While many people continue to believe that wine is a fusty old world never touched by fashion, they could hardly be more wrong. Many Bordelais might make and sell wine much as they did generations ago, but there are fads and trends just like anything else, and a long-ignored corner of north-west Spain currently finds itself trending wildly. For reds there is Bierzo, a little splot that mainly makes wines from the mencia grape. Three years ago if you wanted to try one you’d have to hopefully call around specialist merchants like JR Hartley in search of his book about fly fishing; now they sell it in Waitrose. But for all Bierzo’s current hipness, and I’ll be reviewing a couple of them in a week or two, north west Spain’s greatest hit is surely the albarinos from nearby Rias Baixas.
Here are three from Terras Gauda, a Spanish winery who have clearly taken aim at the UK’s social media, having dispatched a selection of their wines to a decent handful of writers and bloggers, including myself (for variety, here’s Jamie Goode, Tom Cannavan, The Cambridge Wine Blogger and The Wine Rambler). Fortunately, they are worth publicising, and a couple of their whites had a taut, elegant freshness that place them among the best I’ve had from the region. If we were ever to get a summer, I could think of few better ways of toasting it.
That leaves one, and La Mar stood out for several reasons. It is a wine to get a wine buff in a lather: a dense, oily, rich, expressive, golden brew that instantly prompted a long list of descriptors, with orange blossom underlined on my list. It is also made primarily of a thrillingly obscure grape, caino blanco. It’s fine stuff, but – and this is crucial – in my mini-tasting it was still half-full when the other two bottles had been drained. It’s good, but something to enjoy as a background flavour while eating some fairly gutsy, perhaps creamy food. It’s good in the way that The Only Way is Up by Yazz & The Plastic Population is good – in small doses, or turned down quite low while you also do something else.
The other two, as well as being, frankly, easier to drink, also have the advantage of being considerably cheaper. The most basic bottle, Abadia de San Campio, is still not exactly bagainous at upwards of £13, but it’s a classy glass. It had a salinity and minerality to it that I find extremely beguiling, and a lemon-zest freshness. O Rosal was slightly more understated on the nose, but opened up to offer more herbal flavours and some tart green apple. It’s a little more expensive at around £15, but was my favourite of the three on a photo finish. For a similar price, just to prove that I’m not only nice about wines I get sent for free, I’ve also recently enjoyed the albarino from Pazo de Senorans. These wines are fashionable for a reason.