What is Albariño?
Albariño is among Spain’s best known white wine grapes. It can also be found in Portugal, where it is referred to as Alvarinho, as well as parts of California. It’s a robust and thick-skinned grape, common in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. The Albariño grape produces highly aromatic wines with generous fruit flavours of peach and apricot. While previously popular as a blending grape, it has grown in popularity as a single varietal in its own right. The greatest expressions of Albariño surely come from Spain’s Rías Baixas (pronounced ree-ass by-shass), where it accounts for over 90% of all vineyard plantings.
When to Serve Albariño?
Thanks to its aromatics and refreshing acidity, Albariño can be enjoyed by itself in just about any setting. Its zippiness and lively aromas can make it a viable alternative to Champagne or another sparkling wine as an aperitif. Serve a playful Albariño in place of a better-known Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio at your next cocktail party, and see the delight on your guest’s faces! Even better, however, is the wine’s versatility when it comes to food pairing. You may be surprised with how well Albarino matches most foods!
Seafood, particularly from the Galicia region, is perhaps the perfect accompaniment for an Albariño from Rías Baixas. Served chilled, the pairing of Albariño with a serving of fresh oysters or French-style fruits de la mer may be impossible to beat. Take a fresh example such as the Albariño de Fefiñanes from Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes, and pair it with just about any fresh, ready-to-eat seafood or fish – even sushi – and see for yourself!
Rich, Buttery Dishes
The zingy acidity of the Albariño will cut through rich, creamy and buttery sauces. Pair a young and lively Albariño such as Marieta from Bodegas Martín Códax with a creamy carbonara, potato gratin or even a simple old macaroni and cheese, and see how it lifts the richness of the dish and enhances your meal!
Sharp, Acidic Dishes
Successful wine pairings may highlight similarities between wine and food as much as illustrating contrasts. In this way, a vibrant and acidic Albariño, such as Paco & Lola, will pair surprisingly well with a sharp or acidic dish such as chicken in white wine and tarragon sauce, with a Chinese-style lemon chicken, French duck l’orange or virtually anything tomato-based from Italy.
Set out a diverse cheese board and explore a world of flavour between your favourite cheeses and a slightly aged Albariño. Something like the Organistrum from Bodegas Martín Códax, which has seen some barrel and bottle aging, would prove a highly interesting counterpoint to many goat’s cheeses.
Does Albariño go with everything?
So, with all of that said, is it the case that Albariño goes with all types of food? Consider that the best food and wine pairing is the one that you, personally, enjoy. Our tastes are unique, and what is delicious to one person may be abhorrent to another. Having said that, there are a few dishes that traditionally do not pair so well with Albariño – think heavy red meat, overly pungent blue cheeses and very sweet desserts. Of course, these rules are not universal. Perhaps you like nothing more than a zesty Rías Baixas white wine with your fillet steak with blue cheese sauce and ice cream on the side – and why not? Such is the beauty of food and wine pairing generally, and of the versatility of the Albariño grape! Try for yourself and see what you think!
Read about Paco & Lola Albariño here.