Albarino, Portico da Rio a crisp, zesty white wine from Spain!

Recently I have been discovering Albarino.  I have enjoyed it before, but had not looked deep into it.  Now I needed to learn more about this wine, it’s origins, it’s moods.  So time for some research, which of course will include a few more bottles.

To begin with Albarino is a white Spanish wine.  It is grown in the Rias Baixas region of Spain.  Rias Baixas is Galacian for “lower Rias”.  This area is located in the North West Corner of Spain, just above Portugal.  It is close to the Atlantic Ocean and the area tends to have mild temperatures and to be damp.   This is the wettest part of Spain and often pergolas are used to get airflow up under the vines to prevent mildew and disease.  The soil here is mostly slate & granite which are perfect for cultivating this grape.  This is one of very few Spanish grapes that are produced into a variety of it’s own.

The stories of it’s origin are interesting.  One legend has monks bringing Riesling or Petit Manseng from Burgundy to this part of Spain in the 12th or 13th centuries.  It has since been proven to be indigenous to Spain, but it does resemble Riesling’s minerality.  It often has the body and weight of a Viognier and the acidity of a Pinot Gris.

I read quite a bit about the history of the area, but it was much more fun to hear about it from my friend Pepe who is from Spain.  He was so excited to tell me about Galacia.  The area is often wet and cloudy and feels more like Ireland than Spain.  He says this is not just the weather, but the fact that the Celts settled this area long ago, so you see many ginger haired blue-eyed spaniards here.  In addition it is not uncommon to hear bagpipes and Celtic crosses dot the landscape.

The albarino vines are low yielding and the berries are green, small and thick skinned.   It is often fermented in steel for an early drinking wine.  A more complex wine can be created with barrel fermentation or malolactic fermentation.  It pairs well with food because of it’s bright acidity, but has good body also. Being a coastal grape, it pairs beautifully with seafood.

In addition to being grown in Spain, it is also grown in Portugal (makes sense, as it is right over the border) and California.  I am looking forward to tasting some Longoria Albarino when we head back out to Santa Barbara County, if the 2013 has been released.  Richard grows this on his Clover Creek Vineyard.  We did enjoy a Verdad Albarino in the Qupe & Verdad Tasting room when were were last in Los Olivos.   On a separate tangent…if you have not been tasting and drinking the wines of Santa Barbara County, you are missing out.  This is by far my favorite wine region in the country.  Down to earth wineries and people and amazing wines.

We enjoyed a 2012 Iberian Remix Albarino from the Edna Valley at bin702 the other day.  It went beautifully with the lobster salad sandwich.  This wine is created by Master Sommelier William Sherer and are meant to pair with Mediterannean inspired dishes.  His idea with the label is to showcase Spanish grapes in American Viticulture.

We also enjoyed a nice Portico da Rio Albarino that we picked up inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.  This bottle does come from Rias Baixas.  This is a great deal for a varietal that is rarely found under $15.  I have heard reports of it selling at Trader Joe’s for anywhere from $5.99 to $9.00. On Cellar Tracker it’s listed as selling for $22, so if you find it at Trader Joe’s stock up!

Portico da Rio Albarino

Portico da Rio Albarino

I also found a great recipe for summer for Albarino “Hielo” which is basically a wine and fruit popsicle!  Visit the Albarino Explorers Club for the recipe!

So get out there and Explore some Albarinos!

 

 

 

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