As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.
Although A Moveable Feast was written by Ernest Hemingway about his time in the City of Lights – in this case, Paris, not Vegas – every time I see this quote, I’m taken away to Spain, the land of Albariño, and how it is utterly delicious with anything from the sea. Chances are that Hemingway was sipping a white Bordeaux since it’s closer to the sea than the other regions, or possibly a white wine from Pouilly. I can’t seem to help thinking Albariño every time I read that passage.
While I’ve had a few New World (i.e., other than Europe) Albariños that have been very good, none quite meet the high bar set by Albariños that come from Rías Baixas, Spain, especially from the Val do Salnés region. All of the subregions of Rias Baixas have their special styles, but it’s the Val do Salnés that is considered the birthplace of Albariño, and it sits right on the Atlantic Coast. That location for the vineyards may be the reason why so many wines from the Val do Salnés are described as having “briny,” “ocean air,” or “sea salt” characters.
For me, those Albariños are more than just white wines. They’re beautiful experiences with anything edible from the sea, and their crispness, liveliness, and essence of the ocean make them ideal pairings. Since Albariño is grown in Galicia, which has a lively fishing economy, that’s to be expected. In addition, most Albariño is made in stainless tanks and they have a crisp acidity that is food friendly and bracing.
Albariños from the inland areas, such as Ribiero do Ulla, tend to have a bit less minerality and are more fruit forward. And still delicious, by the way. Just subtly different.
My initial intent with this post was to review an Albariño or two, pair it/them with oysters, and wax eloquent. Easy to do with a good one. But I have about half-dozen bottles of Albariño, and I haven’t had oysters in ages. So we’re tasting one that I’ve never had before. Sans oysters.
Summer is coming, and it’s almost time for white wines. Except that generally, I don’t do white wines. I usually enjoy Rosés, particularly dry ones. I love the lip-smacking acidity, the ability to pair with nearly any food, and the fact that they are so refreshing. Although I love Chardonnay (Netflix and popcorn nights are my usual Chardonnay evenings), I don’t find them to be particularly refreshing. Sauvignon Blancs are good, but they’re rather prosaic.
The wine I’m reviewing is a 2017 La Caña Albariño. It received a score of 91 points from Wine Spectator, which I wasn’t immediately aware of.
It’s clear, lemon in color, pale to medium in color intensity, and very clean. The nose is quite expressive, with citrus notes of lime flesh, white grapefruit peel, Asian pear, partially ripe peach, herbs (basil?), a touch of Granny Smith, and ocean. On the palate, the wine is bone dry, the acidity is assertive but elegant, and the apple and pear come to the fore. I did not detect much of the peach that I found on the nose. The citrus plays well with the almost savory brininess and minerality. The surprisingly rich mouthfeel is wonderful, and the finish is long and fresh. This is undoubtedly a Val de Salnes Albariño. The ocean, savory notes, and light, crisp acidity say it all. This is the perfect seafood wine – even more than Muscadet Sèvre et Maine in my opinion – and I can’t think of one that I enjoy with seafood more.
The poor vineyard soils, located less than 1.8 miles from the Atlantic, are mainly made up of sand from decomposed granite and are strongly acidic due to their proximity to the ocean.
So why does it have all of these wonderful characteristics? I found the following on the Bodega la Caña site: The poor vineyard soils, located less than 1.8 miles from the Atlantic, are mainly made up of sand from decomposed granite and are strongly acidic due to their proximity to the ocean. In other words, it’s the poor soils, the gravel, the influence of the ocean which is just under two miles away, and the old vines that make this wine special. Highly Recommended!
The cost ranges from about $13.99 to $22.99 USD. Why the wide range? Heck if I know! I think I paid about $16.99 at Total Wines.
I have several other Albariños that I will be sipping through the next few weeks as I focus on beginning my WSET 3 studies and exam. I may or may not be reviewing them, but I sure love them!
By the way, even if you’re not a Hemingway fan, reading A Moveable Feast is a great book filled with keen observations, aching personal stories, and historical narrative penned by one of my favorite authors ever.
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