Located in north-western Spain in the province of Galicia resides one of my favorite wine locations, Rías Baixas. Back in November, I was part of a virtual tasting, #AlbarinoHoliday, sponsored by Snooth Media and hosted by Lynn Farmer. As he states, the most important thing to know about him is that he is a wine lover and that may be why we get along so well.
Since it was just before the holiday season, we focused on food pairings for this Albariño tasting. As much as I tried to get this post out in time for the holidays, it just wasn’t going to happen. When I sat down to write this post, I initially felt bad about how long it took, but then I thought about it and realized, maybe it was a good thing. Now, I can talk about how with these wines, you can make any day feel like a holiday.
Let’s Get the Party Started
What is a holiday without Sparkling wine? The glorious sound of the sigh as the cork is released just screams celebration. The concept of sparkling Albariño is really rather new. Some producers started producing it about 15 years ago, but far and in between. Today, there is much more of it being produced and popped!
Bodegas As Laxas Sensum NV (Sparkling Albariño)
Bodegas As Laxas, a family run winery had its first harvest in 1975. They are one of the first wineries in Rías Baixas and are one of the founding members of the Regulation Council of 1986. They are located in the Miño River Valley, in the village of Arbo and have vineyards that are over 30 years old. With mild temperatures that average 60oF, they see very little frost but have abundant rainfall, their fruit is characterized by higher sugar content and lower acidity than the more northern wineries.
This wine is made in the Champagne method and saw about 9 months on lees and has 8g/L dosage. A beautiful crisp acidity with a lovely liveliness along with the “trademark” salinity of Rías Baixas. Being a wine that is in the lower alcohol and higher acidity wine, makes this a sparkling that can pair with so many foods. My pairing recommendation: brie and blackberry tartlets.
Brie and Blackberry Tartlets
10 min Prep Time
10 min Cook Time
20 min Total Time
- 1 package refrigerated pie crust (I used Pillsbury Gluten Free and used about 1/3 of the package)
- 1 (8 ounce) package of brie, rind removed
- blackberry jam
- Preheat oven to 400
- Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Press a small amount of the crust into the bottom of each muffin tin. Be sure to press the crust all the way the sides.
- Place a small chunk of brie in each tin.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Let the cheese pies cool for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely. Add a small spoonful of blackberry jam and top with a fresh blackberry.
Pass Around Time
Pazo Pondal Albariño 2016
Pazo Pondal is a second generation winery located in Arbo, Condado do Tea, the second largest subregion of Rías Baixas. With Olivia Hernandez as their winemaker, they have dedicated themselves producing wines that are terroir driven as well as being environmentally conscious. Their mission is to minimize erosion and achieve mineral balance through natural means.
This wines from this region tend to be less fruity and have more of an earthy style. The wine is actually kosher and biodynamic. With a hint of spiciness a fuller body along with a delightful earthiness, this wine can be enjoyed on its own or with foods you would pair with a lighter Pinot. My pairing recommendation: mushroom & caramelized onion polenta bites.
Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Polenta
2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of instant polenta
1/3 cup of grated parmesan
1 tbsp of butter
1 tsp of salt
2 large onions peeled and chopped
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tsp of olive oil
400 g of mushrooms cleaned and chopped
1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp of rose or red wine
2 tsp of olive oil
1 clove large of garlic minced
salt to taste
1.Start by making the polenta. Grease a baking tray (I used a 30cm x 20cm tray) and set aside. Then in a medium saucepan bring the vegetable stock and butter to the boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to medium low. Continue whisking the polenta until it becomes thick and creamy, around 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the parmesan. Pour the polenta into the prepared tray and cover and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to set.
2. To make the caramelized onions, heat a large frying pan over a medium low heat and add the olive oil before adding the onions and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes before adding the balsamic and brown sugar. Cook for a further 10 minutes until caramelized. Set aside.
3. For the mushrooms, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes before adding the garlic and cook for 2 minutes before adding the rose or red wine and thyme leaves. Simmer for a further 10 minutes, or until the wine has all but evaporated. Set aside.
4. Cut the polenta into bite size squares and coat in flour or uncooked polenta (the polenta will provide extra crunch). Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add oil. Once the pan has come to heat add the polenta squares and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towel.
5. To assemble the Mushroom Polenta Bites top the polenta squares with a small amount of caramelized onion (too much will overpower the mushrooms) and top with the mushroom mixture.
Santiago Ruiz Albariño 2017
Located in a 17th Century building in the O’Rosal district, Santiago Ruiz’ fruit sees a large influence from the Atlantic Ocean and Miño River. Producing wine since the 19th century, the Ruiz family were among the first to produce and label wines in Galicia. The wine label is unique with a hand drawn map. The map was drawn by Isabel, Santiago’s daughter, for her wedding guests. After seeing her drawing, Santiago knew this would be his label.
This wine states that you should age it for six months. Unlike the other wines, this one is a blend; Albariño (74%), Loureiro (10%), Godello (7%), Treixadura (5%) and Caiño Blanco (4%). Each wine is vinified individually then blended together. The blend provides a wonderfully silky complex wine. There is a hint of green, but not in a bad way, along with a nice floral aspect, this wine will stand up to a heavier/richer dish. My pairing recommendation: Creamy Seafood Soup.
Creamy Seafood Soup
Prep/Total Time: 30 min.
1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound bay scallops
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 medium sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free milk
2 cups half-and-half cream
1/4 cup sherry or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. In a Dutch oven, saute shrimp and scallops in 1 tablespoon butter until shrimp turn pink. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same pan, saute the celery, red pepper and onion in remaining butter until tender. Sprinkle with flour; stir until blended. Gradually stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Return seafood to the pan; heat through.
1 cup: 274 calories, 13g fat (8g saturated fat), 120mg cholesterol, 436mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 1g fiber), 19g protein.
Altos de Torona Rosal 2017
Their vineyards, although close to the ocean are located on a slope which helps protect the fruit from the mists and moisture of the valley. But because they are not at high altitudes, the fruit also does not see the cold that are on the peaks . Additionally, the south orientation ensures sunlit warmth which helps in allowing the fruit to hang and ripen accordingly.
The O’Rosal region is right along the Mino River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, right on the southern edge of Rías Baixas on the Portugal border. The area has a lot of granite in the soil overlaid with some alluvial soil. Wines from this area tend to have a peachy quality. It is a fun and easy to approach wine. My pairing recommendation: Green Chile Chicken Casserole.
Green Chile Chicken Casserole
1 HR 30 MIN
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (10 oz) Old El Paso™ green enchilada sauce
1/2 cup milk
2 cans (4.5 oz each) Old El Paso™ chopped green chiles
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
18 (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas
3 cups shredded deli rotisserie chicken
1 can (15 oz) Progresso™ black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (8 oz)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Sour cream, if desired
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 3-quart oval or rectangular baking dish (13×9-inch) with cooking spray.
2. In 8-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in condensed soup, enchilada sauce, milk, green chiles, chili powder, cumin and salt. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
3. Spread 1 cup sauce mixture in bottom of baking dish. Arrange 6 tortillas on top of sauce mixture. Top with 1 cup chicken, 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup cheese and 1 cup sauce. Repeat with another layer of 6 tortillas, 1 cup chicken, 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup cheese and 1 cup sauce. Top with remaining 6 tortillas, 1 cup chicken, 1/2 cup beans, 1 cup sauce and 1 cup cheese.
4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly on edges (165°F in center). Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Serve with Toppings, as desired.
5. If making ahead to bake and serve at a later date: Line 13×9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to completely enclose assembled casserole. Allow sauce mixture to cool completely, covered, 30 to 45 minutes in refrigerator before assembling casserole. Assemble casserole in dish; cover with another layer of plastic wrap. Freeze unbaked casserole about 8 hours or until completely frozen. Transfer frozen casserole to labeled 2-gallon resealable freezer plastic bag.
6. Remove air; seal and freeze up to three months. To bake: Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Remove plastic wrap from casserole; place in baking dish. Cover tightly with foil; thaw completely in refrigerator, 24 to 48 hours. Heat oven to 350°F. Uncover; bake 45 to 55 minutes or until hot and bubbly on edges (165°F in center). Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Serve with Toppings, as desired.
Rectoral do Umia S.A.U. Marqués de Frías 2017
Located in the Salnés Valley of Rías Baixas, Rectoral do Umia was founded in 2009 and pride themselves on combining their collective experience and the use of the latest technology.
The Salnés Valley is located in the northern inland portion of Galicia and is off of the estuary and the port city of Vigo. This region has light sandy soil over a granite base, so there is exceptional drainage. Although this wine is a dry wine, we can still open it to finish off our holiday dinner get together. This wine has a melon character. Depending what type of dessert you would like to serve, it can go wonderfully with cheese plate, including Manchego, goat cheese, membrillo and nuts. However, if cheese at the end of you meal is not your thing here is my pairing recommendation: Chocolate-Marcona Almond Torte.
Chocolate-Marcona Almond Torte
- 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces; more softened for the pan
- 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (60% to 70% cacao), coarsely chopped
- 1-1/2 cups Marcona almonds
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbs. dark rum
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan.
- Combine the chocolate and butter in a large bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside.
- Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, about 10 one-second pulses; set aside 1/4 cup. Add 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar to the almonds remaining in the processor and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand, another 10 pulses. (Don’t overprocess or the mixture will become oily.) Stir into the chocolate along with the rum and vanilla.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand-held electric mixer), combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the eggs and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until tripled in volume and the lifted beater leaves a ribbon on the surface of the mixture, about 5 minutes.
- Using a spatula, fold the chocolate-almond mixture into the eggs until no streaks remain. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and sprinkle with the reserved almonds.
- Bake until the top is set and the cake doesn’t jiggle when you gently shake the pan, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and remove the side. Use a large, lightly oiled spatula to carefully transfer the cake to a serving plate. Cool completely before slicing and serving.
One of the things I love about wine is how variable it can be. These wines although all the same varietal and from the same region are all different! Each with their own unique profile. If you would like to experience these wines for yourself, they are all available on Snooth’s website. Do you have a favorite Albariño? I would love to hear your thoughts on Galicia and Rías Baixas.