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Columna Albarino 2016
Named after the rías, or estuarine inlets, that flow as far as 20 miles inland, Rías Baixas is an Atlantic coastal region with a cool and wet maritime climate. The entire region claims soil based on granite bedrock, but the inlets create five subregions of slightly different growing environments for its prized white grape, Albariño.
Val do Salnés on the west coast is said to be the birthplace of Albariño; it is the coolest and wettest of all of the regions. Having been named as the original subregion, today it has the most area under vine and largest number of wineries.
Ribeira do Ulla in the north and inland along the Ulla River is the newest to be included. It is actually the birthplace of the Padrón pepper!
Soutomaior is the smallest region and is tucked up in the hills at the end of the inlet called Ria de Vigo. Its soils are light and sandy over granite.
O Rosal and Condado do Tea are the farthest south in Rías Baixas and their vineyards actually cover the northern slopes of the Miño River, facing the Vinho Verde region in Portugal on its southern bank.
Albariño gives this region its fame and covers 90% of the area under vine. Caiño blanco, Treixadura and Loureira as well as occasionally Torrontés and Godello are permitted in small amounts in blends with Albariño. Red grapes are not very popular but Mencía, Espadeiro and Caiño Tinto are permitted and grown.
Bright and aromatic with distinctive floral and fruity characteristics, Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last couple of decades. This grape claims dual citizenship of both Spain (in the Rías Baixas region) and Portugal, where it is widely planted in the northwest and is known as Alvarinho. In recent years, plantings have increased throughout California.
In the Glass
Bursting with rich, ripe flavor, Albariño can show flavors of orange blossom, grapefruit, lime, apple, pear, melon, and white peach. It may also have notes of almond paste, fresh cut grass, jasmine, or geranium. The best examples boast zingy acidity and often a briny, mineral quality. It is typically fermented in stainless steel to preserve the purity of its fruity flavors, though oak-aged examples can provide a weighty yet refreshing alternative to Chardonnay with surprising potential for aging. Due to Albariño’s thick skins and large number of pips, it often shows a bit of bitterness on the palate.
Albariño loves seafood, and can be paired with a variety of marine delicacies. Its distinctive waxy texture and lemony acidity make it a perfect pairing with fresh sardines, oysters, octopus, or squid.
Albariño is considered an aromatic variety, and actually shares many chemical compounds with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. If you enjoy these elegantly perfumed whites, chances are you’ll love Albariño.