It’s not often that wine evokes strong memories; usually it has the opposite effect. However, I will always remember the first time I ever tried wine from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia, in north-west Spain.
We had journeyed across northern Spain, starting out from Barcelona, and our trip so far had been defined by rain, rain, and then a bit more rain. As we headed towards the north-west coast, I wasn’t expecting anything different. This corner of Atlantic Spain was known for it’s wild weather and it’s equally wild coastline. When we arrived at the city of Santiago de Compostela, the rain looked like it had well and truly set in for the duration.
We went for dinner that evening at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant, the name of which I have long forgotten, although the memory of the food and drink remains. It was the kind of place that grinds to a halt when you enter, and all the local diners stare as you make your way to the table. There was no menu; you were served whatever was going. In Galicia, this usually means seafood, especially shellfish freshly harvested from the rain soaked seashore. We ate mussels and scallops, the biggest and juiciest I have ever encountered, octopus sprinkled with paprika, and razor clams. This was all washed down with a bottle of the local white wine.
I had never tried Spanish white wine before. In fact, I didn’t even realise that such a thing even existed. My only experience of Spanish wine up until now had been trusty old reds. I was delighted to discover that this was a wine of beauty. Light and crisp, it was the perfect accompaniment to the salt water freshness of the seafood, and was both dangerously cheap and easy on the palate. It was no great surprise that we ended up stumbling out into the glistening granite streets of Santiago more than slightly worse for wear!
I have always since struggled to find a wine that matches up to what we tried in Galicia. Sadly, it appears that wine from the Rias Baixas doesn’t travel all that well. However, the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Albarino comes pretty close. It has the same drinkability, with a fresh, clean taste that makes it very easy to finish off a bottle before you even realise it. Now that we are moving towards the warmer months, this is definitely a wine to put on your shopping list. Although, as my experience in wet and wild Galicia testifies, you don’t necessarily need the sun to be able to enjoy Galician wine. Which is probably just as well when you are dealing with the British summer.