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Look to Spain for crisp and refreshing whites

Looking for a crisp summer wine?  TODAY wine columnist Edward Deitch expounds on the pleasures of a distinctive Albariño.
/ Source: TODAY

The evening was getting late and everything — and everyone — was running behind in our house. Dinner would have to be something quick and easy. A couple of cans of white clam sauce and a box of linguine would do the trick, along with an inexpensive bottle of white wine, of course.

The canned sauce would need some embellishment: finely chopped onion and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil before the sauce was dumped in; a generous splash of leftover white wine to give it added flavor; and, finally, some chopped Italian parsley.

The wine needed to be crisp and refreshing. Possibilities would include a muscadet from France’s Loire Valley, a sauvignon blanc from any number of countries, including New Zealand, South Africa or Chile; or what about an albariño from Galicia in northern Spain, another wine that seems almost made for shellfish?

It just so happened that the 2006 Albariño from Martín Códax, a well-known producer that takes its name from a 12th century troubadour, caught my eye as it stood on a table among dozens of bottles waiting to be tasted. Albariño is becoming increasingly popular in this country and it’s not hard to see why. It tends to be clean and sharply focused, with citrus fruit and bright acidity, which makes it perfect for seafood, including my improvised clam sauce, which needs a wine to cut through the oil in the canned base.

The Martin Códax Albariño, which sells for $11 or so, is an elegant, medium-bodied blend of pear, white peach and lemon notes with touches of vanilla and minerals on the finish. In my notes I described it as an excellent alternative to sauvignon blanc.

Albariño’s popularity is catching on in California, where the grape is being grown by increasing numbers of wineries. I’ve tasted a few of them in recent months and, not  surprisingly, they are in a fuller California style that, at this point in their evolution, I find less appealing that the Spanish originals.

So, for pleasing summer whites with fish and shellfish as well as easy drinking before dinner, head for Spain’s Galicia and a bottle of albariño.

Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing.  He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at