“If you want to start an argument in the wine world –
and believe me, it’s not hard to do – all you have to do is mention the word
terroir.”….. Eric Asimov,
The New York Times
When it comes to Albarino, let’s
assume that if Spain is the capital of wine for you, Rias Baixas is the capital
of Albarino. It is from that sense of
place, unlike any other on the planet, that defines Albarino: a white wine that
is crisp, is born for summer’s enjoyment, is food friendly, and may be compared
to Sauvignon Blanc, but is different – of course – because it is a different
grape and makes a different wine. Albarino
is so well received, that while not an officially recognized “international;”
grape, it is made worldwide. The best,
however, always has and remains being that made from Rias Biaxis on Spain’s NW
If every place was the same, they
would be no need to travel, but it would be very crowded here.
Or would it be there? Terroir
is a French term and it refers to the specificity of place.
Includes all those environmental
conditions that lend themselves toward making a wine with a different flavor
nuance. The soil, climate, topography – really all
and every of the
environmental factors that contribute to the vine’s production.
That is why the French (and others) do not
name wine after the grape, but rather its place of origin.
The grape we know as Sauvignon Blanc may be
labeled, if French, as Sancerre, Graves, Pouilly Fume, Pessac-Leognan,
Entre-Deux-Mere … well, you get the point.
The Galician coast is exposed
to the Atlantic Ocean and benefits from a cool maritime climate. Summer daytime
temperatures (24 degrees C) average 74 degrees F. Winters are mild. The whole of the region is
known as “Green Spain” because conditions are cooler and wetter than otherwise
in Spain, resembling Ireland with its rocky coasts and hillsides covered in
green. The best-known wines of Galicia
come from Rias Baixas, a single D.O. broken up into five non-contiguous areas. Soil throughout Rias Baixas is granite
bedrock and alluvial topsoil with concentrations of sand, silt and mineral
providing for excellent drainage. Mild temperatures
throughout summer allow grapes to ripen slowly assuring a wine that retains acidity
and makes Albarino extremely food friendly.
I’ve enjoyed the Albarino of
Rias Baixas for decades and would have to work very hard at finding one that
wasn’t a “4-Star Value”. Today, I re-tasted
an Altos de Torona’s “Triple 3”, called such because it is a blend of Albarino,
Loureiro and Caino Blanco. Altos comes
from the sub-D.O. of Rosal in the south of Rias Baixas and is located adjacent
to where the Minho River meets the
Atlantic. Vineyards are located 6.2 miles from the ocean
and 2.1 miles from the river and on terraced vineyards planted on the slope of
Mount Galelo about mid-point at 200-350 meters (656-1148 feet) above sea level.
This well thought out location protects the vines from the mists and excess moisture
of the valley floor while also sheltering them from the extreme cold at the
summit. With a southerly aspect, vines absorb
excellent sunshine, while ripening slowly and developing phenolic character
(otherwise known as “yummy flavonoids”).
When it comes to yummy
flavonoids, this Albarino based blend excels in both taste and value. Deep lemon in the glass, the nose is enticing
and complex: You’ll put off immediately
tasting the wine just to continue to enjoy its aromas. Honeysuckle, lemon crème
(as in a meringue pie) orange peel, lychee, and an undertone of lavender.
The texture is creamy. Citrus
is initially soft but builds intensity throughout while never becoming awkward.
This is a refined and graceful approach with everything in balance. On the palate, expect to enjoy a mélange of apricot,
lychee, and pineapple. A dry wine, yet
creamy and rich, it finishes cleanly. Tasting it again over a span of two
hours, I enjoyed added notes of orange as the wine warmed in the glass. Notes
of dried green tea. And most surprising: banana! The finish is medium to medium plus.
There’s the saying, “If it
grows together, it goes together.” And
in Galicia, sea food rules. I paired this
wine with Spanish cheeses and olives.
Grilled vegetables are an excellent companion. A platter of shellfish with grilled oranges
went excellently. Before you consider
that splurging on shellfish would kill the budget, consider the ARP for this
wine is just $13-$14. Then consider the
care that went into site selection for these Albarino wines of Rias Baixas. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the best of the
varietal at budget friendly pricing: a gift of terroir
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your individual and unique palate).
(85%), Caino Blanco (10%) Loureita (5%)
Caino contributes citrus
freshness to the blend along with mineral notes, tropical flavors and good
structure. Loureiro offers aromas of orange and acacia blossom. Each varietal
is harvested separately and matured over their lees, after fermentation, for
120 days (which explains the wine’s texture).
Imported By: Vinaio
Imports, LTD., (Bronx, NY)
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