And it's why the wines from Santiago Ruiz are so distinctive: refreshing yet complex, with notes of Meyer lemon, passion fruit, rose, jasmine, green apple and oyster shell. In Galicia, they drink it with shellfish and cured ham, but perhaps its ideal match comes from the other side of the world, because its floral qualities make it superb with Vietnamese food.
The handmade map on the label is a personal touch: Winery founder Santiago Ruiz's daughter Isabel drew it to show guests how to get to her wedding.
In fact, in this region of contradictions, it probably should come as no surprise that the biggest producer of Albariño is also one of the best. Martin Códax, a co-op of 500 families with 2,400 separate plots of land that total 13% of the vineyards in the region, is the area's largest winery. The winery is easily the region's most marketing-savvy. And the label is imported by Gallo.
But while the stage seems set for a generic wine of no distinction, that's not the case. That's thanks to stubborn ninth-generation winemaker Luciano Amoedo, who lives in a house built in 1785 and does what he wants. That includes rejecting more than 30% of the grapes the co-op's members brought him last year.
"The best white wines in the world are from very extreme areas and we are one of those," Amoedo says.
I don't think I've tasted a better 2008 Albariño than Martin Códax, with green apple and peach flavors and excellent balance. And at $14.99, it's the cheapest of all the major exports. Gallo's efficient distribution has a huge benefit. Don't you love it when the least expensive wine is best?