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albarino

Albariño from Rías Baixas: Your Go-To Summer Wine

If you’re looking for a wine that is synonymous with summer, look no further than Albariño from Rías Baixas. This white wine from northwest Spain is dry and refreshing with a delicious mix of fruit, floral and mineral notes.

To find the Rías Baixas Denominación de Origen (DO) on a map, look to the upper left corner of Spain. It’s located in Galicia, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and Portugal to the south.

Picnics, pool parties and beyond, Albariño is the wine to uncork at any warm weather celebration. It pairs well with the flavors of the season, especially salads, seafood and shellfish. Or enjoy it with spicy cuisines like Thai, Indian and Mexican.

Albariño is meant to be enjoyed young, from one to three years after its release.

Here are some great Albariños from Rías Baixas to try:

Pazo Señorans Albariño 2013

Pazo Senorans AlbarinoThis Albariño comes from vineyards that are close to the sea, at altitudes of less than 300 meters. Stainless steel and temperature controlled fermentation help preserve the fresh characteristics of the grape.

Pale greenish-yellow in color, the wine opens with aromas of citrus and white flowers that develop on the palate. Refreshing acidity and gentle minerality give the wine a lively mouthfeel, and the crisp finish has a lingering touch of white grapefruit.
$25, 12.5% alcohol

La Val Albariño 2013

La Val AlbarinoThe grapes in this wine come from two estate vineyards at the southern end of the Rías Baixas DO. The Taboexa vineyard with its sandy and granitic soil is situated at 300 meters above sea level, and the Arantei vineyard is at 30 meters above sea level and has clay and pebble soils.

Bright straw yellow in color, the wine has notes of lemon, white apricot and fresh herbs, with orange peel and subtle bay leaf adding depth at the end.
$18, 12.5% alcohol

Burgáns Albariño 2013

Burgans AlbarinoThis wine from Bodegas Martin Códax with its distinctive label is one of the easier to find Albariños at wine shops. It’s named for the hill where the winery is located, which offers views of the Salnés Valley.

Pale yellow in color with some green tint, this wine is aromatic with citrus and stone fruit. Crisp flavors of lemon, golden apple and white peach are nicely balanced with soft acidity. The finish is clean with lingering mineral notes.
$15, 12.5% alcohol

To learn more about Albariño from Rías Baixas visit
www.riasbaixaswines.com.

AG Pick: Xarmant Txakolina 2010

If you’re looking for a wine to get you ready for warmer weather try the 2010 Xarmant Txakolina. It may be a bit intimidating to spell or pronounce but this white wine is extremely easy to drink.

Xarmant Txakolina comes from the Basque region of Spain, in the northeast part of the country. The Basque is located on the Atlantic Ocean just southwest of the French border.

The wine is produced by Arabako Txakolina, a winery that was founded in 1989 by eight growers from the same family. They came together to revitalize local winemaking that had been abandoned after the phylloxera epidemic wiped out vines in the mid 19th century. In 2003 their efforts were rewarded and the region was granted an official Denominación de Origen status.

The wine’s name means “charming” in French, though it is spelled in the Basque way. When pronounced, Xarmant sounds like “charmant.”

Xarmant is a blend of two grapes that are indigenous to the Basque region: Hondarribi Zuri (80%) and Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia (20%). The wine was fermented in stainless steel which preserves the fresh fruit flavors.

If you like Albariño you’ll like this wine. Light, upbeat and yes, charming, this is a wonderful warm weather wine. Xarmant Txakolina has an aromatic and floral nose, with crisp flavors of pink grapefruit, lime and apple. The finish is dry and refreshing with just a hint of spice.

Serve Xarmant Txakolina with oysters, mussels, white fish, salmon or salads. Or enjoy the wine on its own, as an aperitif or outside on a sunny afternoon.

A bottle of the 2010 Xarmant Txakolina costs $17.

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

Wine Trends for 2012

Broaden your wine horizons and stay ahead of the curve in 2012. The Amateur Gastronomer predicts what wine trends will be big in the new year.

The Return of Merlot

The much-maligned Merlot will be making its comeback in 2012! The grape and wine took a hit after the 2004 release of the movie “Sideways,” in which the main character Miles refuses to drink Merlot. In the years since the movie came out California winemakers have gone back to the drawing board, working with Merlot grapes to bring out their best qualities and flavors. The latest Merlots are better than ever so it is time you gave them another taste.

Box Wine

This isn’t your parents’ boxed wine (or that sweet stuff you drank in college). The new crop of cubed vino is offering some tough competition to bargain-priced bottles in terms of taste, convenience and cost. Brands like Santiago Station from Chile and Bota Box from California make easy to drink crowd-pleasing wines that are on par with other wines in the $7 – $9 bottle price range. A 3-liter box generally costs between $15 and $20 – pretty good when you take into account that the box contains the equivalent of four bottles.

Boxed wines are great for tailgating, parties and picnics, or for people who don’t want much more than a glass of wine a night. Because of the packaging the wine is not exposed to air – that means the wine can last for a month or so after you pour your first glass.

Wines from Patagonia

Argentina’s newest wine producing region is coming into its own with bold wines that are earning rave reviews. Vineyards are located in the province of Neuquén, about 680 miles southwest of Buenos Aires and just south of the province of Mendoza. The grapes grown are mainly Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), as well as the lesser-known Tannat. For a taste of the high quality wines being produced in Patagonia try one from Bodega del Fin del Mundo or Bodega NQN.

Mourvedre

In 2012 it’s time to give Mourvèdre the recognition it deserves. The “M” in “GSM” blends (along with Grenache and Syrah), Mourvèdre can be outstanding when it is on its own. This red wine grape adds structure, tannins and dark berry flavors when blended, and produces a bold and intense wine as a single variety.

You’ll find Mourvèdre blended with other red wine grapes in southern France (like the Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape), and in central California (like Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County). Look to these regions for wines made entirely from Mourvèdre. Bandol, on France’s Mediterranean Coast, is the go-to place for exceptional Mourvèdre. You’ll also see it as a single variety in Spain, where it is called Monastrell. Additionally, Mourvèdre produces a red wine drinker’s rosé wine – aromatic and full-flavored, perfect for warm and sunny days.

Albariño

Give Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio a break this spring and summer. As the temperatures rise the white wine to drink will be the lesser known Albariño. This grape and wine come from the Rías Baixas region in northwest Spain. You’ll also find it in Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho. Albariño produces dry and fragrant wines that are high in acidity with moderate alcohol. It is the ideal summer white, pairing with anything from seafood and salads to picnics and afternoons at the beach.

Cork Alternatives

Now that the debate between natural corks and screw tops has effectively been settled, there’s less of a stigma on alternative wine bottle closures. This year look for the newest ways wineries are sealing their bottles, from glass corks to the plastic ZORK.

AG Pick: Paco & Lola Albarino 2009

There’s something about Albariño that always puts me in a good mood.  Maybe it’s because I drink Albariño with fun foods like raw oysters and sushi, or that it’s one of my go-to wines on a warm and sunny day.

Though the weather may not be cooperating, I’m ready for springtime — and enjoying a glass of Albariño can transport me someplace warm.

Albariño is a white wine grape from Spain.  It is grown in the Rías Baixas region in the northwest, just north of Portugal.  You’ll also find it in Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho.

Albariño produces dry and fragrant wines that are high in acidity with moderate alcohol.

Imagine yourself on a beach or at a picnic — the the 2009 Paco & Lola Albariño is the wine you’d want to enjoy there.

Everything about this wine says fun, starting with the polka dot label.

Pale straw yellow in color, the Albariño is crisp and aromatic with floral and tropical fruit aromas.  On the palate are fresh flavors of white peach, pineapple, apricot and honeysuckle, with a hint of white flowers.  It’s bone-dry with nice minerality and a silky, refreshing finish.

Pair the Paco & Lola Albariño with shellfish, seafood, sushi, light pasta dishes and salads.  Or enjoy a glass as an aperitif outdoors on a warm day.

A bottle of the 2009 Paco & Lola Albariño costs around $20.

12.5% alcohol by volume

AG Pick: Nora da Neve Albarino 2005

I think I have found my favorite Albariño.  Of the Albariños I’ve tasted recently, the Nora da Neve stood out as being on another level.  One reason for its delicious taste?  Oak.

Haven’t tried an oaked Albariño before?  That’s not surprising.  Hardly any winemakers in Spain use oak with Albariño for fear it will dominate and overpower the delicate flavors of the grape.  This Albariño may be the exception — or perhaps the start of a new and tasty trend.

Nora da NeveThis white wine comes from the Bodegas Noras winery in Rías Baixas in the far northwest corner of Spain.  This region is well known for its Albariño and has been growing this varietal since the 12th century.

Bodegas Noras’ goal is to show Albariño at its most expressive.  Although Albariño is an Atlantic varietal, it loves the sun.  The grape can only reach its full potential when harvested fully ripe, which is achieved by careful vineyard and vine management, leaf control and selection of grapes.

The Nora da Neve Albariño was fermented and aged for seven months in French oak barrels.  This gives the wine concentrated and ripe fruit flavors and the lush, buttery mouthfeel of an expensive Sonoma Chardonnay.

This wine is rich and complex, which are two words I don’t usually use to describe an Albariño.  Aromas of citrus, pear and white flowers introduce flavors of orange, white peach, vanilla and a hint of minerality.  The bright and refreshing palate culminates in a supple and smooth finish that will make you crave another sip.  Medium-bodied with good acidity, this atypical Albariño is very well-balanced.

Enjoy this wine now with seafood, salads or light pasta dishes.

A bottle of the 2005 Nora da Neve Albariño costs around $23.

AG Pick Under $10: The Spanish Quarter 2007 Chardonnay-Albarino

Looking for a blend of old and new at a great price?  Try the Spanish Quarter 2007 Chardonnay-Albariño.  This Spanish white wine is an aromatic and lively combination of the native Spanish white grape varietal and the relative newcomer to Spain.

Spanish QuarterAlbariño is mainly grown in northwest Spain and can also be found in Portugal (there called Alvarinho).  It produces light bodied white wines that are generally high in acidity and have notes of peach and apricot.  Albariño wines pair well with antipasto, paella, cheese and seafood.

In the Spanish Quarter, the Albariño contributes intense floral aromas and bright acidity while the Chardonnay gives the wine a rich mouthfeel and tropical fruit flavors.

The wine is straw-green in color with a fragrant floral nose of exotic fruits.  The palate has highlights of ripe peach, tropical fruit, spice and a long, clean citrus finish.

This wine pairs well with seafood, chicken, rice dishes and vegetables.

A bottle of the 2007 Spanish Quarter Chardonnay-Albariño costs $9.99.

A Taste of Portugal's Native Grapes

With names like Trajadura, Loureiro, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional, the grapes of Portugal don’t exactly roll off your tongue.  Nor do they have the recognition of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.  But with more than 200 indigenous varietals, Portugal’s wines are definitely exciting to explore.

For a great introduction to Portugal’s wines, I recommend trying the wines from Herdade do Esporão.  I’ve been a fan of Esporao’s wines since I first tasted them last fall.

Monte VelhoEsporão is located in Alentejo, a region in the southeast that covers one third of mainland Portugal.  Hot and humid summers and granitic soil add unique character to the grapes.

For a taste of Portugal’s white varietals, try Esporão’s Monte Velho White.  It’s a blend of Roupeiro, Antão Vaz and Perrum grapes.  It’s fresh and aromatic with flavors of peach and apple.  The finish is clean and crisp.  Try this with seafood or pasta, or as an alternative to Chardonnay.  The Monte Velho White costs around $10.

For a more elegant and refined white try Esporão’s White Reserva.  It’s a rich and fruity mix of Roupeiro, Arinto and Antão Vaz, with hints of vanilla from time spent in new American and French oak barrels.  The White Reserva costs around $20.

Quinta da AveledaIf you’re a fan of Spanish Albariño try a bottle of the 2007 Quinta da Aveleda from the Vinho Verde region in northwest Portugal.  It’s a mix of Trajadura, Loureiro and Alvarinho (the Portuguese name for Albariño).  The wine is complex and dry with a crisp lemon-lime flavor.  A nice minerality and good acidity make this a great wine for shellfish and seafood.  It’s a great value at around $9 a bottle.

For a taste of Portugal’s red varietals try Esporão’s Monte Velho Red, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonês and Castelão.  The wine has rounded flavors of ripe berries and spice with oak and gentle tannins that give it a good body.  This goes well with a variety of meat dishes and tomato-based pasta dishes.  A bottle costs around $10.

Esporao RedI also really like Esporão’s Red Reserva, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonês and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has intense flavors of blackcurrant and cherry, with layers of oak and vanilla spice.  This goes great with beef or lamb.  The Red Reserva costs around $20.

My favorite red wine varietal from Portugal is Touriga Nacional.  This grape produces full-bodied wines that have flavors of blackberries, blueberries and rosemary.  Touriga Nacional is great on its own and can be even better when blended with other grapes.  Try a bottle of this instead of a Cabernet Sauvignon.

In previous years Esporão has produced a delicious single varietal Touriga Nacional.  From this year on the winery will only be producing this wine during exceptional years, so be sure to buy a bottle if you see one at your local wine shop.

Quinta das TecedeirasCasa Santos Lima in the Estremadura region in west central Portugal makes a delicious Touriga Nacional.  The 2007 vintage has big and chewy flavors of spicy deep red fruit.  This goes great with grilled meats.  A bottle of Casa Santos Lima 2007 Touriga Nacional costs around $12.

A more expensive alternative is the Quinta das Tecedeiras 2005 Reserva.  It’s from the Douro region in northern Portugal, which is best known as the source of Port.  The wine is a mix of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Amarela.  It has rich and full-bodied flavors of blackberry, plum and mocha with smooth and lingering tannins.  A sip of this makes you crave steak.  A bottle of Quinta das Tecedeiras 2005 Reserva costs around $28.

If the only wine you’ve ever tried from Portugal is a Port, it’s definitely time to visit your local wine store.

For more information on Herdade do Esporão visit www.esporao.com.

Click here for more information on Portugal’s indigenous grapes.