The region of O Salnés is a place full of magic. In its territories coexist landscapes that have nothing to envy to Tuscany, with the marine snapshots of the Arousa estuary. From the first comes the albariño. And from the latter, the fruits of the marine pantry of Europe. Both the land and the sea insufflate in the inhabitants of the region a unique knowledge and way of being. That is why it has seen the birth of such fascinating personalities as Valle Inclán, Ramón Cabanillas, and Julio Camba.
Precisely, the latter, one of the most important journalists and correspondents in the history of Spain, was born in the same municipality where Pazo Baión is located: Vilanova de Arousa. This translated into his unconditional love for wine. Julio Camba (1876-1959) enjoyed, throughout the length and breadth of the planet, the best elaborations. From France to the United States, from Old Europe to the New World.
All his winemaking wisdom seeped into his journalistic chronicles and the books that compiled his work. Especially in La casa de Lúculo o el arte de comer (1929), a fascinating treatise on gastronomy; and in La ciudad automática (1932), a compendium of his New York chronicles.
We can think of no better way to celebrate Book Day than remembering the close relationship that united a genius of letters, such as Julio Camba, with the most important elaboration of his homeland: Albariño. A love beyond the seas and furrowed by words.
Julio Camba, a wine lover across the world
When he was still a teenager, Camba emigrated as a stowaway to Argentina. Thus began a journey that took him from the Arousa estuary to some of the most important cities in the world: London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, New York … The story of a self-made man, a cosmopolitan and universal journalist who not only did not renounce his roots but put them in value whenever he could.
As we said before, O Salnés marks his descendants with fire. In his many jobs as a journalist, parliamentary chronicler, columnist, and foreign correspondent, Julio Camba was influenced by his origins. His sense of humor and his prodigious use of irony came from the Galician retranca. His profound gastronomic and wine knowledge was rooted in the valuable products of the Rías Baixas: seafood and Albariño wine, which, at that time, was far from being the flourishing and prestigious industry it is today.
During his European correspondents, Julia Camba was able to investigate and taste the most important wines in the world at that time: the French. In La casa de Lúculo o el arte de comer he makes an exhaustive review of the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, the Rhine, Alsace… He classifies them according to their quality, assigns pairings, and writes a sort of rules for the enjoyment of wine.
Regarding white wines, such as Albariño, he considers that they should be served chilled and have a soft bouquet. Likewise, he maintains that white wines should be drunk with seafood and fish. As is traditionally done in the Rías Baixas, where seafood products have been accompanied over the centuries by traditional elaborations made from the albariño grape variety.
Enhancing the value of tradition
His fascination for the booming French wine industry turns into disenchantment as the years go by. The elaborations abandon the traditional to give way to a purely mercantilist process:
Undoubtedly, wine production in Europe today is a typically American industry, and the European who does not want to drink standard wines will have no choice but to pack his suitcase and come to America.Julio Camba, La ciudad automática
When he arrived in New York, as a correspondent for the ABC newspaper, he discovered the effects of Prohibition (1920-1933). When the commercialization of wine was prohibited, it became a purely homemade product, since the vines could be cultivated for self-consumption.
This return to the artisanal deeply captivates Camba. Perhaps it takes him back to his childhood, to the Albariño at home, made from the grapes that were harvested from the vineyards and which escaped any kind of standardization. Wines are made following centuries-old knowledge, passed down from father to son, originating in the Roman Empire and perfected in medieval monasteries. Hence his statement that:
America makes its wine exactly as Europe did in the Middle Ages, and it does so not only with grapes from California but also with Spanish, French, Italian, and German grapes.Julio Camba, La ciudad automática
With this defense of traditional wine, Julio Camba charges against the standardization of wine. Since, when talking about such a complex elaboration, it is impossible that «it is presented to us every year with the same color, the same smell, and the same taste».
The journalist from Vilanova de Arousa used his verb to value not only the traditional but also the diversity of the wine universe. To defend that every good wine is different from the others since it has an aromatic composition and an acidity that makes it unique.
With his New York chronicle, Cambia indicates the path of the future wine industry: the commitment to elaborations full of what he had plenty of: personality.
Or, to put it another way, to grow, wine should not be transformed into a soft drink, but rather enhance what makes it what it is.
Albariño wine: tradition and innovation
Be that as it may, time proved Julio Camba right. At least concerning the wine, he grew up with: Albariño.
What was once an embryonic industry, eminently local and for self-consumption, has become a thriving sector, in which innovation and care in all phases of the wine go hand in hand. The result of this process can be seen through the data of the D.O. Rías Baixas. Today, Albariño wine is consumed in 70 countries around the world, and in 2021 more than 9.4 million liters were exported.
All this, fleeing from the standardization against which Julio Camba clamored. Albariños stand out for their freshness, personality, and structure.
Its prestige has grown to the point of placing albariño in the world’s wine Olympus. A league of excellence in which it plays on equal terms with the wines that Camba analyzed in La casa de Lúculo o el arte de comer.
Thus, industrial flourishing has not been accompanied by the homogenization of wines. Nor has the professionalization of winemaking caused the centuries-old tradition to be left behind. Quite the contrary. The albariño wineries have been able to combine tradition and innovation to produce unique elaborations and enhance the most important thing: a unique raw material in the world, the albariño grape.
Pazo Baión’s single-estate wines: acidity and personality in abundance
Returning to Julio Camba‘s provocative words, he pointed out that in the United States «everyone takes exquisite care in their production». In this way, he continued to emphasize the value of craftsmanship, of the goldsmithing behind the homemade elaborations.
This same spirit has been the basis of the Pazo Baión project since 2008 when Condes de Albarei bought the property. Each of the winery’s three wines, Pazo Baión, Gran a Gran, and Vides de Fontán, is a work of wine-making goldsmithery. The three wines are made solely and exclusively from grapes harvested in the estate’s vineyards. That is why they are single-estate wines. And the Pazo Baión team takes care and pampers every detail from the cultivation of the vines to the bottling and marketing of the wine.
In this way, the professionals at Pazo Baión manage to combine cutting-edge technological advances, such as the concrete egg to age the wines, with the wisdom and know-how of thousands of years. The objective is none other than to produce unique wines, brimming with personality and complex structure.
Thus, Pazo Baión’s single-estate Albariños take advantage of the abundant acidity of the grapes harvested on the estate to make unique wines.
To take up what Julio Camba said almost a century ago: Pazo Baión, Gran a Gran, and Vides de Fontán have neither the same color, the same taste, nor the same smell as any other wine in the world. They are unrepeatable, just like the home wines with which Camba delighted his senses when he visited Vilanova de Arousa between trips.
That is why we believe that Julio Camba would have fallen in love with Pazo Baión’s single-estate Albariños. Just as we love his work and his legacy. A man who took the Salnés and Albariño around the world, many years before our wines were awarded, valued, and consumed in the same places where he traveled. And that he described brilliantly to all his readers.
Few things pair better with the most fascinating words than with good wine.
Happy Book Day!