Notes on Northern Spain ♯4: Good luck with the pronunciation!

Now when most people pop into the wine shop, thinking about a bottle of white for the evening, some people head straight for the Blossom Hill. A couple straight for the entry level Pinot Grigio. And maybe a few more discerning guys and girls will flick past the Chardonnay from Burgundy, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (or “bitch diesel” as the aussies call it!). I guess Spanish white wines (still wines, not talking Cava here) wouldn’t really cross many people’s minds.

But when I was out in San Sebastian, I had a chance to try more and more of what I think should be the flagship dry white wine from Spain. The grape is called Albariño and one of the easier-to-get-hold-of styles is made in an area called the Rias Baixas.

As with most things in life, Rias Baixas is only small, but very effective
As with most things in life, Rias Baixas is only small, but very effective

It’s right over in the top left hand corner of Spain, jutting out over the northern border of Portugal. It’s still fairly mountainous here, but also gets lots of weather blowing in from the Atlantic. Big problem with this is that it means the weather is much more variable, so year on year it’s swings and roundabouts whether you’ll get a good crop or a difficult one. But what it also means is that the Albariño manages to keep hold of its acidity. It’s this acidity that makes you salivate when you drink it, giving the impression of it being a really refreshing drink.

It tends to be made in a crisp style, a bit like Pinot Grigio, but it has plenty of peach and apricot flavour in addition. This wine should be pretty easy to get hold of these days across the world wine stores. Being from near the coast, it’s made to go great with all things seafood, so if that’s your food of choice, you’ve got to try this.

Albariño and a cheeky prawn stew, perfect!
Albariño and a cheeky prawn stew, perfect!

Only thing I’d say is, for those non-spanish speakers out there, ask someone who knows how to pronounce the “ñ” and the basque “x”. Took four days (and lots of funny looks) of me walking round and jabbering like a complete tool for someone to correct me.




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