September 3, 2008

Wine 101 - Aa is for Albariño

Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in the Rias Baixes area of the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Considered by many to be Spain's premier quality white wine, Albariño is also known in Portugal as Alvarinho and often used as a component of Vinho Verde.

condesdealbarei.jpgWeather conditions in the Rias Baixes are generally cool, windy and rainy. Vines must be trained high and open to allow winds to dry them out and avoid the ongoing threat of rot, mildew and other fungal diseases. Notably, Albariño grapes develop thick skins here, contributing to their intense aromas.

Typically, wines made from Albariño are very aromatic, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, peaches, citrus, and flowers or grass. Albariño wines are particularly suited to seafood due to their bracing acidity This grape's inherent tartness should be embraced in youth, for wines made from Albariño do not age well, and the vibrant aromas begin to noticeably fade within months of bottling. (from Professional Friends of Wine)

As with all varietals you can find Albariños that range from thin and watery to ripe and lush. I would advise selecting one that has been recommended to you to avoid encountering the former. Also, be sure that the vintage is within a year or so, as these wines are meant to be enjoyed young. One of my favorites is from Adega Condes de Albarei. From the first whiff of citrus blossom, pineapple and melon I am completely enamored. Though it does maintain the vibrant and crisp characteristics true to the varietal, I find this Albariño to shape-shift on my palate with bursting flavors of ripe white peach, juicy grapefruit, tropical fruit-- all tempered with a clean subtly mineral finish. It is pretty tough for me to locate so I often look for substitutes. But I have yet to find another that is as interesting in the $12-$15 price range.

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Posted by Noël Wallace at September 3, 2008 7:19 PM
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