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Details for Leiras Albariño


CountrySpain
Region
AppellationRias Baixas
Grape
Albariño / Alvarinho
(click to find out more)
Year2015
Producer
Grupo Codorníu
(click to find out more)
ABV12%


Galicia

Galicia is the northwest corner of Spain, lying between the northern border of Portugal and the Bay of Biscay.  Cooler and wetter than the rest of Spain, this is largely white wine country.  There are five Galician D.O.s: Rías Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei.
 
Rías Baixas, on the Atlantic coast, is the largest and best-known.  The fragrant Albariño dominates here, producing bracingly sharp but lushly aromatic whites perfectly matched to the local seafood.  It rains a lot here but the sandy granitic soils drain well and the vines are trained high on pergolas to keep the grapes away from the damp ground and to benefit from the drying winds.
 
Further up the Miño river from Rías Baixas lies Ribeiro, where the dry whites also feature Albariño but are usually blends with Treixadura (the main grape here), Loureiro, Torrontés and Godello.
 
Further inland still, the breathtakingly steep terraced vineyards of Ribeira Sacra produce potentially the best reds of the region, mainly from Mencía, as well as fine Godello whites.  Mencía also features in Monterrei, the smallest and warmest DO, located in the southeast corner of Galicia where it gets warm enough to ripen Tempranillo.
 
Valdeorras is the easternmost and highest region.  This is the heartland of the Godello grape, which suits the slatey soils particularly well.  Younger unoaked examples resemble Chablis, while late-picked oak-aged versions are Spain’s answer to white Burgundy, and Albariño’s only real rival as Spain’s best white.


Grupo Codorníu

Codorníu invented Cava, producing the first Champagne-method Spanish fizz in 1872.  Today it’s the second-largest producer of bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the world.  Still family-owned after nearly five centuries, it can also claim to be the oldest family firm in Spain.
 
Cava is still the core business, based at their historic winery at Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in Catalunya, which was designed by renowned modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch at the end of the 19th century and is now a National Monument.  But the Group now own eight wineries scattered across Spain, and two overseas in California and Argentina.
 
The first of these was Raimat in the Costers del Segre region, where in 1914 Miguel Raventós acquired a vast tract of barren land with a castle, and set about building a winery from scratch.  Today the vineyard covers 2000 hectares, making it the largest in single ownership in Europe.  It produces both Cava and still wines.
 
Subsequent growth has largely occured by acquiring established wineries in Spain’s most notable regions.  These include Bilbaínas in Rioja, Masia Bach in Penedès and Scala Dei in Priorat.  The most recent venture is Leiras in Rías Baixas.
 

about this wine About this wine


Albariño is today regarded as Spain’s best white grape, yet only thirty years ago no-one outside of its homeland in western Galicia had heard of it.  The area didn’t even have a Denominación de Origen until 1980 when the DO Albariño was created, but it remained of local interest only.  The EU doesn’t allow appellations to be named for a single grape variety, so when Spain joined in 1986 the DO disappeared again.  After two years of intense political negotiations between local producers, the Rías Baixas DO was created in 1988 to replace it.
 
That proved to be the turning point: the number of producers and the area under vine doubled in the first year.  Today the region produces 40 times as much wine as it did in 1987 and almost all of it is Albariño. A range of other varieties, both white and red, are permitted, but less than 5% of the vineyards are planted with red grapes and less than 10% with other white varieties.  This is only partly due to demand for newly-fashionable Albariño: it’s difficult to grow anything else in this climate.
 
The Rías Baixas are the wettest part of Spain, and one of the coolest.  When it isn’t raining, the green hillsides are often shrouded in mist.  It looks rather more like the west coast of Ireland than like the rest of Spain.  All this humidity is bad news for vines, and very good news for their diseases.  But Albariño’s small grapes have thick skins and loosely-packed clusters, which makes them particularly resistant to rot.  Those thick golden skins also contain high levels of terpenes, which provide the intense aromas associated with this variety.
 
This wine comes from the Val do Salnés subregion, which is home to most of the best-known producers.  It’s the most northerly, coolest and wettest of the four subregions and consequently produces the sharpest, most minerally wine, which is often said to have a salty tang to it.  Producers here normally encourage malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity and round out the wine.  Lees contact after fermentation is often used to the same ends, especially by the more premium wines.
 
It’s made by the Cava giant Codorníu who ten years ago bought up four vineyards here and built a winery. In Galician, ‘leira’ means “a plot, a levelled and delimited field” so this wine is named Leiras to reflect the four separate plots that contribute to the blend. Winemaker Jordi Ratera aims to make a rather bigger and more structured wine than is typical for the region.


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