Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Catavino's May Virtual Tasting: Albarino

Catavino's May Virtual Tasting theme is Albarino, the white grape that is planted abundantly in the Rias Baixas region of Spain in Galicia, and is increasingly popular with US consumers and grape growers. How to explain this white's growing fan club? It's an excellent food wine, with great balance between ripe fruit flavors and refreshing acidity. It's also very affordable, although I have a sinking feeling that may change as US consumers gain some familiarity with it.

Albarino has a long history in Spain, and albarino wines made in the traditional fashion emphasized the mineral qualities of the grape along with its acidity and fruit. Modern growers and winemakers are concocting more fruit-forward wines to appeal to the majority of 21st century drinkers who seem to prefer that style. So for the Catavino Virtual Tasting I decided to get two albarinos--one made in the traditional style, the other in a more modern, fruit-forward style--and compare them. We had folks over for drinks and appetizers by the pool and I served some serrano ham, bread sticks, olives, cold peel-and-eat shrimp with cocktail sauce, and even some tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. Then we started sipping. While we had a definite favorite among the two Albarinos we tasted, both represented excellent QPR, something I've grown to expect and enjoy from Spanish wines.

First we tasted an albarino wine made in the traditional style, the 2005 Pablo Padin Albarino Segrel (Chronicle Wine Cellar, $13.95; available at other merchants for around $15). This wine had white stone fruits, apple, and pear in perfect balance with stony, mineral, and herbal notes. While the wine had lovely, food-friendly acidity it was not all harsh or sharp on the tongue. It was especially good with the shrimp and the olives, since it seemed to pick out the brininess of the shellfish and the fresh greenness of the herb-infused olives. I liked the warm peach aromas when the bottle was first opened, and the way these led to a dry, refreshing flavor profile. This wine was most people's favorite, and we agreed that it didn't taste like any other wine we'd ever had--it was full of distinctive albarino varietal characteristics.

Our next bottle was an albarino made in the modern style: the 2005 Martin Codax Albarino Burgans (Chronicle Wine Cellar, $9.95; available at many merchants for $10-$20). This wine will definitely be easier to find than the Pablo Padin, and it has a label that fits in with all the other wine labels in the store. This wine was much more fruit forward, with grapefruit, apple, and peach aromas and abundant fruity flavors. There were notes of flowers in the aromas, too, but very little minerality among its flavors. Like the first albarino we had, this had nice acidity, but overall the wine wasn't as balanced between acidity/fruit/minerality as the first wine. Most of us felt this was not as distinctive as the Pablo Padin, and could be mistaken for other dry white wines.

If you want to explore Albarino wines more, I found a great podcast on Albarino wines at the Remarkable Palate Podcast. This podcast was made in conjunction with a tasting of wines made by 19 producers, and lasts just under an hour, so it's a good option for listening to during your commute if you are intrigued by this varietal and want to get to know it better. It included a lot of discussion of the varietal characteristics of the grape, and a very lucid overview of food pairing for this wine. Experts suggested that Albarino would be good with Indian food, which I would agree with now that I've had a few more of them--especially seafood curries.

Thanks once again to Catavino's Gabriella Opaz and Ryan Opaz for hosting this event. If you'd like to see what other people have been drinking this month as they learn more about albarino, check out their forum where you will find over 2 dozen posts and counting. And if you've had an albarino this month, you still have a few days to leave your impressions of the experience over in the forum. I'll post the June theme as soon as it's announced if you'd like to join in the fun next month.


Gabriella Opaz said...

First, allow me to apologize for not being able to comment sooner being that both Ryan and I have been out of town, Ryan in Alicante and I in the Pyrenees. I really appreciate your continual support in our efforts while taking the time to both share your thoughts with our readers in addition to your own.

Second, I want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. Not only are you a very straightforward and descriptive writer, but you make wine a joy to read about without it getting too flowery or overly technical and dry. This isn't an easy task and one that I compliment you on achieving.

Third, although I haven't had the 2005 Pablo Padin Albarino Segrel, I have had the 2005 Martin Codax Albarino Burgans several times and have always thoroughly enjoyed it.

Finally, if you are interested in a video on Albarino, you can watch Wine Library TV where Gary Vaynerchuck recently did an episode on this varietal. Just search for episode 241.


Dr. Debs said...

Good to see you in this neck of the woods, Gabriella. And thanks for the compliments on the blog. It's a labor of love, so it's nice to hear when folks enjoy it.

Look out for the Segrel. I'd be interested to know what you think. And the Vaynerchuk video is a hoot--but you've got to love a fan of albarino, which he clearly is.

See you next month at the next Catavino Virtual Tasting.