Hot Topic: Albarino: Spain's Most Popular White Wine
By Gail Wallis
Updated April 19, 2010
The albarino grape originates in Galicia, misty land of the ancient Celts. Located in the lushly green and hilly northwest corner of Spain, Galicia is a land heavily reliant on the fishing industry. The climate here is greatly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, with wet and chilly winters, dry summers, and high humidity—perfect conditions for growing certain white grape varieties, such as Albarino. The grape also grows a bit farther south, in Portugal, where it is known as "alvarinho."
Albarino grapes are small and very sweet with unusually thick skins, which help the fruit tolerate the damp climate and also contribute to the acidity and flavor that characterize Albarino wine.
Most Popular White Wine in Spain
Though the albarino grape can be blended (and it often is!), only wine made from 100% albarino grapes can bear the label “Albarino wine.” Most of the Albarino wine hails from the Rias Baixas D.O. (Denominacion de Origen, which basically means that it's a Spanish controlled appellation). The Rias Baixas is located in the southern part of Galicia, along the jagged Atlantic coast characterized by deep inlets of seawater called rias. Albarino grapes make up roughly ninety percent of the plantings in the Rias Baixas D.O.
Albarino Tasting Notes
Fresh! Albarino wine is crisp and fragrant, with a virtual shopping cart of flavors and aromas: melon, pear, peach, tropical fruit, flowers. In the glass, the wine appears pale gold or straw-colored, often with tinges of green. The acidity of Albarino wine often gives it an astringent, or “cleansing” quality, which enables the wine to pair especially well with spicy foods.
And, here's a bonus: Albarino wine is a great value for the dollar.
Pairing Albarino Wine
Pair it with Friends: Serve Albarino as an excellent and refreshing aperitif. Sip a glass with friends on a hot summer day or a warm fall afternoon.
Pair it with Food: Uncork a bottle to pour with tonight’s dinner, for Albarino wine also drinks wonderfully with food. Though albarino pairs quite nicely with chicken dishes, this wine particularly shines with Asian dishes and with seafood—especially shellfish (hardly surprising, given its Galician origin).
You'll find that the fresh acidity of albarino wine complements most tangy, spicy dishes. Try it next time you get Asian take-out. Have it with paella, a Spanish rice dish that often includes spicy chorizo sausage, tomatoes, and seafood. Or pair a chilled Albarino with a simple sautéed shrimp, made piquant with ginger, garlic and tomatoes.
Try Martin Codax, Don Olegario, or Mar de Vinas Albarinos at Cool Springs
Wines & Spirits.
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