It’s August, time for a glass of Spanish albarino
I am writing this on Monday, August 2, which is designated National Albarino Day.
No worries if you missed it as the Spanish white wine is so important that it is typically celebrated the first five days in August.
For good measure I will even mention that Wednesday was National White Wine Day so, at the moment, it is the appropriate to enjoy anything from airen to viognier.
Albarino (alba – reen – yo) grows on the Iberian Peninsula near the sea and this seems to help the grape to pair exceptionally well with white fish and many other foods from the sea. Gouda and feta cheeses and even Caesar salad are also good pairings.
A few facts: Most grape vines need to reach an age of five years or so before they start to produce good wine. As fruit production starts to fall off after 30 or 40, sections of vineyards are often replanted at that age. Despite this some of the oldest living vines – that happen to be albarino – are approaching 300!
The grapes are tiny and have thick skins. This makes them harder for the winemaker to work with and makes it necessary to control the amount of raw almond or citrus pith character from the phenol content of the skin. Although these wines are usually consumed at a young age, their acidity and phenol structure give them a strong potential for ageing.
Albarino vineyards often look different from others as the vines are trellised above head height to help keep the fruit dry and rot-free.
Typical identifiers are aromas of nectarine, lime, grapefruit, honeysuckle and sometimes a hint of beeswax.
Spain dominates with about 32,500 acres of these vines and Portugal follows with 14,300. At only 300, Californian is a very distant third. So, let’s stay in Spain.
Bodegas Martin Codax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galician troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. They talk of love, the sea and the coastline.
To assure a good supply of albarino grapes this winery has vineyards of its own as well as many long-term agreements with growers that meet their exacting standards. Today they oversee more than 1,400 small vineyard parcels farmed by 550 families in the Rias Baixas region around the town of Cambados.
The 2019 Martin Codax Albarino garners an impressive 93/100 from Wine Review online.com and this description: “Picture sitting under a lemon tree in bloom by the sea and you’ll get a picture of what albariño is all about, especially in its native home on Spain’s northwest coast. This bottle transports you to that place in direct fashion, with aromas of lemon and sea spray, which turn to mixed citrus and white peach on the palate, where a touch of salinity makes the fruit more lively than it would be otherwise. It’s a budget vacation in your mind.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate comments: “One of the most reliable and regular wines from the zone, the 2019 Martín Códax is also affordable and widely available, the first contact of many consumers with albariño and Rías Baixas. It's always clean, expressive and approachable, with clean aromas of white flowers and fruit and recently cut grass, and it has a soft palate, balanced, with moderate alcohol, good acidity and a touch of sugar that makes it quite mellow but not sweet.” $22.35 (Stock #9400).
I love a good story, so here is one: “Casa Rojo was born in 2009 without its own winery or vineyards, it was born as a dream. An itinerant winemaking project, without limits or family restrictions, but with the desire and conviction of being a new form of free oenology. Laura and I had only one goal: happiness. Enjoying what we were doing. Doing what made us enjoy ourselves. We made wines with the varietal that we felt in love with and travelled to the different wine corners as far away as we wanted. We set our imagination free and we elaborated ten wines throughout Spain, using native grapes that showed us the different profiles of our wine-growing wealth. In 2015, after six years of frenetic enological activity and constant learning, we returned home, to the south of Spain and, with the help of the family (and some banks), we built our winery and planted our vineyards.”
Their labels are so artistic and eye-catching and their 2019 Casa Roja La Marimorena Albarino leaves little doubt about suitable pairing, with its fish on the label. The nose is very intense, highlighting the Atlantic aromas of the grape along with a floral touch of jasmine and violets all wrapped in an outstanding fruitiness of freshly picked peach. $29.95 (Stock #9371).
I realise that it is rather silly of me to say “arriving soon” as we all seem to know of a boat that endlessly circles our island without ever arriving, but we do expect 2020 Mar de Frades Albarino to be unloaded from Spain shortly. It exhibits aromas of orange peel and lychee that are interspersed with white flowers and mineral notes; balsamic nuances end up marking its freshness and salinity.
The label helps with modern technology as a small ship appears on it once the contents have cooled to 52F which this winery, only a mile from the ocean, suggests is the perfect temperature for enjoyment. We anticipate that it will retail for about $25.
This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at email@example.com. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm