Out on the western edge of the Celtic fringe of Europe is this small isolated country, a land of fjord like inlets called Rias, rolling hills and farms, empty beaches and rocky headlands along what is known as the coast of death. The land is beset by mild temperatures and wet rain, there is a pervasive mist that settles over the land almost year round. If it isn’t misty it’s raining, a light even soaking that plumps up the albarino grape in the Rias Baixas and allows a delicious full bodied white wine.
Galicia has age old links with Cornwall, Ireland, Wales and Brittany. The Gallego language is still widely spoken and is a hybrid of Latin, Spanish and Celtic. Folk music is popular and in the village bars it is not unusual to see a band playing using similar instruments to traditional irish groups. There is a slight sense of sadness across the land, it might be something to do with the weather, or the solitude, or the many who emigrate to the Americas- There are said to be more Gallegos in Buenos Aires than all of Galicia. An older man in a bar once tried to explain it to me as being ‘Moreno’ an untranslatable gallego word that means something like wistful, or happy-sad. When the people grow tired of the new world they come back to the wet valleys of their homeland, content with their discontent.
Albarino is the quality white from the region, and is one of the best wines to drink with seafood or strong fish. It’s very different flavour makes it a stand out at any tasting I go to, and for me it is the wine I always choose if it is on a wine list and we are eating seafood. The cool and wet climate is perfect for the white wine grape, and in the shelter of the rias the full flavour develops to perfection.
Last night we cooked some sardines on the bbq just outside the back door in a cold and wet december gale. The coals glowed bright red in the wind, cooking the sardines fast and searing the salt encrusted flesh. Like all over the iberian peninsula sardines are cooked outside in order to save the house from being too infused with the aromas. We shared them with roast rosemary potatoes, a crisp salad and a hot salsa, and of course plenty of Albarino wine to lift a wintry sunday late afternoon. We reminisced on our travels through the region, and the pervading sense of Celticness and ‘moreno’ that the little country has.
We bought some Maior de Mendoza, an atypical albarinho as it has been stored on the lees. However this has given the wine an added succulence and delightful apricot flavours.