Wines of Summer, Part II

Last time we focused on wines that started with the letter V.  This time, we’ll explore a few summer-sipping gems from Spain.

Instead of reaching for the old stand-by Sauvignon Blanc, try an Albariño (ahl-bah-REEN-yoh).  This varietal predominately hails from Rías Baixas (Ree-as buy-shus), Galician for low estuaries or low inlets (though you can find some grown in California, Oregon and Australia).  The region’s proximity to the Atlantic yields a cool, rainy and windy climate. 

See Rías Baixas in the upper left corner?
See Rías Baixas in the upper left corner?

The vines of Albariño are trained high off the ground to ensure enough wind passes through to prevent rot or mildew or other fungal diseases from developing.  Thirsty yet? 

Luckily, the thick skins of the grapes also help protect them from all this as well as contribute to the alcohol, acidity and flavor in the resulting wine. 

These grapes tend to produce highly aromatic wine – look for almonds, apples, peaches, citrus, flowers and grass.  

The razor sharp acidity of Albariño makes it refreshing in the heat of the summer as well as a natural partner to seafood (don’t forget its coastal home!).   
I like the 2007 by Pedralonga (Rías Baixas) – it’s full-bodied with lots of grapefruit, honeysuckle and minerality.  This winery has been practicing biodynamic farming practices since 1991 and attritubes their tasty wine to the quality of their soil.
Next up is Godello (go-day-oh), which can be found in Valdeorras, just east of Rías Baixas.  Also planted in Portugal (called Gouveio there), this varietal is a food-friendly alternative to Chardonnay. 

It’s fuller-bodied than Albariño and often has a touch of oak or some aging over the lees (dead yeast cells), which can also contribute to a creamy mouthfeel. Look for apples, peaches, some tropical fruits and with some bottle aging, anise notes. 

I like the 2006 Bodega Ladera Sagrada, Castelo do Papa (Valdeorras)- herbal and expressive, this wine’s also a bargain – most stores carry it for around $12.  Another to try is the 2006 Rafael Palacios, As Sortes (Valdeorras) – more expensive, but more Burgundian in style. 

Last but not least is a varietal called Hondarribi Zuri, which accounts for 85% of the production of Txakoli (Chacolí in Castilian).  We’ve now moved to Basque country and this wine shares some similarities with Portugal’s Vinho Verde – it’s usually sold young, it often has a touch of frizzante and it tends to be low in alcohol. 

Look for freshness, citrus and minerality.  Here are two producers to try – Txomin Etxaniz from the Getariako region of Txakoli and Itsas Mendi from the Bizkaiko appellation. 

They tend to be pricier than Vinho Verde – usually in the $20 range – but worth the few extra bucks to get you out of your wine-drinking rut.

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