Sometimes we, as business people, need to go to trade fairs. These are great places to meet up with suppliers, learn about new developments in the industry and look out for some interesting products to offer our clients back home. It’s pretty much the same as any other type of trade fair. However, at a wine fair, everyone offers you wine to taste, so it can become very difficult to maintain your composure after a day spent at one of these trade fairs, particularly if you don’t spit the wines you taste. It took us a couple of visits to some trade fairs before realising it is physically impossible to swallow every wine you are offered to taste!
Whilst there are some very large and extremely renowned annual trade fairs, there are also some smaller, more alternative ones. It was at one of these alternative fairs, called ‘Off the Record’, that we first met Xurxo from Bodegas Albamar.
Xurxo, a short name for George in Galicia, is the frontman of this small winery located in the most North-Western point of Spain. This region is currently enjoying a lot of international attention for its wines and, in my opinion, some of the most interesting wines currently created in Spain come from Galicia.
The winemakers from this region made some great, though potentially risky, decisions 20 or 30 years ago, and now that gamble is paying off. Many of the winemakers from this region spent their money on local grapes, and today Albariño is one of the most desired grapes around the world. Even new world countries like New Zealand and Australia are now planting Albariño.
Nowadays global warming is starting to affect the climate in Galicia, traditionally known as a very rainy, wet, and cloudy region. The warmer weather helps the white grapes to ripen to an optimal point and the red grapes now produce fruitier, more elegant red wines.
The vines at Rías Baixas, the main region where Xurxo works, are planted along the coastline and further inland. The vines that are located closer to the sea are elevated up to two metres from the ground to stop the grapes from rotting, due to the humidity of the soil.
There are a lot of sub-divisions when it comes to land plots, making the use of machinery impossible, so there are a lot of differences between coastal and inland wines.
Albamar was always a family-run business. Xurxo's parents used to look after the vines and sell the wine in bulk or bottled without labels, something that is quite traditional in this region. In 2006 Xurxo completed all of the paperwork required to be able to join the Rías Baixas Denominación de Origen. He then began to make wine his way.
Driven by passion and tradition, the quality of his wines continually improves, and today his wines are served in some of the most avant-garde restaurants and wine bars. Year on year he has become more innovative and he now works in other Galician regions, creating a range of up to 15 different wines. At the same time, he is mixing techniques to create outstanding Albariños like his PAI, a blend of 50% Albariño with malo-lactic fermentation and 50% that isn’t. His 69 Arrobas is another favourite of mine, a wine that is made with grapes that come from vineyards planted just a few metres away from the sea. You can taste the salinity and even some seaweed in this wine!
Apart from the magic that Xurxo creates in his cellar, he is also a very genuine person who is great to work with. If you immerse yourself in his wines you will get to taste a part of Galicia and you will be able to appreciate what Xurxo wants to share with the rest of the world…the love for where he comes from and for what he does with his wines.