Rias Baixas is famous for its Albariño, and the Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes is one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries of the Rias Baixas DO [Denominación de Orígen]. Established in 1904, today the winery is housed in the 17th century palace located on the town square in Cambados. Juan Gil de Araújo Careaga is the owner of Fefiñanes, and famed winemaker Cristina Mantilla makes the wines at Fefinanes in addition to several other, premiere Galician estates. Thanks to the US importer, Kysela Père et Fils, we recently tasted Fefiñanes’ 2012 vintage and, also, an older vintage to explore its ageability.
There are five subzones of the Rias Baixas DO. Fefiñanes has long term contracts with growers in the Val do Salnés subzone on the lower reaches of the Ulmia River centered around the town of Cambados. This is one of the coolest areas of the DO due to its proximity to the sea. The 2012 growing season was a fairly typical one for the Val do Salnés. A very rainy spring was followed by a fresh, humid summer until the middle of August when the sun appeared and temperatures rose, resulting in ripe grapes and a successful harvest.
Due to the wetness of the climate, Albariño vines are typically trained along granite posts (parrales) to form 7 foot canopies called emparrados to maximize air flow and exposure to the sun. In the winery, the fruit is usually cold-macerated for as long as 48 hours prior to fermentation. Partial malo is often used to soften acids, and the wines are sometimes given extended time on the lees with bâtonnage. Some producers also partially ferment in oak and/or acacia barrels to add complexity and further improve ageability.
The Albariño grape makes aromatic wines of relatively high acidity. Stone fruit, melon, citrus and passion fruit aromas and flavors are most common, often with additional fennel and herbal notes. The thick skins and large number of pips of the fruit can sometimes result in residual bitterness if skin contact is too long. Wines made from Albariño often improve with 2-3 years bottle age, developing more complexity and roundness on the palate. Albariño wines pair beautifully with fish and seafood.
Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2012 Albariño de Fefiñanes Rias Baixas ($26) 91 Light medium yellow straw. Reveals scintillating aromas of yellow apple, starfruit, and summer melon with hints of honey and stone fruit. It’s soft on entry, filling the mouth with rich flavors of dried honeycomb and yellow peach, finishing on a chalky note. Made from cool climate coastal fruit.
Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2009 Albariño de Fefiñanes III Año Rias Baixas ($60) 93 This 100% Albariño is a selection of the best fruit and the best tank. Medium dark straw in color, it reveals a spicy late harvest character with notes of apricot and honey. Lush and deep, it’s a dry wine with the rich flavors and unctuousness of a sweet one, finishing with incredible persistence and distinct mineral notes. Aged for three years on the lees in steel tanks, this 2009 vintage illustrates how Albariño’s flavors mature and deepen with some bottle age.
Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2012 1583 Albariño de Fefiñanes Rias Baixas ($42) 91+ Medium yellow straw. A selection of fruit in the vineyard fermented and aged in used, 600 L sherry butts for 5 months with bâttonage, this Albariño weaves together spicy, smoky, lightly toasted vanilla oak with ripe pineapple and apricot on a creamy smooth palate. It finishes dry and with residual oak flavors lingering on the finish. First produced in 1995.
The US importer is Kysela Pére et Fils, Winchester, VA
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler