30 Second Wine Advisor: Wine Focus - Albariño, Alvarinho

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In This Issue

 Wine Focus - Albariño, Alvarinho
The highly aromatic white grape of Northwestern Spain and Portugal is the focus for our monthly wine-education feature in August.
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 Burgáns 2006 Rias Baixas Albariño ($12.99)
Orange blossom, orange peel and snappy mixed citrus make this Spanish summer sipper a treat, and it's a fine match with shellfish.
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Wine Focus - Albariño, Alvarinho

As a handy tool for sorting out wine-grape varieties, I often categorize wine grapes by their aromatic level. While just about every grape has its characteristic aromas, the Spanish Albariño is one of the varieties that rank as highly aromatic. With Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and others, these are grapes that yield wines with aromas that seem to leap out of the glass and shout their name.

Albariño, and its Portuguese cousin Alvarinho, are our featured varieties in this month's Wine Focus on our WineLovers Discussion Groups. We hope you'll grab a glass and join us!

Albariño is pronounced "Ahl-bah-reen-yo" and spelled with a wiggly "tilde" over the "n" that some E-mail software may mangle. Albariño is grown primarily in the section of Galicia in northwestern Spain called Rias Baixas, meaning "Lower Rivers" in the local Gallego dialect.

This damp and rainy region produces grapes with thick skins, and this climate effect is said to foster Albariño's naturally aromatic flavors. It's no surprise that the acidic white wines from this coastal area make natural companions with seafood and fish.

Directly across the border from Galicia into Portugal, the same grape is called Alvarinho, pronounced almost the same, where it's sometimes used in Vinho Verde, a Portuguese white that may be still or slightly fizzy. Much Vinho Verde is light and intended for immediate consumption, so much so that it suffers from trans-Atlantic shipment and is best avoided until you can enjoy it during a trip to Portugal, an expedition that I highly recommend.

Vinho Verde or otherwise, though, Portuguese wines that explicitly name Alvarinho on the label are often more serious stuff, well worth the toll even after export.

Still, whether you're enjoying Albariño from Spain or Alvarinho from Portugal, drinking the youngest vintage available is a good idea; this is a wine that shows best when it's young and fresh, and there's little benefit in cellaring.

Today's tasting, below, features a good, widely available Spanish Albariño. If you'd like to try this wine, or other Albariño or Alvarinho, and report your tasting, comment or ask questions, you're invited to participate in Wine Focus on the WineLovers Discussion Group,

Burgáns 2006 Rias Baixas Albariño ($12.99)


Transparent straw color. Orange blossom and a hint of fresh herbs, on the aromatic side as you'd expect of Albariño. Crisp and bright, orange peel segues into an intriguing bitter-orange flavor, dry and appropriately acidic, leaving a mixed-citrus tang in a very long finish. U.S. importer: European Cellars LLC, Charlotte, N.C.; An Eric Solomon Selection. (Aug. 7, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: I like Albariño best with just about any kind of shellfish; it was fine with Gulf shrimp scampi-style, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, red-pepper flakes and lime juice, over spaghetti.

VALUE: In a world where there's virtually no interesting wine left under $10 (a good topic for a future rant), it's hard to quibble with a wine of this quality at the lower end of the teens. Try shopping around, as U.S. retail pricing varies from $9 to $18.

WHEN TO DRINK: Soon. Albariño isn't meant for aging, and the orange plastic stopper is reliable only for short-term storage. It's best to use up the 2006 by the time the 2007 vintage arrives.

Albariño = "Ahl-bah-reen-yo"
Alvarinho = "Ahl-vah-reen-yo"

The U.S. importer has a fact sheet on Burgáns (Adobe PDF format) at this link:

Find sources and compare prices for Burgáns 2006 Albariño on Wine-Searcher.com:

The Burgáns brand is apparently made only for U.S. (and limited Canadian) export. However, it's made at the Martin Codax winery, a brand with international distribution including the U.S. To find 2006 Martin Codax on Wine-Searcher.com, click:

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