By Celia Strong
Well, darn. More new wine? Life is pretty good. At least we are keeping our brains working. And our taste buds. And anything else we can connect to all the sipping we are doing. Networking and social skills. Tech skills to email and text about wines between friends. Dishwashing skills in that it is way harder to wash a wine glass when you’ve used it repeatedly in one sitting. Etc. Etc. We are truly working extra hard.
Moving forward. We are taking ourselves to Spain today. More than that, we are doing another Spanish white. Which means we need to remember some of what we said last week about our white Rioja. Spanish white wines were not always the fresh, clean, crisp wines that we can find today. If long-term barrel aging was good for their great red Riojas, then it must be just as good for the whites. Remember? Well, not only did this theory get used with white Riojas, but it got used for many of Spain’s other whites. Don’t get nervous. Our wine this week is another white. But clean, dry and crisp! Phew!
Now that you’re not nervous, let’s start with our region. Rías Baixas. Which is pronounced “ree-ass by-shass.” “X” in Spanish is our “sh.” Easy. Also easy is the one wine you should be thinking of when you see this region mentioned. Albariño. Their white grape of fame. And good wines! Rías Baixas is a DO region located on the northwestern coast of Spain. The DO was created in 1986, on an experimental basis. It is a relatively small region with 180 wineries that produce more than 26,400 gallons of wine each year. There are other grapes grown in Rías Baixas, but I’m not sure we’ll ever see any of them. Short of going there in person.
In the last several years, Albariño wines have grown in popularity. And availability. (Maybe the increased availability has made them more popular. It’s the “Which came first – the chicken or the egg” quandary.) Anyhow, the name “Albariño” is the Galician name for the grape. Galicia being an old name for the northwestern part of Spain, where Rías Baixas is. Supposedly, the variety was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by Cluny monks sometime in the 12th century. The name means “white (wine) from the Rhine.” For a long time, it was believed it was a Riesling clone from Germany. As a story, this is pretty good, but Riesling did not officially exist before the 15th century. Hmmmmm. This variety is also used in Portugal to make their Vihno Verde wines. And, now, it is grown in California.
Albariño wines are notable for their botanical and white stone fruit aromas and flavors. If you remember Viogniers and Torrontes and Gewurztraminers, you can come close to imaging Albariño. (Of course, why would any of us waste time imagining when it’s much easier to buy a bottle and taste it for real?) Besides their similarities to these other wines, Albariños have good acidity, freshness and crispness. They have juicy apple flavors, peaches, apricots, jasmine flowers, almond and, the best part, minerality on the finish. When we start tasting different Albariño wines, we can see that there is a range of styles. Some a bit heavier. Some lighter. Some more citrus flavored. Some more nutty. Some really drier. Just like any other grape variety.
Albariño wines with food are easy. And fun because they are so different from our normal choices. Of course they go with most fish and shellfish. At home, in Rías Baixas, they are enjoyed with garlicky shrimp, calamari, crab, oysters, mussels, haddock, tuna, swordfish. Here we can add in grouper and flounder. Fried, spicy or peppery, lemon and cream sauces. Paprika flavored dishes. Pastas go well with these wines. And Asian flavors. Coconut and lemongrass sauces included. Mild cheeses. And, for sure, when you come in the door and need a quick, refreshing glass.
All of which gets us to our wine for the week. Lo Nuevo Covello Albariño. The first thing you notice about this wine is its label. A bright colored rose blossom – the color of fresh peaches and apricots. A hint of the juicy peach and apricot flavors inside. “Lo Nuevo” means “the new.” What’s new is new! A new modern wine style. Representative of the modern Spanish white wine business. The grapes for this wine are grown on hillsides in the region, just north of Spain’s border with Portugal. Many of them family owned. The vines are trained on overhead trellises, the grapes getting shade from the leaves. By protecting them from the sun, despite the extra labor involved, the wines have more delicate fruit flavors and floral notes. Lots of breezes from the Atlantic also help cool the grapes. And maintain the wines’ acidity. Cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks plays its part too. The wine is 100% Albariño.
So, pull out your working wine glasses. Gather some friends or family around. Relax and have a taste of what’s new. Lo Nuevo Covello Albariño. For $9.97! Enjoy.