Your Next Lesson: Albariño

This white wine from Galicia in northwestern Spain went quickly from unknown to taken for granted. What are the best ones like?

Comments: 36

  1. May I suggest that you try the variant from south of the border?—alvarinho, that is, from Portugal, just across the Rio Minho. I won't call it "the equivalent," because, in my experience, it generally has a better taste than its northern cousin, and at a lower price.

  2. Good Evening: Albarino must have become pretty unfashionable in San Francisco as the wine store exactly one, the Agra de Bazan 2014 "Granbazan" Rias Baixas D.O. So far, served it with two NYTimes recipes among the "25 Most Popular of July 2016," the Chicken with Potatoes and Arugula (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/dining/springtime-sheet-pan-chicken.ht... and the Shrimp in Green Sauce (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/dining/the-minimalist-too-much-garlic-.... Also served with a roasted eggplant in balsamic vinaigrette, cacio e pepe, and a salad of cherry tomatoes, pitted dates and bleu cheese. The music: a live 1991 album by the Gipsy Kings. Reading material: War and Peace--already read Don Quixote.

    Color: pale straw. Nose: mineral, cantaloupe, lemon, peach, Sherry. Taste: high acid, round, mouth filling, long finish, predominately peach, orange peel, lemon, but also melon, grassy, a sort of gravelly character consistent with the mineral nose, and a notable flor finish like a Fino Sherry.

    The food writers and Mr. Asimov do not collaborate on recipes to go with the monthly wine and vice versa, but the Granbazan accompanied all dished very well, and complemented & complimented (!) the shrimp beautifully. Just a delightful pair of dinners. If the store had more Albarinos I would give another one a try.

  3. Re Wine School and Melissa Clark's Chicken, potatoes, arugala: I keep looking for a Graves blanc that is affordable and has some of the wonderfulness of the 3 Eric had us try last August. Closest so far has been a Chateau Grand Abord. I brought it along when a friend made the Melissa Clark dish, thinking its light SvBl qualities would work with the arugala, while the heavier semillon (80%) could handle the yogurt and spice. Dish itself was so delicious, and the wine's soft mouthfeel, strong flavor, and light tart grapefruit accompanied perfectly. But not uniquely so, VSB reveals. Albariño, eh? Wouldn't have occured to me. Look forward to comparing!
    Off on the Graves blanc tangent: the day I read Denis Dubordieu's obit, a Westchester store ran a clearance that included 2 of his second label Drapeaux de Floridenes, 2009.
    CellarTracker never heard of it, and ’09 seems a bit long in the tooth, but the price was right and I grabbed them. Anyone familiar? Thought I might try one with the Clark dish, but not, it now seems, the first time I try making it!
    Off on the pairings tangent: have you seen Eric amd Florence's "Wine With Food"?

  4. Dan Barron: Not at all familiar with the Drapes de Floridienes; have almost no familiarity with white Bordeaux in general. To me, that represents part of the beauty of so many varieties of varietals--plenty to enjoy, too many to master.

  5. Nice perspective, VSB, on the wine universe and a mortal's place in it!

  6. The Granbazan is an amazing bottling of Albarino both the brown and green bottles. A bit hard to find but truly superior wines.

  7. Come to Lodi, Eric, and taste some of the best Albarino outside of Rias Baixas. You are cordially invited.

  8. Please. It is "an" octopus. not "a" octopus. Have a enlightened day!

  9. I work at a wine store here in Dallas, Texas, and we carry an Albarino from Santiago Ruiz, considered the "father" of Albarino. The 2013 Santiago Ruiz O Rosal is fruity (think pear) and floral (think rose), yet has a slight minerality (think limestone) to it. As all seafood begs for acidity and minerality, this wine complements many cuisines, and not just European. I've paired Albarino with ceviche and shrimp with green Thai curry, and they paired perfectly with them.

  10. Albamar (A) and temperature.
    Jekyll and Hyde. The A was 45 minutes out of the fridge as we sat down to dinner, my attempt at the vintner’s suggested 53˚. (How do you tell?) At least 30 minutes after that, at practically room temp, the A suddenly—Barb and I both noticed together—turned sweeter, friendlier, more generous. It engaged with Florence F’s spicy delicate—and poorly cooked, I suspect—Curried Striped Bass, in a way it had not before (better, though, with the fattier hake added into the recipe). With a more acidic side, charred cherry tomatoes, the A got weak and flabby, where, before, cool, it had been muscular and fun.

    A and weight.
    Had to look twice. Yes, the wine was transparent and clear in the glass. In the mouth though, the light wine somehow carried within it a chalky, sea-mineral thickness. How’d it do that? Slender or hefty? Good question!

    Wine and cooking.
    Don’t be greedy. Had the bright idea to add some wine to the recipe’s broth. Also had the wine-greedy idea to save the night’s A for the glass, and cook with a light, under-$10 go-to, Satre Trebaseleghe, a Veneto SvBl. Result: the dish married far better with the inferior, cooked-with Satre than it did with the A, which, on its own, was so much the better wine. I have zero doubt that if I’d been loose enough to cook with the A, the resulting wine-food pairing would have put the bargain I ended up with to shame.

    As it was, I enjoyed the A a lot more than our dinner with it. Looking forward to another try.

  11. Opened up the Do Ferreiro and drank it cold and right away it was engaging and complex with a nose of tropical fruits, mostly pineapple, with sweetness being the main impression. Upon tasting, the sweetness dominated with a mix of tart and sugary notes of pear, green apple and mango on the finish-fantastic! Refreshing acidity that was not bracing came forward as it warmed and opening up a subtle chalky limestone minerality. I was loving this wine until I sat down to some oysters with spicy dressing and blackened salmon. I read that spicy food did well with albariño but I found the fruit of this wine too delicate and overwhelmed in this case. I set aside the wine, finished dinner and went back and enjoyed the rest by itself. One thing surprised me, again not knowing much about white wines, but the sweetness was more pronounced when the wine was cold and the minerals came our as it warmed. My experience with whites has been the opposite in the past but, on this hot night, it was perfect since the sweetness here was the more appealing and attractive aspect of the Do Ferreiro.

  12. My wife and I tried the Pedralonga, with Galician-style octopus (properly "scared") ( https://instagram.com/p/BIx_6O1jVpc/ ), boiled with a copper penny and potatoes, served with olive oil and pimentón (José Andrés recipe). We both loved the wine and the pairing. The octopus turned out to be very tender contrary to our expectations. The wine smelled of green apple and had a round, mineral mouthfeel with an integrated citrus acidity. Almost like a granite stone washed round by the ocean. Later on elements of lychee and honeydew melon developed. This wine was a simple beauty and a perfect pairing for this simple meal. Although we agreed on the wine and the pairing, my wife did not share my newly discovered interest for the very Celtic sounding Galician bagpipe music.

  13. Tonight I tried the Pedralonga with a summer vegetable alfredo and in general, it was a good pairing but I was not as impressed with this wine as with the Do Ferreiro. It opened up with simple great apple, seashells and saline on the nose and zippy acidity but never went much further. Alone, and on the cold side, it lacked complexity, really only some weak tart fruit notes, a hint of flint and smokiness and as it warmed it dried up in terms of fruit and became quite uninteresting. With the meal, the light fume' notes complimented the cream sauce but as the evening went on, it lost all structure and became down right harsh. In comparison, the Do Ferreiro had layers of well defined sweet fruit, beautiful floral undertones and some density to it along with the delicateness while the Pedralonga was thin and sharp in the mouth. I hope the Albarmar proves better with seafood risotto.

  14. We were able to buy all three. This was a perfect summer lesson. Slender - definitely but not slight. Texture - the Do Ferreiro and Pedralonga felt crisper on the tongue than the Albamar and for me that made them more enjoyable. Mr. Schappeit is right about the green apple taste. The Albamar had more of a flowery aroma and a lighter color. If I were picking one to drink without food it might be the Albamar. One night we had David Tanis’s risotto nero with squid (a perfect match) and another night Julia Moskin’s pasta with marinated tomatoes and herbs with tuna and black olives. The wine went well with salty seafood. Each made the other better.

  15. We tried the Pedralonga first and then served it with a corn and lobster bisque. Alone, it had a bouquet of hay, slate and tart green apple. It was a slender wine with a short citrus finish. We detected a slight fizziness that did not detract from the wine at all. The taste of the wine was “flattened” with the food and we figured it a better wine to be served alone; until we served it later with a braised octopus when it turned out to be a perfect match!
    The Albamar was lighter in color and had aromas of the sea on the nose and a distinct flavor of salinity on the palate. It was very balanced and consistent. It was served with a braised octopus with a tomato/collard green dressing that did not work. The octopus alone was a better pairing. This was unanimously our favorite wine.
    Lastly, we had the Do Ferreiro which was the most complex and full bodied of the wines with bright fruit and a bigger flinty finish. If the first two wines were a “primer” on Albarino, this one is a class up from it. This is a ripe and intense wine but we preferred the Albamar due to its simplicity and attractiveness. George Erdle – Harper’s Fine Dining - Charlotte

  16. We found three Albarino wines for tasting, none of which were recommended: 2015 Bagoa do Mino Rias Baixas Lagrima; 2015 Alma Terra Rias Baixas; 2015 Martin Codax Rias Baixas.
    For dinner we had Sweet Shrimp and Avocado with Mango Vinaigrette. Appetizers included Tapanade, Goat cheese with dill and Guacamole.
    The Bagoa do Mino was the most expensive of the wines tasted. It had an apricot aroma. It was tart and astringent with citrus notes. It was light-bodied with little finish.
    The Alma Terra had a fresh aroma and a sharp taste with perhaps a little lemon and a slight effervescence. It was not as astringent.
    The Martin Codax had a very slight unidentifiable aroma. It was tart with a pronounced grapefruit taste. The finish lingered on the tongue.
    We were very pleased with how the wine went with the meal, complementing the fresh taste of the Shrimp and Avocado.

  17. In the context of several comments. what is meant by "slender?"

  18. Thanks, Ferguson and Moskin. Per the former, we tried the Pedralonga with the latter’s pasta with tomatoes, mint and tuna tinyurl.com/hwp33cf , and a tasty pairing it was. Jumpy, though. The P wouldn’t seem to hold still for a second.

    On pour, Barb smelled its ripe golden apple aromas from four feet away. We also got pear, and even more, cider. In taste and mouthfeel, it built up from a base like the kid-brewed, fizzy apple “cider” I used to make on the sly: fresh apple juice hidden away in the snow for a week. Fun stuff, if you’re a kid, but the P had a whole lot of adult flavors going on on top, especially citrus.

    Its sweetness changed dramatically with temperature. Cold, it was crisp golden apple-y, light sweet with a tart finish. Warm, it was lemony honied sweet. Then, very late and room temp warm, tartness came back in, plus a distinctive mineral note. I was surprised how much I enjoyed its sweet-tart balance as an after-dinner sip, not my usual habit.

    It was slender enough for an arugula salad—better later, as sweet contrast to the sharp food. (Also worked with oil-dipped bread—amazing how many wines don’t.) And it had ample thickness for the big, oily tuna—better, though, early on, cool, than later, warm and honied.

    In mood, it was a far cry from the lemony Italian white I’d have thought first to pair with this dish. There was a Spanish, life-is-hard, bittersweet side that contrasted with the happy-go-luckier Italian food. I liked its apple-y, minerally complexity.

  19. Would you be so kind as to describe in different words "It was slender enough..." I'm too dense to figure it out myself.

  20. My selections are a bit eclectic:
    2014 Bodegas Chaves Rias Baixas Albariño “Terras de Gondarei.”
    2015 La Caña Rías Baixas Albariño
    2013 Do Ferreiro Rías Baixas Albariño

    I should say that while I took brief notes as I went along, I had these wines between June and August, so I can't compare the three of them directly to one another.
    A. Body: I would say the Do Ferreiro is almost, almost unctuous. I wouldn't call any of them slender or heavy.
    B. Texture: None of them felt very acidic, or chalky.
    C. Versatility: This is where albariño does its thing. the Bodegas Chaves was perfect with grilled lobster. La Caña, with its subtle grapefruit aroma, was also perefct with grilled whole red snapper with xec salsa (recipe from Bittman's Minimalist).
    The best surprise came with the 2013 Do Ferreiro. I opened it last night to go along with some oysters. That's not the surprising part. The surprise (to me) happened when we had the rest of the bottle with Asturian home-style chicken. I used the wine to make a thick sauce that also had onions, shallots, and roasted red peppers, cooked in a cast iron skillet. I was expecting the wine to be overpowered by the dish, but not so. The wine's "almost, almost" unctuousness more than held up to the dish, somehow complementing the peppers in the sauce.
    I'll definitely try to pair albariño with chicken more often, but not surprisingly, it is often (though not exclusively!) our go-to wine for mussels, clams, and other grilled seafood.

  21. Yes! Max D’s “almost, almost unctuous” for the do Ferreiro is right on! In fact, the very first taste notes I’d jotted down were “sweet, viscous, lemon attack,” then “sweetness remains as acidic tartness takes over.” But “viscous” seemed such an outlier. I ended up with “like an Old World Ramey Napa Chard, only minus the oak and hardness.” Admittedly, sort of like “like a rock only soft,” but Max’s “almost, almost unctuous,” plus lemon, was what I was aiming for.
    Had the dF 4 and 3 nights ago, with braised fennel monkfish tinyurl.com/j9fss8x then toasted spaghetti and clams tinyurl.com/hz7qmop . Of the two, the first night monkfish went best (with an * I’ll get to). The dF also has a slender hefty sea-like chalkiness that stood up easily to the rich, sweet fish. Day 2, with the clams, there was a cool, vegetal mustiness that did more for the parsley garnish than the seafood itself. Still good, not awesome.
    Tried a lot of sides, and their sweetness, or lack of, seemed to be key. It was lovely with cauliflower rice cooked in coconut oil. In some alcohol alchemy with the wine-braised, caramelized fennel, the dF’s apple and lemon conjured up cinnamon. With dry, cakey manchego, the dF brought a nice, fruity contrast, and with sweet champagne grapes it was nice and puckery tart. Least good was lemony roasted broccoli; the lemon went fine, the brocc, too dark.
    The monkfish *? Alongside the dF, a sip of week-old Pedralonga stole the show. Strong, cool, complex, my fave of the month.

  22. The Albamar spilt the difference for me. While the Do Ferreiro was complex and interesting, the Pedra boring and harsh, the Albamar was in the middle. Not complex but light and tight in the mouth with a sticky guava hanging on for dear life, utterly pleasant and refreshing on a canicule evening here in France. There was a grassy, flinty nose that tingled and a clean, clean finish keeping me coming back for more. Nice pairing with zucchini (fresh from the garden) parm chips on the grill and light lemon pesto dip. A good lesson overall as my white wine world continues to expand.

  23. The sole albarino I found at a Scranton PA state liquor store was 2015 Burains Rias Baixas that I drank over two meals a week apart. Happily the wine held up very well. The first meal was a fresh from the garden cabbage carmelized a la Melissa Clark and the wine cut through it easily, had a surprisingly round feel and thoroughly coated the mouth and tongue. On the nose, I noticed grass that morphed into pear or apricot as it aired and warmed.

    This wine was good with and without food but I preferred it neat because the texture and flavors were worth observing on their own. Plus the cabbage was't a perfect pairing; scallops for the sweetness and buttery feel could be a winner.

    This wine's rich white fruit is compelling but might become become cloying. I will drink another rias baixas, maybe a more expensive one than this. All in all, a good refreshing drink and an 8.75/10 for fun drinkability.

  24. Eric,
    I just wanted to say, THANK YOU for 30 marvelous wine school lessons! It's hard to believe 2.5 years has gone by since you started writing these. Although I haven't been one to comment too much, my neighbors and I have taken part in all 30! Each time sampling all 3 of your picks and usually 1 or 2 more alternates. That adds up to a significant number. We have enjoyed it so much and have you have really expanded on our wine choices. I can honestly say that all of us were mostly red drinkers with perhaps 2 or 3 bottles of white a year. Now, we are regularly drinking whites when the pairing calls for it. I never would have thought I'd be buying Sancere instead of a Cali Sav Blanc or Chablis instead of a Cali Chard but the difference is amazing. Etna Rosso has become our "go to" wine for Italian Pasta dishes. Champagne isn't just for special occasions anymore. I never thought I'd be caught dead drinking rose anymore. I used to think Beaujolais was the French word for cheap wine. LOL! You changed our appreciation for wine! Now when people say, "I don't drink white wine", I reply with "I understand how you feel but there's a place for white wines and you really need to try them". Thank you for expanding our wine tastes!

    As far as the Albarinos go ...wasn't our favorite wines. We enjoyed them but thought they are a little too tart. Better values exist in dry whites. We tried all three of your picks and a 2015 Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes.

  25. Bill, has it been 30 already? Thanks so much for being part of Wine School. Even if albariños weren't your favorites, I believe it's good to know about them. As important as knowing what you do like is knowing what you don't. And just to be sure, give them another try next year.

  26. Galician-Style Lobster With Pimentón and Olive Oil ( http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1012563-galician-style-lobster-with-p... ) turned out to be an excellent dish. We used lobster tails instead of a whole lobster and increased the amount of potatoes ( https://instagram.com/p/BJEJA7JDpkq/
    ). I think the supporting ingredients bring the best out of boiled potatoes (we used blue golden, fresh from the farmers market). Do Ferreiro was an excellent pairing, a spa treatment for my palate. It is all there: Orchard Apple , some pineapple , some round minerality , the ocean's salinity , and floral notes. It is modest, pure, and beautiful . Of all three Albariños this month do Ferreiro was the one most in tune, like a string quartet. A wine in beautiful shape right in between slender and hefty.
    The Albamar appeared to be the leanest of the three Albariños. We enjoyed it with ceviche (shrimp, tilapia, mango) and deviled crabs. The ceviche flavors of lime, mango, ocean salinity, and fish mingled beautifully with the citrus, gooseberry, and crisp finish of the Albamar. The deviled crabs were good but a little too greasy for this wine muffling its aromas.

  27. Could only find one of the alternate Albariños -Paso Señoras Rías Baixas 2014. Had it with a chicken dish one night and with seafood a second night. Slightly honeylsuckle nose and peaches on the palate. Some what lacking in acidity. I compared it with an Albariño (2015) from Chrysalis Vineyards in Virginia. It was outstanding with peaches and apricots in the nose and peaches and sourwood honey on the palate with good acid balance and minerality. So an added bonus was the discovery that VA can make some good wines also.

  28. Once again I could not find the recommended wines. But we located a 2014 Albarino that made me so grateful for this class! After drinking many bottles of a variety of rosés from Provence, I found the taste of a 2014 MardeViñas from Rias Baixas a refreshing and bracing change! This bottle cost on $14.99 at our local wine shop. But it tastes hefty, not at all slender; feels fully lime citrus in the mouth, and offered an interesting difference from the Mollie Katzen ricotta, garlic, egg breakfast for dinner meal my husband and I shared. He and I both agree that this wine would hold up really well sipped on its own with cheese or nothing else. What a lovely find!! I cannot imagine how delicious the preferred wines must taste!! Thank you Eric!

  29. 7 days into September and no new lesson? We're getting very thirsty, Eric!

  30. Albarino done, next class unassigned, dinner last night led me to Wine Schools past. Can I slip this in?

    A Napa chard, the Beringer Luminus, recalled May 15’s Ramey. And a Marsannay-ish pinot, the Pierre Guillemot (QPR rockstar!) recalled, um, Tio Pepe Fino, Bourgneuf Pomerol, Joguet and Raffault Cab Francs, Hauts de Smith Graves Blanc, and, surtout, Muscadet. I’ll explain.

    But first the chard. The Ramey Sonoma Coast is iconic for me, and the Luminus was like a slightly dialed-down version. 16 months ago, on my Napa intro, their rich candied lemon seemed flamboyant beyond all nature, wildly artificial. None more so than the Ramey. Yet, siren-like, those tastes call me back, and now I crave that big sweet Cali tartness I call “ramey.” With cumin garlic grilled corn, the Luminus had it going on, an exotic, buttery, sweet citrusy dream of a pairing. Thanks, WS, for the intro.

    Had the night 2 Bourgogne with simple chicken pot pie. Its pleasures were more subtle. The dry strawberry flavors did not wow at first. Just generous and likeable in an undemanding way. Next sip and next, though, it’s not like the wine kept tasting better. It got ever more enjoyable. I call it the Muscadet effect, and it kicks in on so many of Eric’s picks, named above. They make the whole meal smile. At first it seems more mood than wine. Last night it seemed born of vintner’s self-assuredness. Let the Beringers suss out what folks will buy; the Guillemots get what wine should be. Thanks, WS, for that.

  31. 13 days into September...Can we get a word from Mr. Asimov as to what is going on? Is he taking a well-earned break from Wine School?

  32. come on mr. asimov! we're all here waiting for our september wine class. and please consider wines from outside europe. there's a whole wide world out there for us to explore together.

  33. Alesia, you are correct in suggesting that wine is made all over the world. So far we've been focusing on fundamentals, and, with few exceptions, wines made outside of the historic wine-producing regions are reactions to or riffs on established genres. We will get to other areas, I promise. But even the most zealous of local American wine drinkers must understand that historic European regions for the most part offer far more variety and much better values than are available in wine from the United States.

  34. My apologies, we are a little late in getting back to Wine School this September. But we'll be back very shortly with the albariño report and the next assignment. Thanks for staying tuned, and if you haven't finished yet with your albariños, please drink up!

  35. Wonderful! ...was starting to get worried. Would love a nice red this time. Might I suggest a nice Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Malbec?

  36. Some wines, such as Assyrtiko and Aglianico, are not available in South Africa, so we’ve devised our own lessons with the help of the World Atlas of Wine and some internet research. In February we drank and very much enjoyed the Viogniers of Condrieu (wines by Yves Cuilleron and André Perret) Last week the Douro red blends of Niepoort, Quinta do Crasto and Quinta Vale D Maria were another great success. As usual we added a local wine to the line-up for comparison. We’ve also done a vertical of Hope Marguerite, an iconic local Chenin Blanc.