Back in September six lucky Majestic Wine members of staff got the opportunity to visit the Martín Codax Winery in Spain. Some of you will be familiar with their Albariño which is a favourite amongst Majestic staff and customers alike. Pippa Macneal, Trainee Manager of Majestic Wine Giffnock, tells us all about their trip…
An adventure around the coast of Rias Baixas in the Galacian region of North Western Spain is truly the most incredible way to sample the delights that Northern Spain has offer. The six of us had been invited to spend three days in Rias Baixas as guests at the Martín Codax Winery, spent the afternoon cruising around the coast in an old fishing boat with the ‘Fisherman Man‘ and ‘El Capitan‘. We spoke little Spanish, they little English, but we had a curiously wonderful understanding!
‘Rias Baixas‘ is a Galician term meaning ‘Lower Rivers‘. The area takes its name from five large rias or flooded river valleys which are firth-like inlets along the coastal estuaries that were drowned with rising sea levels at the end of the ice age. These are remarkable features and enhance the already stunning scenery. Although the climate in terms of viticulture is typically affected by the Atlantic sea in this area, giving mild temperatures with plenty of rain and sea fog, we were lucky and the sun shone down on us as we spent our afternoon tasting different vintages of deliciously chilled Martín Codax Albariño. This style of wine is refreshingly food friendly showing a rich lemon colour with an aromatic and complex nose wine which follows through to richly textured yet beautifully crisp flavours on the palate. Tasting these wines really confirmed the aromas we had experienced on the nose showing flavours of ripe apple, peach, melon and grapefruit, finishing with a salty edge and a smooth minerality. These wines have a lovely balance of acidity, body and fruit aromas. The wines display great intensity due to the fact that Albariño grapes develop thicker than average skins which consequently result in richer more concentrated aromas and flavours. The salty tang shines through due to the influence of the sea as the vineyards are in close proximity to the Atlantic ocean.
With our glasses of Albariño, we sampled fresh mussels and clams cooked within minutes of leaving the water, no messing around with fancy sauces just cooked naturally in their own juices. We also tried Empanada which was described to us as a Galician sardine pizza – absolutely delicious! These are typical Galician specialities which when washed down with Martín Codax Albariño make the perfect food and wine pairing. The floral, fruity notes of these wines alongside their slight saltiness compliment shellfish perfectly.
Whilst on the boat soaking up the September sun and sampling the Galician culinary and wine delights we learned a little of the history of both the area and the Martín Codax winery. Rias Baixas, pronounced ‘Ree-ahss By-hahss‘ is a region which boasts many bodegas producing wines with the classification of Denominacion Origen of Spain. The Martín Codax bodega is one of largest and was founded in 1986 by 50 families. Today it is a co-op comprising almost 300 families and picks its grapes from 1,400 plots of land, which are ‘emparrado‘ or harvested by hand. The soil is typically formed of granite bedrock with sandy soil. The vines are trained along granite posts called ‘parrales‘ in order to protect them from humidity as the area is damp and prone to sea fog. This form of training also helps to maximise their exposure to the sun in summer.
We were lucky enough to meet and taste with the chief wine maker Luciano Rodino who uses only 100% Albariño in his Martín Codax wines. The Albariño grape is often likened to both Riesling and Viognier; Riesling for its minerally character and Viognier for its bouquet of peaches and apricots. Many wine experts believe that Albariño is actually the Riesling grape and that the vines were brought over by medieval German pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostela. The regulatory council in Rias Baixas disagrees and believes that the Albariño grape is indigenous to the area – our host also strongly believes it is a Spanish noble variety and the wine’s taste is specific to its climate, locational factors and sense of place.
Later on – Manager of Majestic Wine Muswell Hill – Kate McFruin was put at the helm for a while, a much more complicated business than first anticipated incorporating a sat nav system with a sense of depth. But she did a sterling job, avoided the rocks and managed to keep us afloat! The final gem of the afternoon came as we were embarking on our pudding… a school of dolphins swam alongside us for several minutes… a rare and absolutely fantastic sight that we were so priviledged to experience. What a remarkable way to spend an afternoon… beautiful local wine, tasty fresh shellfish, superb company and a real glimpse of nature. Wow!!