It seems like a lot of California wineries these days are jumping on the Spanish AlbariÃ±o bandwagon. Why? Because this wine is tasty, crisp, and refreshing. It is a wonderful diversion from the popular varietals of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. It screams for seafood. At the Tapas Grand Tasting we were delighted to find a good number of the wineries pouring samples of AlbariÃ±o wine.
We love everything about AlbariÃ±o wine and we drink it often. When we were in Spain in 2007 we visited the tiny town of Cambados. The town is the center of the Rias Baixas wine region where the AlbariÃ±o grape is almost exclusively grown. We happened to be in Cambados at harvest time. What a treat! There are many very small AlbariÃ±o vineyards, farmed by homeowners, surrounding Cambados. They passionately farm their vineyards with many using no poisons or fertilizers. We watched at the Martin CÃ³dax co-op winery as these farmers proudly brought in their grapes to be part of the co-op bounty.
At the Tapas Grand Tasting, we managed to try several AlbariÃ±o wines. We felt they were all good but most lacked the characteristic of what we love in our favorite Spanish AlbariÃ±o wines. These favorites of ours have a touch of lemon and lime aromas and flavors, and a hint of a dry Riesling characteristics.
Our Favorite AlbariÃ±o Wines at Tapas
Mahoney Vineyards in Carneros makes a delightful AlbariÃ±o. The cool climate of the Carneros is very similar to Rias Baixas in Spain. The current release is 2008 and sells for $18. Another wine we thought similar in character to the Spanish AlbariÃ±o was the Tangent 2008 AlbariÃ±o from Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo. It sells for $17. Also quite good, and on our recommended list, are the 2009 Longoria, Santa Ynez Valley for $23 and the Harney Lane 2008 AlbariÃ±o from Lodi at $19. I can’t imagine how they can grow this cool and damp-loving grape in Lodi but the wine is delicious.
Like what many of the winemakers said about producing a Tempranillo, making an AlbariÃ±o is all about passion. It is not a well-known wine and is a tough sell. Few cases are made. Perhaps the most difficult part of selling this wine to the consumer is the price point. There are several Spanish AlbariÃ±o wines with high ratings that are selling in the price bracket of $12 to $15. For example the Martin CÃ³dax AlbariÃ±o, which is a favorite of ours, is on sale this month by a huge retailer for under $9 a bottle. It must be so difficult for small wineries to compete in this environment.
Next time you see an AlbariÃ±o on the wine shelf, do yourself a favor and buy a bottle or two. Serve a glass to your guests and, almost assuredly, they’ll respond with a quizical, “Wow, what is this wine?” AlbariÃ±o goes well with seafood dishes like seafood Paella. Many like to drink a Tempranillo with Paella, but if it is a spicy Paella a much better match to soothe the palate is a nice AlbariÃ±o wine.