One of my favourite summer whites is Albariňo, thanks to its light body and fresh taste. Its flavours are subtle and elegant – grapefruit, pear and peach are accented by a certain saltiness, reminiscent of a whiff of seashore. It’s crisp rather than overtly acidic. Occasionally a feint spritz of carbon dioxide is left in the wine, for freshness. Some premium wines are lees-aged, giving extra richness and texture.
Albariňo is the variety, and Rias Baixas is the wine region, which is in Galicia in the north-west of Spain. (It’s probably better known to hikers as the finish point on the famous Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route). Look out for ‘O Rosal’ on the label which denotes that it’s from one of the best vineyard zones.
This area has a Celtic influence in their music and customs, and their weather is rather Celtic too – quite a lot of Atlantic rain. This makes it more difficult to farm grapes, and only thick-skinned varieties like Albariňo can survive the damp conditions. It also reduces yields. The bottom line is that Albariňo is rarely cheap.
Albariňo goes perfectly with briny shellfish, such as prawns or crab, or any really fresh-tasting, simply cooked fish. It sang beautifully recently when I paired it with a crab and smoked salmon starter at a special wine tasting and dinner. Everyone was impressed and it made me look good! In Galicia, it’s often enjoyed with more exotic offerings like octopus or whitebait. Ceviche, that South American speciality where perfectly-fresh fish is marinated in citrus juice and fresh herbs, would be fantastic too.
3 to try:
Martin Codax Albariňo 2015 is one of the most widely available in specialist shops, and is an excellent benchmark. Delicious thick-skinned green apples, grapefruit zest, and seashore minerality. €16.50, widely available in specialist shops nationwide.
Valminor Albariňo 2015 was voted one of the best Albarinos by prestigious Decanter magazine recently. It’s from the ‘O Rosal’ area, known to produce some of the best quality Albariňo. €19 from good wine shops.
Lagar de Costa Albariňo 2015 is a very reliable stalwart. Apple blossom, pear, stony steely character, with an almost waxy mouthfeel, and an impressively long finish. €19.95, but often on promotion, O’Brien’s.