March 2008

It's Spring: Think Albarino!

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

As March roars in, it’s time to start thinking about the warmer weather and those wonderful “porch-friendly” white wines. If you are a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio drinker, or if you are looking for an alternative white wine, then an Albarino is great selection—think crisp and refreshing.

Albarino is the name of the grape as well as the name of the wine. Found in the northwest corner of Spain, it grows the best in Rias Baixas, in the region of Galicia where it makes up 90 percent of the grape varietals grown. The area is known for fresh fish and shellfish from the sea, so an elegant white wine is perfect for the cuisine. Most of the vineyards are within miles of the ocean, so the cool, damp weather is perfect for a thick-skinned grape like Albarino.

Historically, Rias Baixas has been a growing region since the 15th century. In the 16th and 17th century phylloxera (a root-eating louse that destroys vineyards) depleted native varietals. Vineyards were replanted with grapes producing poor quality wines. In the late 1970s, growers were given incentives to replant native varietals, such as Albarino, and spend money on modern wine-making equipment resulting in wines of outstanding quality compared to the past. Many Albarinos had hefty price tags, but as more of the grape varietal has been planted, the cost of the wine has become more reasonable.

More and more independent wine shops are expanding their Spanish sections, including Albarino, since most Spanish wines are reasonably priced and have rich, big fruit. Restaurant wine lists also have growing Spanish sections, including several Albarino selections. The wine has become more and more popular in the United States.

I think it’s time to dust off your flip-flops and put away your winter clothes, then head to the market, grab some oysters and shrimp and stop by your local wine store to get a bottle of Albarino. Enjoy the warm weather!!

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