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Thinking About Albariño, or Notes from Albariño Deep Immersion with Snooth – 2018 edition

August 1, 2018 2 comments

Luckily, Albariño doesn’t need an introduction to the wine lovers anymore (if you think I live in lalaland, please speak up). Albariño is the best known white grape of Spain, making crisp, dry, minerally-infused, refreshing white wines, perfectly suitable to support any seafood dish, as they always had in their native Galicia region. As with most of the white wines, Albariño is typically associated with summer, but it is a versatile wine all year around – and typically very reasonably priced.

Albariño tasting 2018

For the second year in the row, I had a pleasure of participating in the virtual tasting of Albariño wines, organized by Snooth, one of the largest online wine communities. I will not delve into the technical details of the region, as I had an extensive coverage in last year’s post, and instead, I will simply share my notes for the wines we tasted.

Here are the notes, sorted by the sub-region of Rias Baixas:

Sub-region: Val do Salnés:

2016 Condes de Albarei Albariño Rias Baixas DO (13.5% ABV, $15)
Light straw
Lemon, lemongrass, hint of peach
Lemon, good minerality, medium body, good mouthfeel, mostly acidity on the finish
8-, good balance, round

2017 Pazo Señorans Albariño Val do Salinés Rías Baixas DO (13.5% ABV, $25)
Straw color
Rich citrus – lemon, grapefruit, orange
Clean acidity, lemon, thyme, good minerality, vibrant, fresh
8-, excellent

2017 Nai e Señora Albariño Val do Salnés Rías Baixas DO (13% ABV, $15.57)
Straw pale
Tropical fruit, white flowers
Round, clean, good balance of fruit and acidity
8, definitely one of the favorites.

2017 Paco & Lola Albariño Rías Baixas DO (13% ABV, $21.99)
Lightest color of all, straw pale
Lemon, mint, nice minerality
Fresh, crisp, cut-trough acidity, lemon grass
8-, round and extremely refreshing

Sub-region: Contado do Tea:

2016 Fillaboa Albariño Rias Baixas DO (13% ABV, $20)
Light golden
Candied lemon, vanilla, touch of butter, medium+ intensity, inviting
Crisp acidity, fresh, touch of salinity, fresh lemon, steely notes, vibrant
8-/8, excellent

2017 Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $18)
Straw pale
Sage, lemon, hint of overripe white peach
Good acidity, lemon finish, Meyer lemon notes
7/7+, Needs more vibrancy.

2017 Bodegas As Laxas Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $18)
Light straw color
Lemon, touch of minerality,
Minerality, forthcoming acidity, hint of grapefruit, Mayer lemon, good balance
8-, very good, balanced wine

Sub-region: O Rosal:

2017 Valmiñor Albariño Rías Baixas DO (13% ABV, $18.99)
Light gold
Fresh white plums, intense, pineapple, very inviting
Crisp acidity, lemon notes, fresh
7/7+, nice, simple, varietally correct

2016 Don Pedro Albariño De Soutomaior Rias Baixas DO (13% ABV, $18.99)
Light gold
Touch of honeysuckle, white flowers, hint of peach
Crisp acidity, pure lemon, vibrant, clean, lots of minerality, good midpalate weight
8-, steely goodness of the young Chablis, excellent, lots of pleasure. This wine will dramatically evolve over the next 5-7 years.

2017 Altos de Sorona Rosal Rías Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $20, blend of Albariño, Caiño, Loureiro)
Straw color
Lemon, sea air, minerality
Lemon, crisp acidity, good weight, fresh, vibrant.
8-, excellent balance, can be had by itself as a summer day thirst quencher, or with some oysters (would work beautifully)

2017 Terras Garuda O Rosal Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $23.99, 70% Albariño, 10% Loureira, 20% Caiño Blanco)
Light golden color
Tropical fruit, guava, candied lemon, vanilla
Rich, generous, hint of watermelon and pineapple, crisp acidity, fresh, vibrant
8-, excellent

If you want to see the recording of the tasting, you can find it here. If you want to try the wines we tasted, most of them are still available on the Snooth website, also at a great price – take a look here.

I have to say that the quality was excellent across all the wines we tasted, with some of the standouts, such as Nai e Señora Albariño. Is Albariño a part of your standard wine routine? Do you have any favorites? Cheers!

P.S. Procrastination sometimes offers benefits – this tasting took place in May, but today (August 1st, 2018) is International Albariño Day, so I guess the post about Albariño is quite appropriate.

Thinking About Albariño, or Notes from Albariño Deep Immersion with Snooth

May 11, 2017 4 comments

For the first time I tried Albariño wine around 12 years ago, during my brief stint as a sommelier at a small restaurant. I remember the producer –  Burgans. I remember liking the wine quite a bit, and since that time, Albariño surely became a part of my regular “wines to drink” list. My longest (and still current) Albariño love is Bodegas La Caña Albariño, which typically has a small amount of wine aged in oak, offering great level of complexity – but this is not what we will be talking about today.

The history of Albariño traces back to the 12th century in the Rias Baixas region in Spain (legend has it that Rias Baixas was a resting place for a brief moment for the God’s hand after the creation – you don’t have to believe it, of course). In 1980, Rias Baixes became a DO named after it’s main grape, Albariño, changing its name to Rias Baixas DO in 1986 (EU laws don’t allow for the Denomination of Origin to be named after a single grape). Over the years, Albariño started finding its way to the consumers around the world, often touted as an alternative to the Chardonnay. Considering the location (Atlantic coast) and cuisine (heavily dominated by shellfish/fish) of Rias Baixes, it is not surprising that Albariño, which typically shows crisp acidity, is perfectly marrying variety of seafood dishes.

If you think about winemaking around the world, there are some common trends no matter where the wines are made. One particular trend I want to mention is better understanding of the local terroir. Every new vintage adds the details to the knowledge of successes and failures – which vineyard produced better fruit, how the fruit was different, how even better fruit can be produced. With this knowledge, winemakers can identify the differences between seemingly close vineyards, understand that those differences are not accidental, and that those differences are worthy to be noted, used and even stressed – now the one, seemingly monolithic “terroir” region can be split into a smaller pieces.

This is what leads to the creation of the new regions and sub-regions, and you can see it around the world. For instance, only a few years ago, practically all Sauvignon Blanc wines from Marlboro in New Zealand were only identified on the labels as Marlboro. Today, Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc wines proudly identify themselves as Wairau Valley or Awatere Valley, and you can find detailed notes stressing their unique characteristics.

Rias Baixas Wiune Regions Map

Rias Baixas Map wine regions map. Source: Rias Baixas Wine

Same processes of creating smaller, more focused viticultural areas is taking place all over the world – and Rias Baixas is not an exception. Today, Rias Baixas DO has 5 defined sub-regions – Val do Salnés, the oldest and best known source of Albariño wines; Soutomaior, Contado do Tea, O Rosal and Ribeira do Ulla. Each sub-region has its own soil and climate conditions, the terroir, which translates into the differences in the wines.

Last week I was lucky to participate in the special virtual tasting organized by Snooth, one of the best online sources of the wine knowledge. In the tasting, we had an opportunity to experience 10 different Albariño wines, representing 3 different sub-regions, and of course to discuss the wines in the rapid-fire chat.

I have to honestly admit – I didn’t wait until the official tasting to taste the wines – as the wines arrived a few weeks before the tasting, I took my time to try them slowly, as 10 wines within one our and engaging conversation using one’s fingers is quite difficult to do. I also didn’t know the order of tasting, so my tasting was done at random, where during our online chat the tasting was going from one sub-region to another – the tasting notes below appear in the tasting order at the event.

Here are my notes:

Sub-region: Val do Salnés: 

2015 Martin Codax Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $16.99)
C: light yellow
N: medium intensity, fresh lemon notes
P: lemon and lemon zest, cut through acidity, medium palate, clean
V: 7+, surprisingly nice pairing with a spicy pepper spread

2015 Condes de Albarei Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $15)
C: light golden
N: medium intensity, lemon, green apple
P: touch of sweetness, Meyer lemon, good acidity, medium body, clean
V: 7/7+, nice, simple

2015 Vionta Albariño Limited Release Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $15)
C: light golden
N: medium intensity, grassy, more of a Sancerre style, touch of lemon and hay
P: crispy, fresh, clean acidity, lemon, medium body, good balance overall, round
V: 7+/8-, very well executed.

2016 Pazo Señorans Albariño Rias Baixas DO (13.5% ABV, $25)
C: straw
N: medium intensity, grass, fresh lemons
P: crisp acidity, touch of salinity, lemon, touch of volcanic minerality, interesting complexity
V: 8-, drinkable by itself, but craves food

Sub-region: Contado do Tea:
2015 Pazo de San Mauro Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $17)
C: light straw
N: honey, flowers, honeydew, delicious and inviting
P: great complexity, touch of honey without sweetness – you know you have honey in the glass, but no sugar, clean acidic finish, medium body, unusual and interesting
V: 8/8+, most interesting of the group, very unusual

2016 Señorío de Rubiós Robaliño Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $18)
C: straw pale, a welcome relief from all the 2015 so far
N: intense, lemon, candied lemon
P: off-dry, bright, crisp, white plums, hint of pineapple
V: 8-, nice and pleasant, easy to drink

Sub-region: O Rosal

2015 Altos de Torona Albariño Sobre Lías Rias Baixas DO (13% ABV, $14)
C: light golden
N: minerality, white stone fruit, medium intensity
P: fresh, crisp, nice lemon notes, craving oysters, cut through acidity
V: 8-/8, nice on its own on a hot summer day, and will be great with seafood, especially shellfish.

2015 Santiago Ruiz O Rosal White Wine Rias Baixas DO (13% ABV, $20, blend of Albariño and Loureiro with small addition of Treixadura)
C: straw
N: medium intensity, nice white fruit (peach) and floral notes, touch of tropical fruit like guava
P: medium body, soft, round, white stone fruit, good acidity, fresh, excellent balance
V: 8-/8, definitely one of my favorites

2015 Valmiñor Albariño Edición Especial 10 Años Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $18.99)
C: golden
N: intense, white stone fruit, fresh, white plums
P: lip smacking acidity, fresh, open, lemon, herbs, very dry, medium body, medium finish
V: 7+, very pleasant, will be perfect for any summer day, or any day with seafood. Makes you crave oysters.

2015 Bodegas Terras Gauda Abadía de San Compo Albariño Rias Baixas DO (12.5% ABV, $20)
C: golden
N: medium intensity, touch of lemon, white stone fruit
P: clean acidity, slightly off dry, under-ripe yellow plums, medium body
V: 7+, nice and quaffable.

Did I clearly tasted the differences in the wines from the different regions? No, I wouldn’t say so – however, as you can tell from the notes and ratings, I liked the most two Albariño wines from the Contado do Tea region. Will the Albariño get more distinguishable – you bet. Should you go and open a bottle of Albariño right this moment – absolutely, go and do it now.

That’s all I have for you, my friends. Don’t forget that upcoming Sunday is Mother’s Day in the USA – I’m sure Mom would greatly appreciate nice and refreshing glass of Albariño – and note that some of the very cool labels in the wines we tried (wink, wink). Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC2 Winner, #MWWC3 Theme, Cabernet Day and more

August 28, 2013 7 comments
Mar de Frades Albarino

Mar de Frades Albarino

Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #71, grape trivia – Albariño.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about white grape called Albariño. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Explain the origin of the name Albariño

A1: The theory is that the Albariño was brought to Spain from Germany’s Rhine region and it is a relative of Riesling. Thus Alba-Riño stands for “white from Rhine”

Q2: What kind of food is typically expected to be paired with Albariño?

A2: Seafood! Rias Baixas, the region where Albariño strives, is fully embraced by the Atlantic ocean, so seafood is a local specialty, and Albariño is known to perfectly complement it.

Q3: When Albariño was first planted in California?

a. 2000, b. 1996, c. 1992, d. 1988

A3: b, 1996. In 1996, Kathryn and Michael Havens of Havens Wine Cellars visited Rias Baixas and fell in love with Albariño. They brought it back to the US and started the first plantings. Albariño was officially registered in California in the year 2000.

Q4: For the long time, winemakers in Australia thought that they are making Albariño wine – until it was recently found that due to the mistake, what they thought they planted as Albariño is not Albariño at all, but a totally unrelated grape. Do you know what grape it was?

A4: Savagnin.

Q5: Val do Salnés is one of the sub-regions in Rias Baixas, making wines from Albariño grapes. True or False: to be labeled Albariño Val do Salnés, the wine must contain 100% Albariño grapes

A5: False. Interestingly enough, for the wine to be labeled Rias Baixas DO, it should be 100% Albariño, but for any other sub-regions, it is enough to use only 70% of the Albariño grapes.

I’m glad to report that we have a winner this time! Linda from Foxress is taking home the unlimited bragging rights today. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but our Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has a new Queen! Sally from My Custard Pie won the #MWWC2 with this blog post. Congratulations!

Let me ask you a question. How possessive you are? Do you possess your wines, or maybe your wines possess you? Or may be your wines are possessed? If I were you, I wouldn’t go down to that cellar…yeah. Why am I all of a sudden so possessed with the possession? Because Possession is the theme of the #MWWC3! Here is the formal announcement with all the rules and dates. Sharpen your mind and your pencil, blow the dust off your keyboard – and write, write, write! The submission deadline is Monday, September 23rd.

Last minute reminder – tomorrow, August 29th, is 4th annual Cabernet Day! Open the bottle of Cabernet and join the festivities. Hope you will enjoy whatever you will be drinking, and if it will be extra good – let the world know about it – blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – there are so many ways today to let the world know that you are happy!

I also have two articles to share with you. Interestingly enough, I just realized that these two articles are essentially completely opposite to each other. In the first article, Harvey Steiman, Wine spectator’s Editor at Large, talks about scientific advancements in the world of wine. He talks about DNA testing being used to detect faults in wine, and then he also talks about micro-oxygenation, that makes the wines more soft and round. Fault detection might be good, but do you want your wines to be soft, round and … the same? I personally would prefer the wine with character over the dull and round, but of course you can decide for yourself.

Second article talks about the archaeological project in Italy, where the group of scientists it trying to recreate the way the wine was made thousands of years ago – no chemicals, no reverse osmosis, no micro-oxygenation – just the pure goodness of nature. Somehow, I like this. But again, read the article and decide for yourself.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #71: Grape Trivia – Albariño

August 24, 2013 19 comments
Albariño grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

Albariño grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, still focusing on the white grapes, and today’s subject is Albariño.

According to the legend, Albariño was brought to Galicia region of Spain some time in the 12th century, of course by nobody else but monks. But it was not until almost the end of 20th century that Albariño wines became well known and well recognized in the world. Albariño is the main grape in the Rias Baixas region of Spain. Rias Baixas became a DO (Denominación de Origen is Spanish definition of the quality of agricultural products, similar to AOC in France) for Albariño in 1980. The rules had to change after Spain joined European Union, which doesn’t allow DO definitions for the single grape, so the new rules had being put in place in 1988, allowing for a number of other grapes, such as white grapes Loureira blanca, Treixadura, Caiño blanca, Torrontés and Godello, to be included into Rias Baixas DO wines.

Albariño makes perfect summer white wines. It usually combines very expressive aromatics of bright white fruit, with zesty, lemony and dry palate, making it perfectly drinkable by itself or with the wide array of summer dishes. While Albariño is literally considered to be the most important Spanish white grape, it is also successfully growing now in the other countries, such as Argentina, United States and others. In Portugal, Albariño had being known for the very long time under the name of Alvarinho, where it is often used in making of the Vinho Verde wines.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Explain the origin of the name Albariño

Q2: What kind of food is typically expected to be paired with Albariño?

Q3: When Albariño was first planted in California?

a. 2000

b. 1996

c. 1992

d. 1988

Q4: For the long time, winemakers in Australia thought that they are making Albariño wine – until it was recently found that due to the mistake, what they thought they planted as Albariño is not Albariño at all, but a totally unrelated grape. Do you know what grape it was?

Q5: Val do Salnés is one of the sub-regions in Rias Baixas, making wines from Albariño grapes. True or False: to be labeled Albariño Val do Salnés, the wine must contain 100% Albariño grapes

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

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