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Albariño Grape Sensory Immersion

albariño food & wine grapes montana rae podcast recipe spanish wine white wine Feb 15, 2022

Join me as we immerse ourselves in the flavors, aromas, sounds, and experience of northwestern Spain. We’ve launched The Wine Ship’s first Grape Crash Course on the podcast today with a feature on one of my favorite white wine grape varieties: Albariño.

While discussing climate, soil, and farming are important to deepening our understanding of wine, I prefer to take an approach focused on the lifestyle and enjoyment of the wine. Together, we’ll uncover where and how a grape, style, or category fits into your wine-loving life.

We’re going beyond the technical to a full sensory experience that you can create on your own. It starts with listening to this week’s episode of The Wine Ship Podcast to establish your base knowledge of the Albariño grape. Then, you’ll find a few beautiful images to look at and relate to the content on the podcast here on the blog. Next, I want you to taste some wines made from this grape! I’ve curated a list of options that you can order online from to experience different expressions of the grape. You’ll feel different textures on your palate as you taste different styles and expressions of the grape from different regions.

Listen Now!

We can’t create a full sensory experience without a food pairing. I’ve created a delicious, easy recipe for you to pair with the wines: a spin on the classic ‘Almejas al Vino Blanco’ or Clams in White Wine. The aromas of shallot, garlic, tomato, and fresh clams will fill your home with smells to rival any restaurant. Together with the wines, you’ll feel transported to the coastal climates Albariño thrives in. Finally, I’ve curated a gorgeous playlist of Spanish-speaking music to enjoy with your eating, drinking, and learning experience.

See for Yourself!

Our map shows a region of Galicia overlooking the Atlantic. As you can see, Rias Baixas consists of three subzones: Val do Salnés, Condado do Tea, and O Rosal.
Next, take a peek at an example of a trellis system used to bring the grapes and canopy up above the ground where moisture might otherwise result in mildew and rot.
Finally, an image from the team at Wine Folly gives you a look at the typical pale straw color of the wine and a look at a bunch of Albariño with its thick, green skin.


Food Pairing Recipe

'Almejas al Vino Blanco’: Clams in White Wine
A simple and delicious recipe to bring the flavors of northwestern Spain to your table. One of the things I like most about a recipe like this is that you don’t need to worry about exact measurements! The quantities below are suggestions. If you follow them exactly, you’ll love the outcome but you can also get creative and adjust as you see fit. Just wait until the aromas fill your kitchen!! You’re in for a treat...
  • 2 lb clams (I used Little Necks – see what you can find fresh!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 14.5oz can tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ½ - ¾ cup water
  • 9-12 ounces Albariño
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked paprika to taste
  • Ground nutmeg to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • Fresh bread for dipping
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • Soak the clams in water in the refrigerator for two hours to release any grit. Rinse thoroughly under running water and discard any open clams.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the shallot over medium heat until soft and translucent. 
  • Add the garlic and tomato and cook for 5 minutes. 
  • Stir in the parsley, salt and pepper, paprika, nutmeg, crushed red pepper, and pour in the water.
  • Add the clams and cook, covered, over low heat for 5-8 minutes or until they open. Discard any that do not open. 
  • Add the wine and butter and cook another 3-4 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly, stirring gently so the clams stay in their shells.
  • Serve immediately with fresh bread and a squeeze of fresh lemon

 Wines to Try

La Caña AlbariñoValle Salnés, Rias Baixas, Spain

  • Dry farmed using organic practices
  • Pergola trained vines cultivated by hand
  • Acidic, sandy, alluvial soils of decomposed granite
  • Aged ‘sur-lie’ aka on the lees for eight months with bi-weekly battonage (stirring of the lees) in both barrel and tank
  • From the collection by Jorge Ordóñez, the first person to export this variety
  • Light and fresh with classic notes of pear, nectarine, melon, honey, lemon, and chamomile
  • Silky texture from the lees contact yet energetic and zippy with a spicy note of ginger on the finish

Cadre Sea Queen Albariño Edna Valley, Central Coast, California

  • Grown just 5.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean in an area with striking similarities to Rias Baixas as both have proximity to the sea and are protected by a small range of coastal hills
  • Also like Rias Baixas, the Albariño from this region is known for a pronounced saline note
  • Vibrant acidity, minerality, and loads of spicy citrus zest
  • From a single block split into two different vine architectures: cane pruned and spur pruned
  • SIP Certified Sustainable
  • 100% Stainless Steel fermented and aged on the fine lees for 7 months
  • Aromas of seductive orange blossom, banana, and cardamom notes
  • White flower notes are ever so present, but salty tangy citrus is the driver
  • “Our Albariño never lacks acidity. In fact, managing that high acidity presents one of our biggest challenges, yet that is our greatest gift. There is a rich assembly of citrus, white fruits, stone fruit, and tropicals that are all corralled with bright acidity from start to finish.”

Nortico AlvarinhoMoncao and Melgaço, Minho, Portugal

  • Grown on the border with Spain's Galicia province - the best Alvarinho-growing area in Portugal
  • Unlike Vinho Verde, it has no added CO2, making for a richer, fuller expression
  • Plenty of maritime influence and salinity
  • Hallmark flavors of citrus and peach with tropical aromas
  • Sustainably grown vines (small plots called jardins) planted from 1910-2005 in granite soil
  • Grapes are selected at the winery and experience a long, cool fermentation. Racking, primary filtration and cold stabilization. Four months in stainless steel, filtration prior to bottling – no lees aging on this one!
  • Nortico Alvarinho is one of those projects that has been in the making for quite some time. It started in my family's small tile atelier, where I learned to love tiles. The traditional ceramic tile atelier was more a labor of passion and tenacity than business … [and] to this day, tiles are produced exactly like in the 18th century, each shaped from scratch and painted by hand. Walking the streets of Oporto or Lisboa you may encounter tiles on both modest and important buildings. Tiles are a durable building material, and an early form of storytelling and graphic design. We wanted the Nortico label to evoke those tiles to capture that spirit and Portuguese aesthetics.” - Rui Abecassis, founder of Obrigado

Set the Mood!

With the table set and the wine flowing the final piece is a sexy collection of tunes to complete the immersion.

Mistaken Identity: Albariño in Australia

Our friends in Australia thought they had Albariño planted but in 2009 a French visitor became suspicious that things might not be as they appeared to the Aussies. As it turned out, they had planted Savagnin, a variety mostly found in the Jura region of France. Today, Australia has actual Albariño planted, but only in about 25 vineyards around the country.

Can you name another case of mistaken grape identity in the world of wine?! Drop your comments below!

Still have questions about winemaking? Be sure to tune in next week for our Winemaking 101 Focus! 
Cheers, Montana Rae

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