Pergola-trained Albariño vines; photo courtesy of Pazo Señorans winery.
Last week, at the first Wine, Women & Wednesdays Networking Salon (http://www.meetup.com/winewomenandchocolate/events/122062882/) I had the pleasure of talking about and sharing a lovely white wine from Spain that I enjoy all summer long – Albariño. Most of the approximately 60 women at this event were having their first tasting of this indigenous Spanish varietal.
“Albariño is not Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, but it is frequently on wine lists and is fairly popular in retail, where bottles in the $10 to $12 range can be found,” says Alexander Stuempfig, Western Regional Director of European Cellars (www.europeancellars.com), who represents some Spanish importers. He adds that Spanish wines are a great value now, particularly “cool wines in older vintages” from regions such as Rioja – including the red varietals of Tempranillo and Garnacha – but Spanish whites are probably the least well known.
The southernmost portion of the Galician coastline of northwestern Spain is home to the Rías Baixas wine region. This is the coolest and wettest area of Spain, similar in climate to Scotland, with humid ocean breezes flowing in from the Atlantic, creating perfect growing conditions for white wine grapes. The jewel of these is the Albariño, which accounts for about 90 percent of all plantings in the area.
A thick-skinned white grape that is able to resist the fungal diseases prevalent in moist environments, the aromatic Albariño offers peach and apricot on the nose and palate, as well as a pleasing minerality. This grape is naturally high in acid, which balances out the fruitiness, and makes it a great food-pairing wine. Rías Baixas Albariño screams sea food, which is “the best in the world,” says Stuempfig, who says the wine goes “hand in hand” with the region’s indigenous razor claims, octopus, and scallops.
Per tradition in Rías Baixas, grape vines are trained on large pergolas to encourage air flow among the plantings and discourage fungal growth. Newer, more modern vine-training methods are now being implemented, as well as temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, which are producing Albariños with a crisp, refreshing style that allows the delicate fruit character to come through.
If you haven’t experienced an Albariño, I encourage you to do so. It’s a nice summer wine that will impress your friends at a gathering. I plan to bring a bottle to the Hollywood Bowl this week.
Earlier this month European Cellars had a variety of Albariños and other Spanish wines available for tasting at the Wine House (http://www.winehouse.com), and to my delight I sampled some excellent ones. Among them:
Pazo Señorans Albariño 2011 (http://www.pazodesenorans.com/) tasted of peach and yellow apple, with a nice acidity and smoothness attributable to some yeast (lees) contact. At $20 a bottle, this was my pick of the day. I was also told that this is a real “women’s” wine, as the winemaker, Marisol Bueno, is a woman and harvest is gently handled and carried out mostly by women at this vineyard. (Bueno was instrumental in having the Ríias Baixas region designated as a wine region in Spain.) This, of course, is the wine I chose to share at the WW&C Networking Salon, and it was a hit.
A less expensive ($13) option is the very aromatic Burgans Albariño (http://www.martincodax.com/en/producto#/burgans) which was crisp with hints of peach and apricot and a nice mineral finish.
Learn more about the Rías Baixas region of Spain at http://www.riasbaixas.depo.es/web2009/ and learn more about Albarino at www.albarinoexplorersclub.com.
Until next time, Salud!