We inched our way in the dark along a narrow stone path in the old Spanish fishing village of Combarro, past small, silent stone houses, a vest pocket bar where men sat quietly playing cards, down a few uneven steps, a right turn, up a few steps, then a left turn. It was late, it was chilly, and as we neared the end of the village, I could hear waves lapping against the seawall. Where was Marisol leading us? What could be here, at the edge of this little village? And then, when there was nowhere further to go, as if a mirage, it appeared, built into the rock wall at the water's front. It was 10:30 pm when we entered Alvariñas, a shockingly handsome, formal restaurant, and until two in the morning, we dined on the gastronomic wonders of Galicia.
If finding Alvariñas, the restaurant, in an unlikely spot was a splendid surprise, it was second to discovering Albariño, the wine of Rías Baixas, the most important wine of Galicia and the finest white wine of Spain.
Albariño, the wine, is generally dry with fruit flavors that vary from lime and pineapple to pear, peach, melon, apple and apricot; sometimes with a floral note added, always with a bracing acidity, a mineral-like cleanliness and freshness. While they all carry a family resemblance, some are slightly rounder and fleshier; others, lighter-bodied and tangy; and each carries an individual personality.
If I were to choose one as the quintessential Albariño, it would be Pazo de Señoráns with its supple body, aromatic blend of lemon, lime and peach and delicious taste. Its upper class sibling is the complex, rich Rías Baixas Pazo de Señoráns Selección de Añada; made from the 45 year old vines of a single vineyard, it is one of the region's most outstanding wines. Pazo de Señoráns, housed in a fourteenth century estate, is owned by Marisol Bueno and Javier Mareque; Marisol was one of the people most responsible for helping establish Albariño as an official Spanish wine producing region and setting the wine on its trajectory to international fame.
rom Bodegas La Val, a family-owned winery, we have its bright, flavorful La Val Albariño hinting of grapefruit and other citrus fruits; and its excellent Finca de Arantei Albariño--intense, golden yellow, mineral-ladened, rich in ripe fruit flavors and as smooth as fine silk. From Coto de Xiabre, another family-owned winery, there is Maior de Mendoza, a vibrant, highly aromatic Albariño that recalls pear, peach and apple. And from Pazo San Mauro, which is part of a larger winery group, winemaker Cristina Mantilla offers a racy Albariño bursting with citrus fruits--especially fresh lemony flavors--and a body that is all silk and satin.
Every Albariño seems born to be a companion to the foods of Galicia. At our late night dinner at Restaurant Albariñas, Albariño mingled comfortably with empanadas, asparagus wrapped around octopus, smoked salmon twisted around cream cheese, with shrimp, crab, lobster, sardines and langoustines. It was a natural with hake, its flavors heightened by oregano and paprika; and even with veal cheeks in a red wine reduction. In other restaurants throughout Rías Baixas, Albariño was equally accommodating with scallops en brochette; grilled monkfish, sea bass, a pork dish served on a bed of kale, with all of Galicia's seafood, from clams, mussels and oysters to cuttlefish, trout and lamprey. And they do equally well with light meat dishes.
But Albariño is not limited to Galician cuisine. It goes naturally with all seafood, with pork, chicken and veal dishes. It goes well with Chinese, Thai and other Asian cuisines and with Indian dishes. And it is a lovely drink unto itself.
Albariño is a wine to drink when you buy it; it needs no further aging. It is a wine that rarely costs over $20 and usually less. The world is just beginning to discover Albariño. Perhaps you should too.
thanks aunt Eunice
Travelclassics dot com
· 8 years ago