Weekly Weird & Wonderful Wines
Week 9 - Gotas de Mar Albariño 2014
Here we are once again, thirsty for more Weekly Weird & Wonderful Wines from around the globe!
This week we are sipping away at one of the most delicious and best value Spanish white wines I have ever had the pleasure of coming across!
Perhaps you have never tried this style of wine before so we'll be exploring the Albariño grape variety and the Rias Baixas region of Spain that it calls home.
Grab your wine glasses and let's enjoy!
Presenting this week's wine:
Gotas de Mar Albariño 2014
Category: Vino Incognitus
Wine Makeup: 100% Albariño
Origins: The history of the Albariño variety is cloudy at best, the grape is recorded in Spain & Portugal back to around the 12th Century when it is believed to have been introduced to the Galicia region of North-West Spain by Cluny monks, though some sources claim the grape is native to the region.
What ever the point of origin, Albariño has become a staple part of life in the Galicia region, particularly in Rias Baixas (ree-as by-shass), where it currently makes up 96% of all wine production in the area.
The grape is also grown in Portugal which lies just across the Miño/Minho River from Rias Baixas, where it is known as Alvarinho and contributes to the Vinho Verde wine region.
In Spain the name of the variety (Alba-riño) translates to White Rhine or white wine from the Rhine, leading to many suggestions that the grape is related to Riesling, though seems to predate Riesling's planting record entirely. Some studies also suggest a potential relationship to the Petit Manseng grape of Southern France.
To cope with the rainy environment in Galicia (Spain's wettest region annually), Albariño has developed a thick, yellow-green skin, that doesn't seem to mind the high rainfall at all, though does typically require the grapes to be trellised high above the ground on traditional pergolas as to prevent rot and disease.
Region: Rias Baixas is a curious corner of Spain, with a damp Western coastline comprised of Rias (basically drowned river valleys) and bordered to the South by the longest river in Galicia, the Miño. This area has a fantastic seafood-based cuisine (particularly shellfish), that is the ideal match to it's Albariño wines (again making up more than 96% of plantings in the region).
Soils in this region are often comprised of granite (which is the major building material in Northern Spain) and are often laced with sandy alluvial deposits, either wind-blown or laid down by the region's several rivers.
Rias Baixas was a poor and ignored portion of the country until relatively recently with a sudden revival of wine and food culture, as well as an increase in tourism, bringing the region back to life from the 1980's onwards.
The area also features a Burgundian style inheritance law system that prevents any one person or group from owning large singular plots of lands, meaning that the region features many small growers, often struggling to make enough wine to satisfy demand.
This Albariño from Gotas de Mar is located in the Condado do Tea sub-region of Rias Baixas which is a slightly warmer, hilly area that follows the right bank of the Miño River.
Producer: Gotas de Mar (meaning Drops of the Sea/Ocean in Spanish) is a brand label of the winemaking group Hammeken Cellars, comprised of 5 winemakers from around the world, who dedicate themselves to taking traditional varieties from old vines across Spain and producing new and exciting styles from them.
Founded in 1996 Hammeken Cellars by Nicholas Hammeken, a cellar master from Denmark, who has now recruited a team of 20 other professionals, who fill all roles from sales, marketing and graphic design all the way to winemaking. The winemaking team is lead by David Tofterup, originally of Denmark, who grew up in Spain as a teenager and decided he wanted to make quality Spanish wines.
Tofterup has been awarded several times within the industry and the Gotas de Mar brand which comprises of just Albariño & Godello has been recognised over the last few years for consistent high quality and character.
In Rias Baixas, Albariño wines are known to be dry, having medium to high acidity and often a refreshing salinity that pairs so nicely with the fresh seafood brought into the ports daily.
The Gotas de Mar Albariño 2014 is hand harvested from 15-25 year old vines in the Condado do Tea sub-region, planted upon granite soils, though trained on a more conventional trellis (VSP) instead of the region's usual Pergola high trellising.
Whole bunch pressed, the wine was fermented in stainless steel for 20 days before then being left to age on it's lees for 6 months in tank with only occasional stirring.
This particular example of Albariño is perhaps on of the most immediately exciting I have come across in recent years.
Aromatic complexity was incredible to behold with orange zest, fresh peaches and salinity that had the wine smelling like a brisk sea breeze, had me craving scallops or oysters within moments of inhaling.
Palate is as about as dry as they come with just 1.8g of residual sugar and searing acidity, before settling on that undercurrent of salty saline character that makes the mouth crave both food and another glass of this wine.
Gotas de Mar Albariño 2014 manages to combine an airy lightness and brooding complexity on both nose and palate to give us a style of wine that you simply must try.