Albariño is Spain’s greatest white wine. It’s home is in Rías Baixas in the northwestern region of Galicia. We uncorked 11 bottles to learn the secrets of this refreshing grape.
When we were invited to participate in an online tasting of Albariño from Rías Baixas, we were all in. Albariño is one of our favorite white wines and my visit to Rías Baixas a couple years ago etched memories of lush landscapes, stormy seas and friendly people. We had just one problem.
The virtual tasting, courtesy of Rías Baixas Wines and Snooth, the popular online home for wine lovers, featured 11 bottles. That’s a daunting task, even for us. So the invitations went out for an evening of Albariño. Our dinner party totaled 11 persons, forming a neat symmetry with our 11 bottles. (No, we didn’t sit there and each drink a bottle!)
Culinary treats were provided by our guests and the Green Dragon. The Green Dragon prepared broiled octopus (pulpo) and a seafood paella. Our top-chef guests brought a multitude of treats including crab cakes, bacon-wrapped figs, Spanish olives, Manchego cheese, salad and Galician almond cakes. I was focused on my critical tasks: chilling down the wine and uncorking and unscrewing the bottles.
Some people go ga-ga over an oaky bottle of Chardonnay. That’s not our palate profile. Oak can cover a multitude of sins and tends to blot out the fresh and delicate fruit of a white wine. So, we love white wines with crisp flavors, minerality and a minimum of oak aging.
I had six bottle stashed in the refrigerator and the rest in a cooler of ice. Rob provided a random number and that was the bottle I poured. That worked fine until about wine number six, when I realized we’d be tasting wine until a week from Tuesday. From that point on I offered a choice of two bottles at a time, and the guests could circle back to try the second one.
There were a number of take-aways from our wine dinner. First, Albariño is a versatile wine that pairs magically with seafood. I had a steady diet of octopus while in Spain, and the charred octopus was a brilliant pairing. Many of our guests hadn’t tasted Albariño before and so there were several who discovered a new favorite wine. The third insight is that winemaking techniques, different growing areas and (in some cases) blending can create surprising differences in the wine.
Most of what we tasted were 100% Albariño, but a pair from the O Rosal growing area featured a blend of Albariño, Loureiro and Caiño. Most have a lower alcohol percentage than typical wine at about 12.5%, which helps it be more food friendly.
Here are our tasting notes from our Rías Baixas event (with growing region and SRP):
- Condes dei Albarai (Val do Salnés) - $15 Given a “we like” thumbs up from our group, the Albarai uses vines older than 20 years and has tropical fruit notes.
- Bodegas As Laxas (Condado do Tea) - $18 Offers nice fruit on the back of the palate. Fresh flavors of apple and apricot.
- Don Pedro de Soutomaior (O Rosal) - $18.99 Named for a noble Galician warrior and knight whose victories were attributed to rising early. Lipsmacking good with smooth flavors of green apple. Great packaging!
- Pazo Señorans (Val do Salnés) - $25 This was my favorite.Aged five months on the lees, this has a complexity and herbacious, grassy notes that elevate it.
- Valmiñor (O Rosal) - $18.99 A 100% Albariño from O Rosal. Melon and grapefruit flavors.
- Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño. (Condado do Tea) - $18 This was an early favorite with our group. Great acidity and vivid flavors of citrus and peach. A top pick.
- Altos de Torona (O Rosal) - $20 This was the number two top choice. It’s bottle is most distinctive and has flowing flavors of green apple. Good acidity (a bit too much for some guests).
- Nai e Señora (Val do Salnés) - $15.57 Nai is a tribute to contemporary women. That and its stylish label made it a favorite with all the women who started singing “Nah na na na, hey hey hey, good bye! Tropical and aromatic.
- Fillaboa (Condado do Tea) - $20 Good acidity with elegant flavors of pineapple and citrus.
- Paco & Lola (Val do Salnés) - $21.99 A distinctive polka dot label and irresistible flavor palate of citrus and intense tropical fruit make this a favorite.
- Terras Gauda (O Rosal) - $23.99 Here is the O Rosal blending at its best. There is fruitiness from Albariño, intense aromatics from Loureiro and structure and exotic fruit notes from the Caiño.
Albariño from Rías Baixas is a perfect wine for warm weather sipping or pairing with your casual meals, particularly seafood. The cost is wallet-friendly. Our bottles started at $15 and topped out at $25 – not bad for one of the world’s best white wines. Snooth is offering a special deal on Albariño and you can find it here. It is also widely available in wine shops. Don’t forget the octopus!