What a perfect weekend to enjoy a chilled glass of crisp, white wine from the lesser-known but increasingly popular grape called Albarino (pronounced ahl-bah-reen-yo).
It just sounds wonderful rolling off the tongue — and the best part; it tastes even better.
Albarino wines are produced in several countries including the United States (California, Oregon and Washington) and Uruguay. But the most notable plantings are from Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, where it’s known as Alvarinho (most often part of a blend) and the northwest corner of Spain.
Albarino produces a dry, medium to full-bodied wine that’s intensely aromatic with a crisp personality — along with fruity flavours of stone fruits, apricot, melon, Granny Smith apples, orange, citrus and complex notes of sea-spray, minerality and fresh flowers — with a medium-full weight on the palate. The wines are crisp and fresh, barrel-aging is not common, and the wines are generally intended to be consumed within one year after harvest.
Imagine a summer’s day with a glass bowl overflowing with fresh peaches, a few bright lemons, limes, and oranges, set out on a stone patio table among a garden in full bloom — that’s what Albarino tastes like. A perfect pairing with simple summer dishes such as fresh, sautéed or fried fish dishes, or any tapas that are salty with some fat.
In the Spanish region of Galicia, the climate, proximity to rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean and the predominately granite-based soils result in a unique expression of Albarino. The subzone of Rias Baixas (ree-ashe by-shas) produces 99 per cent white wines and approximately 95 per cent of those vineyards are planted to Albarino.
Along with loads of sunshine, the area receives 102 to 165 cm (40 to 65 inches) of rain per year, compared to approximately 48 to 63 cm (19 to 25 inches) per year in the Edmonton area. These conditions result in lusciously green vineyards with morning summer fog — the groundwork for the amazing wines of the region.
The grapes are medium-sized, growing in tight bunches with a thicker skin to combat mildew and disease because it is so wet. Many of the vineyards still use a pergola vine-training system where the vines spread high on granite pillars (the soils are predominately granite which explains the minerality of the wines from the region), allowing increased air circulation to counter the humidity and produce healthy fruit.
Here are my recommendations for six refreshing, aromatic and vibrant wines from the Albarino grape.
VINTAE ATLANTIS ALBARINO $19
A great value-priced example of Spanish Albarino with balanced acidity and flavours that lean towards more tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple with crisp and zesty notes of Granny Smith apple and lime.
From the historic family-owned estate in Rias Biaxas, this aromatic example of Albarino has aromas of pineapple, stone and citrus fruits and hints of apple, a fruity, fresh and very zesty wine with a unique and expressive personality.
ZARATE ALBARINO RIAS BAIXAS $25
Family owned winery and pioneers of high-quality wines from Albarino dating back to the 1700s. This crisp, zesty Albarino has aromas and flavours of wet granite with notes of Granny Smith apples, lime and orange zest.
TERRAS GAUDA RIAS BAIXAS O ROSAL $35
O Rosal is one of five subzones within the Rias Biaxas that lies along the northern banks of the Mino River along the Portuguese border. This zone has a warmer climate than to the north and allows other native varietals to be blended in, such as Loureiro and Treixadura. This is the flagship wine of Terra Gauda that is both elegant and expressive, a blend with 70 per cent Albarino expressing fruity aromas and flavours of ripe peach, fresh-picked herbs, flowers, mineral notes and orange zest.
GARZON ALBARINO $25
A wonderful and rich expression of Albarino from Uruguay. The warmer climate results in a higher level of alcohol, creating a fuller-bodied and rounder expression along with the typical characteristics of bright acidity, peach and citrus.
FERDINAND ALBARINO $35
The grapes are organically farmed in California with a production of only 800 cases. It’s a light, crisp and interesting wine with grapefruit, notes of fresh flowers, fresh garden soil, dried herbs, touch of salinity, lime zest with a dry and slightly bitter refreshing palate. Also available in a 375-mL can!
Wine selections are available at select Alberta shops. Log onto liquorconnect.com to check availability and give them a call to verify.
Juanita Roos opened Color de Vino, a fine wine and spirits store, with her family in 2014. She has travelled to wine regions around the world and completed the prestigious WSET Diploma from London, England, the prerequisite for the Master of Wine program. Send your questions about wine to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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