Looking for a new white wine to try?!? We have just the wine for you! Most famously from the Rias Baixas area in the Galicia region of Spain, this zippy wine is perfect for the white wine lover in your life - especially if that person is you! You may have started seeing this wine on store shelves and thought “I wonder what that tastes like?” Wonder no more! In this episode, we talk about, taste, and review three Albariño wines, two from Spain, and one from Oregon, and we’ll let you know what we think about how they taste and if they are worth your hard earned money! We also talk about why white wines are sometimes not as highly regarded as red wines, and what makes the region that comes from Albariño so special. Hint - it rains a lot in Galicia! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2020 Condes De Albarei Albariño, 2021 Abacela Albariño, and 2020 Laxas Rias Baixas Albariño.
Contact The Wine Pair Podcast - we’d love to hear from you!
Visit our website, leave a review, and reach out to us: www.thewinepairpodcast.com
Follow and DM us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thewinepairpodcast/
Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Episode 45: WTF is Albariño? 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and are, or should be, easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines you may want to try, and expand your wine horizons while taking some of the stuffy and the boring out of wine. Sound good?!?
This week, Carmela, we are back to our WTF series, affectionately known as the WHAT THE FUCK series?!? And we love this series because we, and hopefully you out there in listening land, get to learn something new about a wine that you may not have known much about before today. This week, we are going back to Spain, but this time instead of a red Garnacha, we are drinking Albariño.
We are back to tasting some white wines again because it has been a couple of weeks since we have done a white wine episode. Now I will say that it feels to me like our episodes on red wine get a bit more interest than episodes on white wine, and I think that is too bad. I know you love white wine, Carmela, and we have said this before, but sometimes I think that white wine is just considered to be a less serious wine and maybe a less complex wine than red.
But, we think white wines are fantastic, and there is so much more out there than just Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc when it comes to white wine. And although I originally thought of myself as a red wine drinker, I have come to really appreciate and love white wine, and I feel like I probably drink more white wine now than I do red wine. What about you?
So, again today we are going to introduce you to a white wine we think you should know called Albariño which we think is an underappreciated and underrated white wine. And I think this is particularly true for those of you who don’t think you like white wine. And you know who you are!
Do you have some thoughts on why white wines might be underappreciated? Let me start with one, and then I’ll let you chime in
- A lot of the time white wines are the first wines that people drink, and a lot of the time these wines also tend to be sweet white wines which I think is natural because sweet things are initially very pleasing. While they can become a bit tiresome over time, the initial reaction for a lot of people when they drink something sweet is “oh, I like this.” And then they often graduate to dry rather than sweet wines over time.
- It also feels like a lot of the time the white wines that people gravitate towards are buttery Chardonnays which to me are just not all that interesting. I know some people love the oaky and buttery Chardonnays, but I find them to be a lot like IPA beers - at first, I loved IPAs, but, over time, IPA beers have become more about their hoppiness than their beer flavor and so it just almost doesn’t feel like I am drinking beer anymore, and I think the same thing about Chardonnay which can be known for their oak rather than their fruit, and sometimes I think I can only taste the oak and not the wine.
- When a white wine is served probably has an impact, too. White wines are generally served with either appetizers or with fish, which is totally fine and appropriate, but because they are not served with a lot of what would be main dishes in our US culture - which is often red meats, etc. - I think white wines are just seen as the warm-up for a red wine.
- White wines also tend to be less expensive than red wines, and so there can be a bit of a bias there - if something is better, it is more expensive. But even great white wines can be priced quite a bit lower than reds.
Finally, I found a really interesting article that I have a link to in our show notes, that shows there is bias in ratings for wines that tends to show that red wines get higher ratings than white wines, which may have more to do with the way they are produced and the taste profiles they have than the quality of the wine itself. In short, red wines can be more labor intensive and expensive because they are often finished in oak barrels (something that Chardonnay has in common with them), and the tendency for oaked wines is to be a bit more bitter, and this gives it a aura of complexity that white wines, which are not oaked, often don’t have - and again something that oaked Chardonnay shares with red wines.
The article is really fascinating and worth a read, and we will reference it more in future articles, but we need to talk about Albariño and get to tasting . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? We would love for you to subscribe to our podcast, and we would also love it if you would leave us a rating and review so that people who may stumble upon us will tune in to our podcast.
If you want to reach out to us with ideas, or thoughts, or just to talk - you can DM us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast, and this week we would like you to tell anyone you know who says they don’t like white wine, but like things like hard cider or hard seltzer. You may be able to convince them to try Albariño!
Topic: What is Albariño? 11:18
So, again, Albariño is a wine that originally comes from Spain, specifically an area called Galicia which is on the Atlantic coast and just to the north of Portugal. Like, just to the north. If you take a look at a map, there is a little “shoulder” of Spain that sits on top of Portugal. We’ll have a map in our Instagram, but you can look it up on the interwebs out there in listening land.
While Albariño is mostly known as a Spanish wine, it is grown in other areas as well - but the vast majority is grown in Spain and Portugal, and in Portugal the grape is known as Alvarinho.
There are actually 5 distinct wine growing regions in Galicia, but the best known is called Rias Baixas (Ree-ass Bie-Shass), and the overwhelming majority of wine grapes grown there are Albariño. This is also where two of the wines we are trying today are from, and this is the area of Spanish wine that may be one of the easiest to find outside of Spain because they export a lot of their wine.
Like many wines from Europe, Rias Baixas wine is named for the region, not the varietal. However, I will say that it seems like most of the time they actually do name the wine on these bottles as Albariño.
Wines labeled Rias Baixas have to be at least 70 percent Albariño. Other grapes that can be blended with Albariño include some grapes I am not super familiar with called (and I will likely pronounce them incorrectly) Treixadura, Torrontes, Loureiro, and Caiño Blanco.
Now, here is an interesting fun fact. We think of Spain as a very hot climate country, and it is in general, but this Galacia area of Spain is definitely different because of its proximity to the Atlantic ocean. While the average summer temperature in places like Madrid are in the upper 80’s and low 90’s, in Rias Baixas, the average summer temperature can be 10-15 degrees cooler. This is also considered a cool and wet area of Spain, which is just not something I think of when I think of Spain.
And it does rain a lot in this area - and I mean a lot. And along with rain, it can also have a lot of mist and fog that rolls in, which really helps to keep the temperatures down. For context, we live in Seattle, which is considered to be a very rainy area. Right?!? On average, we get about 38 inches of rain per year. Which may surprise some people. But a lot of times the rain in Seattle is almost more misty rather than big rain drops. In the Rias Baixas area, they average about 67 inches of rain per year, so much, much rainier than here in Sea-town.
Why is all of this important? That cool weather and mist have a significant effect on the wine. It tends to make the wine very acidic, which is what makes it such a crisp wine and so considered to be very good with food.
So, Albariño is often described as zippy, which again has to do with its high acidity. It is also a light bodied wine, with very low tannins, low alcohol, and very dry. And it is considered to be an excellent wine with all sorts of seafood, fish tacos and shellfish and sushi, light white meats like chicken, and light and creamy cheeses like burrata. This all makes sense because we would expect that the foods that it would be paired with from that area would be very heavily based on seafood.
Now, Albariño is being grown in other areas of the world more frequently now, and so you may start seeing it on your local store shelves coming from local areas and wineries.
One area where it is starting to be grown more in the US in in the San Luis Obispo area, a place we know very well since our daughter went to undergrad there, and that makes sense because the wine growing areas there can be somewhat similar - close to the sea, where it is often fogged in, and on the coastal mountain slopes.
It is also being grown in other areas of California like Carneros and Napa, and some areas of Oregon and Washington states as well - and today we actually have an Albariño from Oregon that we are trying today! New Zealand is also starting to grow some Albariño as well, and so we’ll see if we start seeing the explosion of Albariño in the same way we have seen explosions of Sauvignon Blanc in those areas like New Zealand and the US west coast.
There are lots of links to articles and other information in our show notes, so be sure to head over to our website to find them.
A review of the Albariño wines we chose for this episode 18:34
In terms of finding Albariño, it is getting much much easier to find. In fact, this wine may be becoming the most popular Spanish wine variety in the US. In doing some research on the interwebs, I found out that in 2021, exports of Albariño increased nearly 15% over the previous year, and the US is the most popular destination for the wine.
And, according to the article I read, the reason for some of this growth is that wines from the Rias Baixas area tend to be pretty high quality. Sommeliers are starting to appreciate and recommend the wine, and for those who are looking for alternatives to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris may really like this wine which shares some similar qualities.
So, we have two wines from the Rias Baixas area of Spain that we are trying today. One of them is from a collective called Condes de Albarei, and a collective just means that rather than one wine grower making the wine, it is actually a group of 362 different wine growers who agree together to make a wine among all of them. So, this means that the exact vineyard will be unknown, but it also means that the winemaker can choose the best grapes from the bunch. And this collective was put together in 1988.
The other wine we have from this same Riax Baixas area is from a winery called Bodegas As Laxas. This is a family owned winery that has been in existence since 1862. These folks evidently use sustainable practices in their farming, and only use irrigation in August, which is nice to know. One really interesting thing from the notes on their website is that they add clam, mussel, and oyster shells to the soil in their vineyards to help fertilize and increase minerality in the wine. They also ferment their wine in stainless steel and then they filter the wine. So, we should expect a very clear and very crisp wine.
The third wine we are tasting and reviewing today is actually a domestic Albariño from the great state of Oregon, so this will be fun to see how similar or different these wines are when they are from different parts of the world. The winery this wine comes from is called Abacela, and they specialize in Spanish wines. They actually are mostly focused on Tempranillo grapes, and they are in the Umpqua Valley of Southern Oregon, so they are in a climate that is more similar to where Tempranillo grapes are grown than the cool climate of Galicia.
Now they do say this about their vineyards: “the vineyards bask by day in the hot summer sun and are cooled at night by Pacific Ocean breezes. The long growing season allows the fruit to ripen slowly and fully.” So, this will be really interesting to see how different the wine is from the wines from the much rainier area of Spain that the other wines come from. Now, I am not totally sure how easy this wine will be to find, although I did see it on wine.com, but I wanted to see what an Albariño grown in the US would taste like.
Ok, we have a lot of articles and links in our show notes if you want to learn more, but let’s get to tasting, what do you say?
Albariño wine pairing tasting and review 23:12
Wine: Condes De Albarei Albariño (Click here to buy this wine - affiliate link)
Region: Spain, Rias Baixas
Producer: Adega Condes de Albarei
Retailer: QFC (Kroger)
What we tasted and smelled in this Albariño: Peach, citrus, apricot, nectarine, salt, salt water, lemonade, grapefruit bitterness, honey, vanilla, unctuous or filmy. Refreshing. Might be good for Chardonnay fans.
Food to pair with this Albariño: Cream sauce, pasta Alfredo, fried foods, schnitzel, fish.
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10 and there are no half points, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and in-between we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
Wine: Abacela Albariño
Region: Oregon, Umpqua Valley
Retailer: QFC (Kroger)
Professional Rating: WE 90
What we tasted and smelled in this Albariño: Flower, apple pie, pie crust, baked apple, filmy - but less filmy than the last, bitter at the end, citrus. Some zip
Food to pair with this Albariño: Fish, white fish, salmon, fish and chips, fish tacos
Wine: Laxas Rias Baixas Albarino (Click here to buy this wine - NOTE: this links to a different vintage. Affiliate link)
Region: Spain, Rias Baixas
Producer: Bodegas As Laxas
Retailer: QFC (Kroger)
What we tasted and smelled in this Albariño: Sweet, smell of glue or gas, tart green apple, cotton candy, nectarine, lime. Very zippy.
Food to pair with this Albariño: Charcuterie board, appetizers, puff pastries with pear and brie, fried food, fish.
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
Carmela: Condes De Albarei
A great white wine option!
Taste profiles expected from Albariño: 42:45
- Albariño taste profile
- Lemon zest, grapefruit, tangerine, lime, honeydew, nectarine, peach, saline
- Secondary notes tend to include asparagus, eucalyptus, black olive, smoke, walnut, and grass
- From the Vine Pair
- Peach, Meyer lemon, and apple blossom. On the palate, Albariño tends to be mineral-driven and even salty, with more of a tart, lemon-lime flavor.
- From Abacela review
- Aromas of jasmine, peach and fresh tropical fruit
- From Laxas website
- Clear, brilliant wine, straw yellow coloured with green nuances. An intense aroma on the nose, perfectly combining the fruity and floral notes, particularly apple and stoned fruit (apricot). Freshness on the palate typical of Albariño, with a touch of acidity perfectly balanced with the structure and body of this wine. Meaty, sweet with a glyceric finish.
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 44:49
As always, thank you so very much for listening to us, The Wine Pair, and you know, while you’re thinking about it, we think you should subscribe and give us a nice rating!
We would also love to hear from you. Please reach out to us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com, you can email us at email@example.com, you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter, and we would be so happy if you DM’ed us and told us what you think, if you have ideas for future episodes or wines you are curious about or wine styles you are interested in or ways of growing wines you are curious about! And, we hope you tell your friends and family and loved ones and your mom and everyone who ever said anything nice to you about us!
Thanks for listening to the Wine Pair podcast, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine