We have long been extolling the virtues of this fabulous grape, but it’s always reassuring to know that other professionals are of the same opinion.  This month’s Decanter Magazine contains the results of a panel tasting of Rías Baixas Albariño and the results are seriously impressive.

It used to be thought that the wine was so good, the Galicians kept it all to themselves but they’re clearly becoming more generous as exports were up over 18% in 2011 - great news for us!

Albariño is the principal grape of the Rías Baixas region of Galicia in Northern Spain and it is here that it thrives.  The influence of the Atlantic is of great benefit by keeping the grapes cool enough to retain their freshness.  The vines are trained on overhead pergolas to keep the grapes shaded in the hottest months and to keep the fruit out of reach of roaming wild boar.  The vines are mature, the yields are low and the winemaking is inspired – a perfect combination in the wine world.

The classic profile of Albariño is of plump, white-fleshed peach fruit with subtle underlying salty minerality and freshness.  This is the perfect companion to seafood (and shellfish in particular) which is of course consumed in great quantity in this region of Spain.  The wines are extremely attractive and once tried, it’s impossible not to succumb to their charms.

Both of our Albariños came highly recommended:
Bodegas Castro Martin, Sobre Lias 2010, 18.25 pts
“Smoky, earthy, leafy with bonfire aromas.  Richer, ripe style with an off-dry impression; yellow peaches, golden plums and exotic fruit, with lime acidity underpinning. Finish is long and ripe, with plenty of finesse and expression.”

Pazo Señorans 2011, 17 pts
“Exceptional aperitif wine, full of freshness and lively acidity.  Elegant, smoky aromatics with citrus fruit underneath.  Lively, lemon fruit palate reined in by the oak, giving a balanced, complex, textured wine.”

And the experts opinions?
Ferran Centelles, former elBulli sommelier said it made him proud to be a Spaniard to have an indigenous grape with such potential for quality and pedigree.  “Most of the wines were ideal food wines; Albariño’s acidity matches perfectly with the saltiness of different seafoods but can cope with a more complex array of dishes: light, refreshing salads with lemon vinaigrettes, crunchy green vegetables, Iberian ham and fish tartares are great pairings.”

Sarah Jane Evans MW said she ‘arrived slightly nervous about what we were going to find, but I was really blown away’

John Radford added ‘The big question has always been whether Rueda’s Verdejo or Rías Baixas’s Albariño is Spain’s most classic white.  And on this showing, it’s clearly got to be Albariño.’