August 1st is International Albariño Day, but you need more than a day to celebrate this versatile Spanish varietal. So celebrate all week-long to coincide with Fiesta del Albariño, a Spanish wine festival held in Galicia Spain. I have always had an affinity to Albariño, so when I was invited to be a part Snooth Media’s virtual tasting of 11 Albariño wines from Rias Baixas, I cleared my calendar and had my own Albariño Fiesta. The tasting was led by Mark Angelillo, CEO of Snooth and Lyn Farmer, James Beard award-winning wine and food writer. Tasting 11 Albariños from Rias Baixas gave us all a clear understanding of the versatility and many expressions of this varietal.
Albariño is a crisp, steely, acidic, fragrant white grape grown in Rias Baixas(pronounced reeyahs-bye-shus) region of Galicia, Northwestern Spain. Alba-rino means “the white from Rhine”, and so the theory is that the grape originated from Alsace, France and thought to be a clone of the Riesling varietal. Galicia has heavy Celtic cultural influences, as the Celts were its earliest settlers. Galicia is truly unlike any other part of Spain in terms of weather, food and culture. The region has a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and Irish cultural influences. Albariño is also grown in Portugal, known locally as Alvarinho. Galicia is rich and lush and so is also known as “Green Spain”.
Albariños dominate the Rias Baixas, 90% of the grapes grown in this region are of this varietal. Rias Baixas when literally translated means “low estuaries”, referring to its many beautiful flooded valleys. Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the region has a maritime climate. The region is known to be misty, cool (though summers are quite warm) and humid. Due to its high levels of rainfall, the vines are trellised on high stakes and pergolas, thus allowing the grapes and vines to breathe and prevent rot.
The region is open to innovation and ideas. The wines are inventive and artisanal. Winemakers combine new technology with old traditions. As Lyn Farmer said during the tasting, “Winemakers in Rias Baixas are having fun, they have a sense of tradition but are not bound by tradition.” Women dominate wine making in this region, some of the best Albariños are made by women winegrowers with small boutique style bodegas. This new generation of winemakers are making wines that are unique in expression and styles and each Albariño wine has a distinct quality and flavor profile.
Albariños are typically drunk young, but many high quality wines are now being made with greater acidity, thus allowing for some aging. The wines are crisp, tart, fruity, and due do its proximity to the ocean, they also exhibit a unique minerality and salinity. The wines are made in a range of styles, depending on its terroir, sun exposure, proximity to rivers and various wine making techniques such as lees stirring and barrel fermentation. Albariños perfectly compliment the local cuisine of the region, which mostly comprises of shellfish, octopus, hake and cod. Albariños also pair well with Paella, Tapas, Cheeses, Sushi, Thai and Spicy Indian Cuisine.
Below are tasting notes of the many styles of Albariños we taste. All wonderful and offer terrific value. These wine are fun, whimsical, and cheerful, no snobbery or pretenses here. The best is that most wines are within a range of $15 to $25. All the wines are unique, exceptional and fun , clearly showing the many faces of Albariño.
Fillaboa Joven Albariño 2016 ($18) – Fillaboa is a beautiful property that is one of the oldest farms in Galicia. It delivers this 100% pure estate fruit Albariño. It has a marvelous, rich texture with stone fruit and spice on the palate. The spice gives the wine depth and dimension. A beautiful expression of a single estate wine.
Condes de Albarei Albariño 2016 ($15) – An award-winning winery bringing you a solid Albariño. Grown on granitic soils the wine has a crisp body and nice acidity. Lovely aromas of stone fruit, guava, and spice. Nice minerality on the finish.
Altos de Torona O Rosal Albariño 2017 ($20) – This wine has an amazing presentation with a beautiful bottle. Love that the label has a ton of information. The wine is pale yellow in color with notes of passion fruit, mango and melon. The wine has zippy acidity yet a slight creaminess on the finish.
Terras Gauda O Rosal Albariño 2017 ($25) – This wine stood apart from the others in that it is a blend of 70% Albariño, 20% Caiño, 10% Loureira, where the others were more single varietals. This is one of my most favorite Albariños. It has depth, concentration and structure. There is a nice creaminess on the palate with wonderful fruit notes of melon, peach and lime.
Viñas Adegas Galegas D. Pedro de Soutomaior Albariño 2016 ($20) – Don Pedro was a local Galician hero in the 16th century, the wine is made in his honor. Made in one of the warmer parts of Rias Baixas, it has more fruit and notes of citrus, kiwi, and melon. The wine also has a nice minerality and salinity.
Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño Albariño 2017 ($18) – Señorío is a collective of partners that combine their winemaking expertise and techniques to bring this really beautiful wine. It has notes of melon, stone fruit, and lime. The acidity is clear and mouth-watering yet very refreshing.
Paco & Lola Albariño 2017 ($24) This is a fantastic wine with a fun and friendly label. The wine has a beautiful pale yellow color with stone fruit and spice. This wine is produced by a cooperative of 400 growers, bringing together an exceptional wine.
As Laxaas Albariño 2017 ($19) – Wine has wonderful notes of peach, pear and melons. It has zippy acidity and is incredibly fresh. The wine has nice texture with a creamy mouthfeel.
Valmiñor Albariño 2017 ($20) – Light pale yellow colors in the glass. The wine has vibrant acidity and hints of white flower and passionfruit.
Pazo Señorans Albariño 2017 ($25) – This is one of my favorite Albariños. A light golden hue in glass with notes of lemon and peach on the nose. The palate had a nice soft creaminess followed by notes of mango, lemon and orange. This Albariño is extremely versatile and very food friendly. Would pair beautifully with paella and tapas.
Adegas Terra de Asorei NAI Albariño 2017 ($16) –The Nai has an exceptionally beautiful label. Asorei is the association of grower that produce this top quality Albariño. Galicia has strong traditions and its own language and NAI is a poetic tribute to women, symbolizing respect for the family.
Fiesta del Albarino is held on August 1st to Aug 5th 2018, and not that you ever need an excuse to have a crisp glass of Albariño, but a special week dedicated to this grape is truly a great reason to go out and stock your cellar with this refreshing white wine. So join me in the Albariño celebrations this week and have a bottle or two or three in honor of this incredible grape.
For more details on the Snooth virtual Albariño tasting click HERE
Pictures Courtesy of Rias Baixas Wines