Albariño – Native or Adopted?
Various theories exist regarding the origin of Albariño. Some speculate that it originated in central Europe and found its way to the area with the migration of Germanic peoples in the 5th century. Others say it was introduced later by the French monks. The prevailing theory today, however, is that Albariño is native to the region, owing to its ability to thrive and create distinctive wines in the region’s unique and challenging growing conditions.
DO Rías Baixas
The “modern” winemaking history of Rías Baixas began in 1980 when an official denomination was created specifically for the Albariño grape variety – La Denominación Específica Albariño. However, in 1988 after Spain joined the European Union (EU), the denomination was changed to Denominación de Origen (DO) Rías Baixas, as EU wine laws did not recognize a DO named for a single grape variety. Spain’s place in the EU also brought funding and investment to Rías Baixas, helping it modernize and build an international following.
Initially, DO Rías Baixas consisted of three distinct sub-regions: Val do Salnés, Condado do Tea and O Rosal. In 1996, the sub-region of Soutomaior was incorporated, and in 2000, Ribeira do Ulla was added. DO Rías Baixas is regulated by the Consejo Regulador (local governing body), which ensures adherence to permitted grape varieties, viticultural practices, winemaking and aging procedures. Up to 12 different grape varieties are allowed in DO Rías Baixas, but Albariño is king, accounting for 90 percent of all plantings.
Photography by Xurxo Lobato