It has been bitterly, record breaking-ly cold, for a few weeks, hasn’t it? Two-woollens weather during the day and the kind of evenings when only the most robust red wines will do to ward away the cold. And then, suddenly, this past week, it has been unaccountably mild, if a bit rainy, at least in the southern half of the UK. Not quite spring weather, but perhaps just a hint that, after a gruelling winter for all of us in different ways, spring cannot be that far off, certainly the clusters of snowdrops, crocuses and the few hellebores in the garden tell me that. And so perhaps the odd bottle of lighter white wine might be on the way soon... which brings me to albarino, the white grape that is pretty much native to the Rias Baixes area of Galicia, the green and wet region of northwest Spain, with long sea inlets cutting into the landscape.
The grape thrives in the moist, high-altitude, Atlantic-facing vineyards and produces light bodied, distinctive, aromatic wines with floral aromas, stone fruit and citrus character and a definite salinity, all while remaining very crisp and dry. Meant to be drunk fairly young, albarino is fabulous with all types of shellfish and white fish, and some of the slightly more aged wines can pair happily with goats cheeses, white meat dishes and lightly spiced oriental foods. A great alternative for sauvignon blanc lovers – while not quite having the mouth-puckering gooseberry quality of some sauvignons – it can also make great sparkling wines and is known as alvarinho in northern Portgual, where it is used to made vinho verde, the very light, “green”, spritzy wine – but that’s for another column.
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