Rías Baixas is the leading Denominación de Origen (DO) sub-region in Galicia, North West Spain. This beautiful corner of the Iberian Peninsula produces some of Spain's most highly sought after and utterly charming dry white wines. In the past 40 years Rías Baixas has expanded massively in vineyard area and production, for example there were 14 Wineries in the late eighties and today there are over 170.
The region was producing wines of a high enough standard that it was exported to Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries but in the late 1800s and early 1900s was exposed to the Phylloxera louse. Phylloxera feeds on and terminally damages vine roots and caused devastation in Europe's Vineyards between the 1880s and early 1900s. At this time many of the traditional vine varieties were abandoned, and by the 1900s the region's vineyards were largely planted with high-yielding varieties producing poor quality wines. A revival gained pace as the 1980s came into view and growers were encouraged to replant native vine varieties. Producers were also given incentives to invest in modern winemaking equipment.
Rías Baixas has five sub-regions and all five have the same granite-based subsoils and moderately cool and damp climate with the clear maritime influence. The humidity in the region has an influence on the styles of vineyards and the wine produced. Often the vines are trained on pergolas (see photo below) to take advantage of the sea breezes to keep them fresh so as to avoid disease and bunch rot. Many of the purest Albariño wines in the world come these five zones. The refreshing unoaked styles offering stone fruit flavours and often a hint of salinity which makes them perfect seafood wines. There are some made in a richer style with Bâtonnage (lees stirring) and use of oak offering greater texture alongside the refreshing high natural acidity.
Albariño accounts for 90% of the total vine coverage but there are 12 different varieties officially permitted in Rías Baixas. Some of the white grapes may be blended with Albariño including Loureira or Marqués as it is known locally. These two are also commonly both blended in the Vinho Verde region just across the border in Portugal.