Ahhhh, Albariño

Albariño holds a special place in my heart. It’s a white wine with character. I get all excited when I see it on a restaurant wine list, because even a mediocre Albariño tends to easily outclass much of the competition (Sauvignon Blanc et al) – or at lest gives it a run for its money — and it’s pretty food-friendly. Spain, of course, leads the way with this grape, primarily in the Rias Baixas region, but I’m increasingly seeing it grown in California; Bonny Doon’s rendition is perhaps the most prominent example. I wholeheartedly endorse this trend and hope California winemakers keep it up. If you haven’t been introduced to this grape, it’s about time you give it a try – it might be my favorite white. (Well, it’s in the top five, at least. Hey, there are a lot of great white wines out there!)

2008 Bonny Doon Ca’ del Solo Albariño ($20, K&L Wines): Lemony nose with a whiff of grass; swirl to reveal orange aromas. Racy citrus dominates, but with a good balance. Mineral base. Zesty, dry and zippy. You can probably find better values from Spain if you dig around a bit, but Bonny Doon’s Albariño is not a bad deal and deserves credit for being a trailblazer (as Randall Grahm’s wines so often are).

2008 Pazo Serantellos Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($12, Whole Foods): Vibrant citrus aromas — candied lemon? — with a strong note of grass. Ever so slightly effervescent; light and buoyant and tangy. It’s like sipping brightness — summer in a glass. Acts like a Vinho Verde but with more backbone (12% ABV). Lemon on the midpalate; sparkles on the tongue. The flavor is a bit brash — more delicacy would serve it well — but it’s still a terrific value. I got a bit more pleasure out of the aroma than I did from the taste, though.

2007 Algareiro Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($18, Blackwell’s): Floral nose, honeysuckle, peach; the nose is almost disconcertingly sweet compared to the actual flavors. Tart Granny Smith apple and citrus flavors; vibrant acidity.

2008 Nessa Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($15, tienda.com): Sharp citrus and herbal aromas with a touch of minerals. Very characteristic flavors — lemon, lime, grass, herbs. It’s no standout, but it’s fine. It’s possible this bottle was open for a while before my glass was poured, so I may not have gotten a representative sample.

2007 Fillaboa Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain ($18, wine.com): Nose of citrus, cinnamon, white pepper, touch of grass, lemon zest. Intense lime and grapefruit with vibrant intensity fade to lemon meringue, key lime, white pepper, vanilla. Lively texture. I’d go back to this one.

It may not be summer in the Northern Hemisphere anymore, but a glass of Albariño might make you think it is. I know it does for me!

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