April 23, 2024

WINE O’CLOCK: A last sip of summer as the nights draw in

Albariño was once a rare visitor to Irish shores. Ten years ago you would have had to go searching for it in a wine shop. But this Spanish white has become very popular and today it gets a prominent place on most supermarket shelves.

Sudden popularity sometimes leads to overproduction and a lowering of standards as producers cut corners and allow low-quality wines onto the market.

With Albariño. though, it’s a case of so far, so good.

The Albariño grape is grown mainly in the north west of Spain. It’s a wine full of fruity flavour and associated with summer. But there’s no need to abandon it just because the nights are drawing in. Albariño wines make a great aperitif, when served slightly chilled, and they are a perfect accompaniment to white fish or, more particularly, shellfish.

A number of vineyards produce wines with Albariño as the sole grape or the major component of a blend. They are all light and fruity but flavours can vary from sharp citrus (apple and pear) to the summer mellow of apricot and peach. Some have a slightly nutty texture.

Spain is not the only producer of Albariño wines. Neighbouring Portugal also produces “alvarinho”, using the same grape and sometimes adding complexity by aging the wine in oak barrels.

Albariño is not always the main name you will see on the label. Look out for bodegas names such as Benito Sabtos, Martin Codax and Agnusdei.

Rías Baixas DO is the designation to look for.Abellio Albariño (€13.76, SuperValu)
Reduced by almost €4 in a sale which will last until October 14. This is one with the mellow peach and apricot flavours. SuperValu recommends it as an accompaniment to Asian dishes and I’m guessing they mean Indian as opposed to Chinese or Korean.

Laurent Miquel Albariño (€9.94 Dunnes)
This is, unusually, an Albariño produced in France. It balances the mellow peachy flavours with a tang of grapefruit. The wine critic of a national newspaper referred to this, rather snootily, as an “entry-level Albariño”. It is a very good Albariño, selling at a very competitive price.

Tordo Alvarinho (€12.95 O’Briens)
This is one of the Portuguese cousins, grown on the Carneiro family estate at Basto, in the Vinho Verde region. Here again you have the mellow fruit flavours balanced with a hint of grapefruit. With this you can have a sip of summer all year round.

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