Benito Santos Albariño 2010 Rías Baixas

17 Jun 2011 by Jancis Robinson

From €9.60, $15.99, and £11.70 (2009)

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Last Tuesday I went to the annual tasting of Fields, Morris & Verdin, the branch of Berry Bros & Rudd that sells mainly to restaurants. It was a real treat to go from high point to high point and to see so many of the producers themselves pouring the wines. I don't know whether it is the power of FMV, the lure of London in June or the fact that it is damned difficult to sell wine nowadays but pourers included Rick Kinzbrunner of Giaconda, Judi Cullam of Frankland Estate, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and all sorts of European wine stars such as Alvaro Palacios and Lorenza Sebasti of Castello di Ama.

One of my discoveries was a producer of convincing and distinctive Galician Albariño grown, often on granite pergolas, in the narrow Atlantic inlets in north-west Spain known as Rías Baixas (pronounced 'ree-ass bye-shass'). This is a style of wine I fell in love with when I first tasted it. It's quintessentially marine, dry and has a really appetite-inducing scent without too much alcohol, made from the same grape as Vinho Verde's Alvarinho over the border in Portugal. But in my experience, although it's unusual to find a bad one, it can be difficult to find a really outstanding one.

But Benito Santos is quite a find. Todd Blomberg was at FMV showing vintages 2007 right through to 2010. I thought the 2007 had survived well, without necessarily being a better drink than the current, 2010, vintage, which was really crammed with life and Albariño's marine breeziness and had unusual persistence. Unfortunately, I did not know that it is the 2009 that sister retail company Berry Bros are selling (for £11.70 a bottle) so did not taste it, but I should imagine it is currently in its prime for the 2010 was still quite youthful. I see, however, that the 2010 is already quite well distributed in the US, is available in Belgium and has already been placed by FMV with UK 'natural' food and drink retailer Natoora.co.uk at £12.69 a bottle. The alcohol level is just 12.8% and it is bone dry.

Benito Santos, named for the founder (in 1933), who was a great proponent of the Albariño grape, are followers of the vague concept of natural winemaking but Todd B did say that he added a bit of sulphur to ensure that the wines remain stable, leaving 21 ppm free sulphur in the 2010. They farm three small vineyards and it is the 5.64 ha Igrexario de Saiar, overlooked by a sixth-century Romanesque church, which is the most ecological and which is the one imported by FMV, but it presumably lends itself to many a mis-spelling in English hands. See tech spec here.   

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Tags:  Galicia, Spain
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