Albariño is the signature white of the Galicia region in the northwest corner of Spain. One of the attractive qualities of albariño is its fresh vitality; the grape tends to be high in acidity and the wines are made without oak, which allows for a pure expression of the fruit. They are great for these warm summer days and will match with a variety of white-wine dishes, from fish and shellfish to chicken and salads. Some of the best wines come from the Rías Baixas sub-region within Galicia, including Vionta’s exceptional 2008 Albariño. I loved this $18 wine from the first sip with its tastes of green apple, a bit of pineapple, subtle floral notes and lemon-lime and minerals on a lengthy finish. It’s the kind of wine that easily invites you back for another glass. Another thing it has going for it is alcohol at just 12 percent or so (the bottle says 12 percent while notes from the winery say 12.35 percent). Imported by Freixenet USA, Sonoma, California.
Spain is not the only place where albariño is grown. It is widely planted just across the border in the Minho region of Portugal where it is known as alvarinho and is sometimes part of the blend in vinho verde, or “green wine,” which is named for its freshness. Beyond Spain and Portugal, some producers are having success with it in California’s Santa Barbara County, chief among them Richard Longoria, whose 2009 Albariño Clover Cree Vineyard from the Santa Ynez Valley follows in the footsteps of the excellent ‘08 vintage. It has a lean elegance with delicious melon, citrus and floral notes. Light, interesting and easy to drink. Alcohol is a welcome 12.5 percent and the suggested price is $23. Production was just 134 cases so you might want to check availability at Longoria’s Web site. (Wines received as press samples.)