The Rías Baixas are five flooded river valleys which form estuaries on the coast of Galicia in north-west Spain. The region is famous for its dry and fruity white wines produced almost exclusively with the Albariño grape which thrives in the moist, coastal, climate of Galicia.
Whilst it was the Romans who first introduced wine making to the region, it was the Cistercian monks from the Monastery of Armenteira who refined the process in the 12th century. It was only in the early 20th century following the devastation of the phylloxera blight that winemakers started to realise the potential of the native Albariño grape.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the region’s wines were officially recognised as ‘Denominación Específica Albariño’. This was changed to ‘Denominación de Origen (DO) Rías Baixas’ in 1988 to comply with an EU law which doesn’t allow a wine region to be recognised for a single variety of grape.
Sub-Zones of the D.O. Rías Baixas
Most of the 20,000 vineyards in the region produce wines which are made exclusively with Albariño grapes rather than with a blend. As a result there are only subtle differences between the following sub-zones of the (DO) Rías Baixas:
Val do Salnés: is on the lower banks of the Umia river close to Cambados town. The soil mainly consists of rocks and the grapes grow on vines on both sides and the flat floor of the valley.
O Rosal: is further south and runs along the Portuguese border at the river Miño as far as Tui town. The banks of the river are terraced with vineyards and the soil in the area is made up of broken pieces of rock.
Condado do Tea: lies in the west and runs from Tui up to Riveiro along the Miño valley. The soil here consists of slate and granite and there are several small rivers running through the valleys.
Soutomaior: is a sub zone which lies south of Pontevedra city. Although covered in granite the soils here are sandy and light.
Ribera de Ulla: is the most newly acquired of the sub-zones. This area with its alluvial soil was incorporated into the Rías Baixas wine region in the year 2000 and runs north of the city of Pontevedra.
Winemaking in Rías Baixas
Rías Baixas Climate: The Rías Baixas wine region has an Atlantic climate with a high rainfall compared to other areas of Spain and a regular sea fog. The temperature in the summer time does not usually go above 30ºC, falling to around 0ºC during the winter months. Of the five sub zones, Ribera do Ulla and Val do Salnés are the coldest as they are nearer to the coast than the others. The vineyards sometimes experience problems with strong winds especially when accompanied by frost and hailstones.
Rías Baixas Grape Varieties: In total the regulatory council of the Rías Baixas wine region allows the use of 14 varieties of grape. However, in reality the Albariño grape accounts for over 90 percent of all planted vines. Other approved white grapes include Treixadura, Loureira Blanca, Caiño Blanco, Godello and Torrontés. There are also a number of approved red grapes for the region but red wine is fairly insignificant, representing less than 1% of all production.
Rías Baixas Vineyards: Most vineyards in the Rias Baixas region train their grapes along granite poles in a pergola trellising system introduced by the Romans. This protects the vines from humidity at the same time as providing exposure to the sun. Most producers run small-scale operations and harvest their vines by hand.
Rías Baixas Wine Tourism
Private Winery Tours With Driver
A number of chauffeur-driven wine tours with an English-speaking guide can be arranged with a Galician wine specialist based in Vigo. Various options exist ranging from one day tours to week long self-drive wine tours of the Rías Baixas wine region.
Rías Baixas Private Wine Tour
Departs from: Vigo
Duration: 8-9 Hours
This private tour begins in the city of Vigo where your driver will collect you from your hotel or cruise ship. You will then transport you to the O Salnes Valley where you’ll visit the Pazo de Señorans and Pazo Baion wineries. After lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant you’ll visit the sanctuary of Nosa Señora da Lanzada and the traditional fishing village of Combarro before returning to Vigo.
Self-Drive Galicia Winery Tours
If you prefer to travel independently in Galicia, you might like to book a Self-Drive Tour of the Rías Baixas which includes all your transport and accommodation. You can then plan on visiting a selection of the wineries listed below at your leisure:
|Adega Gil Armada||Cambados|
|Adegas Valmiñor||O Rosal|
|Bodegas Fillaboa||Salvatierra de Miño|
|Bodegas Gerardo Méndez||Meaño|
|Bodegas Granbazán||Val do Salnés|
|Bodegas LA VAL||Condado do Tea|
|Bodegas Santiago Roma||Aldea Da Bouza|
|Condes de Albarei||Val do Salnés|
|Martin Codax||Val do Salnés|
|Paco y Lola||Val do Salnés|
|Pazo Baion||Vilanova de Arousa|
|Pazo de Senorans||Paradela|
|Pazo Rubianes||Vilagarcía de Arousa|
|Pazo San Mauro||Condado do Tea|
|Santiago Ruiz||O Rosal|
|Terras Gauda||O Rosal|