First Published: Costa News SL, May 2011




The Albariño grape variety is as important to Denominación de Origen Rias Baixas as Messi is to Barcelona. This supremely aromatic grape variety ripens to reveal in its wines, lovely peach and apricot flavours, but with a refreshing acidity too.

Within Spain (and in Portugal where it’s known as Alvarinho) it’s always been appreciated as probably Spain’s best white wine variety, but it wasn’t until my colleagues, the ladies and gentlemen of the international press, started travelling to taste in situ that the wine world generally became aware of this noble variety. Twenty years ago demand started it’s now seemingly unending ascent up the graph, like the pulse rate of a Barça fan when Messi receives the ball.

The young folk who had forsaken the area through lack of jobs and prospects started returning to work the vineyards, and the lucky ones with the wherewithal bought land and planted Albariño. It seems it’s no coincidence that some Albariños have an unmistakeable golden hue (for example Bodega Martín Códax’s Gallaecia 2007 as discussed last week). Albariño is probably Galicia’s most prized asset, driving the economy as well as being enjoyed in every bar and restaurant in the area, by locals and tourists alike!

Originally a co-operative bodega with no great ambitions other than to produce good quality white wines, Bodega Martín Códax was founded in 1985 as the wave of Albariño was just building. They’ve been riding it at its crest ever since and I recently received several of their white wines, plus a really fun red from their outpost in DO Bierzo with perhaps the best label I’ve seen this year!

Martín Códax Lias Albariño 2007 is limited production wine made by keeping the must on its lees for 12 months, two of which were with ‘batonage’, stirring, which adds a creamy dimension to the wine without detracting from its innate freshness. This full-bodied and yet elegant wine is one for the dinner table, the more so if the dish to accompany it is perhaps some fresh fish in a slightly creamy sauce!

Martín Códax Organistrum Colleita 2008 is named after a medieval stringed instrument played by minstrels to entertain pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela. From old design parchments an Organistrum was replicated by the bodega and is played at concerts in the building.

The wine is made with Albariño from a specific vineyard at only just over 100 metres above sea level where the grapes ripen fully and produce high alcohol wines, but again with an acid lift. Fermented initially in stainless steel, the wine then goes though a malolactic second fermentation in Allier French oak adding an extra depth of flavour. It is then transferred to steel again where it rests for a further seven months before bottling.

It is delicately perfumed wine with stoned fruit still, but a tiny almost imperceptible vanilla element too that just changes the flavour profile. I personally don’t subscribe to the view that Albariño gains a lot with age. I enjoyed the wine but would like to try one a year younger – given the chance!

It doesn’t surprise me that Martín Códax also operates in nearby DO Bierzo. This innovative bodega has shown that it is willing to try different styles of Albariño wines, successfully too, so why not make a red wine as well?

 I loved their Cuatro Pasos Mencía 2009 with the distinctive black label with four paw footprints in shiny red. It’s had a couple of months in oak for some added flavour and aroma but this is a wine that expresses the lovely damson and black cherry flavours of this rare variety. It’s a fun, serious wine – an enlighteningly happy combination!

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