If I said the world Albariño, what would come to mind? To the average person, it would just sound like a random Spanish word that could mean anything from beluga whale to almond paste. To my fellow wine bloggers, it would bring up the more accurate image of a white wine grape that thrives in Galicia. In northwestern Spain, this area is not the hot land of sangria that most people picture when they dream of going to Europe. However, the location bears resemblance of Ireland while the cooler climate means it’s similar to the wine regions of the Loire Valley and New Zealand. It might not be flamenco and the Giralda in Sevilla, but it’s more than enough for me.
In order to celebrate this wine that doesn’t appear on too many Maryland menus, the latest PROTOCOL Wine Studio session was all about Albariño from Rías Baixas, a DO that was established in 1988. #WineStudio is an event that takes place on Twitter most Tuesday evenings at 9pm my time. I started following along a little over a year ago, and despite being a neophyte to the wine world, was welcomed into the fold to taste and learn among my fellow bloggers and wine lovers. The world of wine can be intimidating because there’s always someone out there who knows more than you and there are always a billion wines you haven’t tried yet. Luckily, #WineStudio is there to educate, include, and craft a balance between the more serious sides of wine and the fun that should always be had when opening up a bottle. I recommend it to all of my friends, no matter their background.
This Spanish session took place over nine weeks and included over a dozen wines. I was a General making my way through the pack. To begin, I opened up the 2015 Nessa from Adegas Gran Vinum. I didn’t know this at the time, but opening this bottle was the beginning of a self-realization that I am an ageist. Normally, I pride myself on not being too judgmental, but when it comes to Albariño, I’ll quickly judge anything out of its youth. Soft yellow in color, this smooth wine demonstrated a lot of the typical flavors found in Albariño. The light floral and tropical elements were balanced out with a nice touch of acid, making it the kind of easy wine I like to pop open after work and sip on while eating something simple like shrimp tacos. It’s not the kind of wine that will change the world, but for $17 a bottle, it’s a good standard introduction to what this grape has to offer.
For those who don’t go for zing, the 2014 Martín Codax is the wine to try. Like that cute little puppy in the Pixar short Feast, this wine begged for food. There were more layers to explore given the finesse found in this bottle compared to the Nessa. Yet, there was less acid, which turned an junkie like me off. The #WineStudio group was torn between the two, and this first week of tasting underscored how versatile this grape is. If the idea of delicate fruity flavors with hints of pear and lemon makes your mouth water, you may want to start off with this bottle. Like the Nessa, the $16.99 price tag makes it an easy one to choose when taking a risk.
After seeing the zestier side of the Albariño grape and comparing it to a more subtle approach, we moved on to the 2014 Viñabade, which tasted like the baby of the Nessa and the Martín Codax. As colorful as a daffodil with a cutesy spring bottle, this was the kind of wine you’d bring to a picnic. There wasn’t much to explore in the bottle, but the silky mouthfeel which was balanced out with a slightly crisp edge had that light feminine feel that blossoms in a spring day. Spend $15, bring it to a gathering, and breezily enjoy it with some mild food. That’s what this wine is meant for.
Rounding out the beginning of this 9-week event was the bottle that cemented my ageism and hinted that I probably wouldn’t mind making my way through fourteen bottles before the end of May. The 2015 Robaliño was a lush beachy wine that captured what whites meant for summer should be. This younger wine was soft gold in color, but bold on the palate. The classic tropics and floral flavors came through and captured what Albariño does best. It paired best with a Persian favorite, salad olivier, essentially an elevated potato salad. Clearly these first weeks weren’t about drinking with authentic Spanish fare, though it worked nonetheless. While it was the most expensive of the four, $18 is still well within my wine budget, and as my favorite of the first two weeks, I’d rather dish out an extra couple of dollars on a bottle I enjoy over something that wows me less. I’d hope you would agree.
What strikes me about this Spanish wine is that it’s perfect for those who are only willing to drink Chardonnay or are passionate devotees to Sauvignon Blanc. There is so much variety to be found from bottle to bottle that there’s something out there for everyone. It makes me a little ashamed to admit that I never made it to Galicia, even though I was only a hop, skip, and a jump away when I lived in Oviedo. Instead, I was mixing cheap red wine with Coke and a shot of rum until the early hours of the morning. If food wine sounds like more fun that the beverage I just described, consider joining me on Tuesday evenings at 9pm ET time. We’re done with Albariño for now, but you can learn a bit about the wine that rules the summer, rosé.
These wines were kindly provided to me by the companies listed above, but all opinions are my own.