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Know Your Grapes: Albarino Taste and Pairings

What does albarino taste like and pair well with?

Albarino (pronounced "al-ba-ri-ño") is a grape that has a special place in my heart - it's one of the first wines that I actually remember drinking and thinking, "okay, there is something interesting going on here..." My boss, a big "wine guy", ordered it while at a business dinner at a Mexican restaurant in New York, and I had never heard of the grape before. Although it's grown in popularity since then, it's still underappreciated which is an absolute shame.

In a recent tasting he did with for the New York Times wine section, Eric Asimov describes wines made from the Albarino grape as, "consistently pleasant, refreshing wines, resolutely dry, [and] relentlessly citrus-flavored." However, he goes on to worry that the wines are a bit generic, becoming for Spain what Pinot Grigio is to Italy. I don't necessarily disagree, at least if you've had a bunch of different Albarinos and know the wine well. If you haven't, it's very much worth a careful try.

Unfortunately for consumers, Albarino's brand has improved in the past few years in the U.S., meaning that no longer can you purchase loads of excellent bottles for under $20. However, it's still a relative value compared to many New Zealand or Napa Sauv Blanc or Italian Pinot Grigio, two wines it is often compared to. I think that comparison is unfair, as Albarino is more mineral-driven and less generally obnoxious much of what is generally available in those other categories.

Albarino comes from a smaller region called Rias Baixas (pronounced "ree-ahs bai-chas") in the larger region of Galicia, which is on Spain's Atlantic coast. The classic dish to pair with Albarino is pulpo, or octopus. Other good bets are grilled or spicy fish, shellfish, or mussels. It also goes well with roasted vegetables, and because it is generally crisp and refreshing is excellent on its own or as the first wine of a long night of drinking.

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