Serving The Salinity: Mar de Frades Albarino

The Salnès Valley, Rías Baixas… Just a kilometre from the coast, where the strong, salt-carrying Atlantic breezes and granite soils give grapes that make fresh, zesty wines with saline and mineral flavours.

This is where the Mar de Frades winery is located, at a spot on the Arousa Estuary nicknamed ‘Sea of the Friars’ (or, ‘Mar de Frades’) where pilgrims used to disembark from their maritime journey on their way to Santiago de Compostella.  This is also where self-confessed Albariño geek winemaker Paula Fandiño experiments with lees-stirring, the Ganimede method of vinification and ageing her Albariño wines in different materials.

Paula joined Mar de Frades in 2007, and since then has built up a relationship with over 200 growers in the extremely fragmented landscape.  The winery also now owns 60 hectares of vineyards in some of the best plots in the area, making the winery one of the largest - and, with Paula’s work, most innovative - in the region.  Future single vineyard releases are in the pipeline, but what better way to start following the Mar de Frades story than with two vintages of the flagship Mar de Frades Albariño - don’t forget to look out for the ship that appears on the thermochromatic label when it is chilled…


Vineyards & Winemaking

With around 2,250 hours of sun a year, and 1,500mm of rainfall, humidity is the constant enemy in the region so vines are trained high on granite pergolas to prevent diseases forming.  Soils are also granitic with decomposed sand, combining with the Atlantic breeze to bring an overall minerality and salinity to the finished wines.


One of Paula’s driving forces is to prove that Albariño can be far more than a simple, one-dimensional grape and for many years now she has favoured the Ganimede method for her vinification.  After hand-harvesting and -sorting, the grapes enter a cold maceration process to help highlight the complexity of the wines: an inverted cone in the interior of the tank allows small CO2 injections to enter and prevent oxidation while protecting the elegant, yet subtle, aromas of the Albariño grape.  Topped with lees-ageing and stirring, the Mar de Frades Albariños are a lot more than meets the eye…


Mar de Frades Albariño 2018                RRP £18.75, Great Western Wine

The 2018 harvest began with high temperatures that caused a delay in leaf fall.  Winter arrived with plenty of low temperatures, and then in April the buds burst their first leaves.  Then came the region’s annual rainy period which lasted until June.  Flowering came with the first of the high temperatures, and the fruit-set took place during a short, sunny interval giving numerous and compact clusters.  Veraison arrived on 10th August along with many intensely sunny hours, giving uninterrupted maturation and on 14th September, harvest began.

87% of the grapes picked were taken to the Ganimede maceration tanks, where they remained on their skins with the CO2 for 40 hours.  The fruit fermented with its own yeasts, and then spent five months’ ageing on its lees.

Mar de Frades Albariño 2019                RRP £18.75, Great Western Wine

2019 was one of the driest winters since 2012, with the vegetative cycle beginning at least 15 days early.  Strong winds and thermal contrasts between day and night caused a scarcity of flowering: the rainfall only arrived in June, and as a result there were smaller and less compact bunches.  The rains ended with the beginning of maturation resulting in fresher, more Atlantic wines.  The harvest began on 5th September and lasted until the end of the month.

Only 57% of the total grapes went into the Ganimede macerator vats where they were left on their skins for 32 hours.  Another 21% was taken directly to the presses, where they were pressed in an inert environment before heading to the Ganimede vat for another 72 hours.  After fermenting slowly on their own yeasts for three weeks, the thick lees were removed and the wine then spent a further six months on its fine lees.