One of the things that makes Northern Spain so special is that it’s mostly cooler and wetter than the rest of Spain. Doesn’t sound that special right? Especially not when you think about going to Spain for a bit fun in the sun, but in terms of the wine they make there it’s a big point of difference.
We’re right over on the Atlantic coast here, the bit of Spain that overhangs the top of Portugal. There are two main areas of interest for wine drinkers; Bierzo which is inland, and the better known Rias Baixas, which is right up against the coast.
The rise in altitude of most of Spain as a country is a huge plateau called the Meseta, which is why most inland areas are pretty warm and dry. But before the Meseta starts, over in Rias Baixas it rains like it was Britain, and the Atlantic breezes flow into the coast and down the valleys.
This makes it great for white wine production, making it possible to grow nicely acidic and subtle grapes that haven’t been roasting in the sun, losing freshness and taking on too much sugar. There are also plenty of slopes knocking around in order to catch that afternoon sun.
On the flip side though, it makes it a tough place to get it right. The weather is pretty temperamental and so year on year differences (vintages) make a much bigger difference in this place compared with other areas of Spain.
You’ve also got to pick your grape well. Humid summers and wet cool winters make it a difficult place to prevent diseases taking hold of the plants and fruit. Luckily there’s one particular grape that’s proved it’s up for it…Albariño!