First Published Costa News Group, May 2011

BODEGA MARTÍN CÓDAX

DENOMINACION DE ORIGEN RÍAS BAIXAS –

There was a time when, if thinking white wine in Spain, one thought of nowhere else but Galicia and of no other grape variety but Albariño. Today this is not the case as there are also excellent white wines being made in DOs as diverse as Priorat, Rueda and Somontano for example; and using either indigenous varieties like Rueda’s Verdejo or foreigners like the ubiquitous Chardonnay in Somontano and the stunning Viognier from Bodegas Ribes from VdlT Mallorca.

Indeed some of these new classic white wines are made with all manner of blends and using various different methods. Check out Clos Mogador’s wonderful Nelin, made with the local Garnacha Blanca plus Viognier, Marsanne, Macabeo and even black grape Pinot Noir! Things are most definitely on the up and up for white wine producers in Spain as well as for we consumers who are lapping up the spoils to keep global warming at bay.

However that’s not to say we should forget Albariño from Galicia, and particularly from its spiritual home in the DO Rías Baixas – far from it! Rising to the challenge of these usurping new kids on the block Green Spain (so called, because it has the highest annual rainfall in the country) is now producing some of its best ever wines.

Some months ago I received a raft of white wines from Bodegas Martín Códax, a former co-operative winery, which is still one of the largest in the area, and is famed for its lovely straight Albariño wine but also for its innovative wines made from the same variety, but in oh so different styles. Tucked into the large case was a single red – another example of their forward thinking as they are now making quality red wine in nearby Bierzo, where the Mencia variety is king.

I’ve taken my time tasting these special wines and I’ve been really impressed, so much so that their Albariño Martín Códax will be the opening wine of a tasting I’m presenting in the UK in October. If you are looking for a starting position to taste some of the wines of this area, then there’s no better choice than here.

It has all the super stoned fruit attributes that you’d expect, perhaps from Viognier, with apricot, white and red peach notes but also there’s a Riesling-esque bracing acidity with floral aromas and lemon and lime touches. It’s this affinity with the noble French Riesling that has caused some commentators to suggest that Albariño is a rogue hybrid, morphed from original Riesling vines brought by pilgrim Monks who came to Santiago de Compostella. A romantic story dispelled, somewhat lamentably in by books (I’m a succour for romance), by men in white coats, but nevertheless helpful in describing the taste/aroma profile of this remarkable variety.

An undisputed fact is that Albariño has a thick skin which helps it keep out too much of that high rainfall and therefore keep in the rich flavours and aromas of the finished wine. This dampness and, in the cold temperatures that higher altitude vineyards bring, towards the end of the growing season, are conditions which simulate those of more northerly climes where Botrytis, or Noble Rot, can set in.

In exceptional years, 2007 for example, it has been possible to make a Botrytis influenced wine, bright gold coloured with a little extra residual sugar. Gallaecia 2007 Albariño is a unique wine, so vastly different from the above. It has grapefruit and citrus peel on the nose and a slightly bitter aftertaste, a little like grapefruit juice. My own feeling is that it is just going past its sell-by date, but I’d be fascinated to try the next vintage that they make using such grapes.

 So two wines, poles apart, from the same variety and the same bodega – and there’s plenty more between these opposite ends of the spectrum. More from Martín Códax next week.

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