Readers will perhaps remember last week’s article about the sensational (in the perfect sense of the word) Cata-Concurso, Wine Competition, in Galicia where 25 professionals in the Spanish wine world were asked to judge the best young Albariño wine of the 2010 vintage. I was privileged to be one of the panellists and last week’s article describes some of the ‘trials and tribulations’ my fellow panellists and I had to face! (Still available at click Cork Talk).

 As you can see Pazo Da Bouciña, Adegas Arousa (Adega is the Galician word for Bodega) walked away with the Gold Medal. The Silver Medal was won by Esencia Divina, Bodegas Gran Vinum; and the Bronze went to Bouza de Carril, Adega Bouza de Carril. The local and national TV and press covered the winners ceremony whilst politicians, the glitterati, other dignitaries and of course, ourselves, the judges, enjoyed a sumptuous lunch. The fanfare and cheering bounced off the marquee walls in a cacophony of joyous noise as the tension of competition was finally released. They take their Albariño very seriously in Galicia!

 But what exactly is the nature of Albariño, the white wine most often lauded as the best available in Spain? Well, after tasting approaching a hundred examples over the three days we were there I think I can say, with some confidence, that I am now conversant with the many attributes of this noble grape variety!

 There has been, until recently, a rather romantic notion that the Albariño variety is in fact a hybrid, born originally of the great German grape, Riesling, which when planted by pilgrim Monks who had trekked along the Camino de Santiago had mysteriously morphed into a wholly (no pun intended!) different variety. The white-coated boffins have dispelled this rumour once and for all with DNA and goodness knows what tests. No matter, let’s talk about the grape how it is now and not worry about its provenance or family tree!

 It’s spiritual home is in DO Rias Baixas, where the mountainous inland area slopes down to the ocean. Wines made from Albariño grapes are dry, a glorious combination of fresh acidity, stoned fruit such as apricot, white peach and paraguayo with a delightfully delicate white flower (magnolia perhaps?) fragrance. The vineyards are unlike any others you’ll see in Spain. The vines are trained up and along pergolas high enough for the average Galician to walk under at harvest time (at 6’3” there’d be no summer job for me though!).

 The reason for the pergolas is because there is an awful lot of rain in Galicia (sometimes referred to as Green Spain!) and if the grapes were close to the ground they would take on too much water. Also, whilst there is rain there is are also high temperatures, making the atmosphere too humid. The tall pergolas allow a free flow of freshening air which also dries the grapes following the rain plus of course the leaves make a fine sombrero to protect the grapes from intense sunshine.

 Of course the wines we tasted were all young, bottled straight after fermentation and clarification, but there is a school of thought that suggests that this variety can also be aged, for short periods at least, in oak to add a little depth and further flavours, whilst not diminishing in any way the fruit impact, which would be a tragedy of course.

 There are adegas making examples of this style and I have really enjoyed the ones I’ve tried. There is also the possibility of barrel fermentation and ageing on the lees (the tiny particles of dead yeast and grape flesh) – the variety lends itself to several variations on a theme, all of which must be complimentary to the fruit, which is the glory of the variety.

 So Albariño wine is truly an excellent aperitif wine to be enjoyed whilst sipping with friends but it is also probably the perfect accompaniment to seafood, which magically is in abundance on this rugged but beautiful Atlantic coast. Lobsters, crab, oysters, langostines, prawns, cigales etc and the wonderful speciality, octopus, are all simply wonderful with Albariño!

 It’s true that wines made from this grape variety are usually more expensive than other whites, but believe me it’s worth the extra Euro or two!

 Contact Colin: and via his unique wine services website . If your group would like a bodega visit, a wine tasting, a wine appreciation course etc – please contact Colin, the English Voice of Spanish Wine.

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