ALBAMAR, Rias Baixas, Spain

If Sally sells seashells by the sea shore, Xurxo Alba of Albamar makes Albariño al alba del mar (next to the sea). If it were up to me, I’d stop right here. There’s really not much more to say. It’s what he was born to do. It’s what he knows best. He is the personification of Albariño.

His cellar is in Cambados, next door to his parents’ restaurant and tienda de ultramarinos, a small shop selling local artisanal foodstuffs. His family has been farming and making Albariño in the O Salnés sub-region of Rías Baixas for generations but it wasn’t until Xurxo finished his oenological studies that they started bottling and commercializing their own wines in 2006. They own about 2.5 hectares but source from about a total of 10 spread throughout this region dominated by smallholdings. Xurxo wishes they owned more but like theirs, neighboring vineyards have been passed along from generation to generation and working them is a way of life. It’s a hobby. It’s what people do on their free time. It’s a lifestyle that money can’t buy.

He farms and makes sure his farmers farm as naturally as possible, as much as the region permits. In the cellar, spontaneous fermentations with native yeasts are a common denominator in all of his wines. Whether he works the lees or uses oak is on a wine by wine basis, vintage by vintage.