
Gomariz X 2013, Coto de Gomariz (Ribeiro). A singular Albariño,Gomariz X is a single-vineyard wine originating from Ribeiro’s Avia valley in Ourense with distinctive schist soils and including 5% Treixadura in the blend. It is one of my favourite wines from Coto de Gomariz displaying fine white fruit (pear, apple) and orange zest aromas. Citrus notes appear on the palate, yet acidity is counterbalanced by an enveloping texture. Good and long finish, too.