April 9, 2014 at 4:39 PM ET
A colleague across the country recently wanted to know what wine I was excited about. “Albariño,” I told him.
As is often the case with my non-wine associates and friends, he wasn’t familiar with one of many lesser known wines that deserve more attention. And so I explained that albariño is a white grape grown mainly in northern Spain, in the coastal Rias Baixas area of Galicia near the border with Portugal, and that small amounts of it are grown in California and elsewhere.
With its Atlantic, cool-climate influence, Rias Baixas produces fresh and lively wines infused with citrus and herb notes that are relatively low in alcohol and are delightful for spring and summer drinking with fish, shellfish and other lighter foods. And, as I was reminded in a tasting of half dozen albariños in recent weeks, they make for delightful sipping wines on their own.
The 2012 Burgans Albariño from Bodega Martín Códax is fresh and straightforward with notes of green apple, tropical fruit and lime, along with herb and vanilla touches. It’s also well-priced at about $13. Find it here.
I liked the somewhat richer style of Bodega Castro Martin’s 2012 Albariño “Sobre Lias,” a reference to aging on the lees, the solids of the grapes that give the wine a slightly creamy quality. But freshness is there as well in this $18 wine with lots of citrus, including lime, orange and pink grapefruit, as well as hints of green olive and exotic spices. Find it here.
Another Spanish wine worth trying is the 2012 Licia Albariño made by Jose Limeres. It’s a beautiful wine, elegant and complex with pear and citrus notes, a layer of cream and an herbal touch. It’s about $15. Find it here.
As I said, limited amounts of albariño are being grown elsewhere, and one notable wine comes from Uruguay, where most of the vineyards also lie near the Atlantic Ocean. Bodegas Garzón’s 2013 Albariño is an intriguing wine with notes of lime, tropical fruit, green olive and a good deal of minerality on the long finish. At about $17, it’s another example of exciting things coming out of Uruguay, as I noted in my recent review of some of the red tannats.