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Alluring Albariño from Spain

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, and Mark Britten

Three decades ago the availability of Spanish wines in the U.S. market was limited to Sherry, Rioja, the Torres wines from Penedès, and a scattershot assortment from a handful of other producers. In the past 20 years, the availability of wine from all parts of Spain has burgeoned. One result of this dramatic growth is an increased awareness of the white wines of Spain, a country many identify with red wine production.

Spanish whites made from the Albariño grape have been the most successful in capturing the public’s attention. In fact, just as Pinot Grigio is often thought of as the Italian white wine, Albariño is, for many, nearly synonymous with Spanish white wine.

Albariño is grown primarily in Rías Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shuss), located in Galicia in northwest Spain. It has a long history there, but after phylloxera ravaged the area’s vines in the 19th century, most vineyards were replanted with mediocre varieties. The 1980s saw a revival of interest in older varieties, including Albariño. With aid from the European Union, massive replanting took place, and today Albariño accounts for 90% of the Rías Baixas vineyard.

The Northside staff recently blind tasted 14 Albariños from Rías Baixas. The wines were pleasant, crisp, and appealingly citrusy, with the best examples exhibiting an underlying minerality. The major knock was a certain uniformity of style and flavor.

The staff’s top pick, and certainly a wine of character, was the $15-a-bottle Dos de Uvas 2012 Albariño Rías Baixas “Tabla de Sumar.” This beautifully textured wine is full of citrusy flavors with a nice hint of spicy peach lurking underneath. It pulls off the trick of being round and rich yet still crisp and refreshing.

José Antonio López, a key player in the revival of Albariño during the 1980s, produced the “Tabla de Sumar.” Interestingly, in a Northside Albariño tasting held nearly a decade ago, the top pick was produced by a winery with which López was previously associated.

The “Tabla de Sumar” is an ideal wine for the warmer months. Try this crowd-pleasing refresher with light picnic fare, grilled fish, spicy Cajun dishes, or a nice plate of sautéed shrimp and enjoy!

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