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The pale skinned grapes of the Albarino varietal have been grown in and around Spain and Portugal for almost a thousand years, where they are highly enjoyed and prized by the locals for their distinctive aroma, and sharp, tart acidity levels. Over the past century, their influence has spread to the New World, and many vineyards keen to emulate the white wines of Spain have had considerable success with this varietal. The light bodied wines which are produced from the Albarino grapes have wonderfully aromatic properties, and carry ripe flavors of soft summer fruits, apricot and peach, with a mild and pleasantly bitter after taste brought on by their thick skins. Because of their acidic nature, they are a fantastic match for many Spanish foods, and are best served chilled on a hot day.
The northern Spanish wine region of Galicia is a fascinating one indeed, and is most definitely a wine region to keep your eye on today and in the near future. Once an important center of viticulture and wine trade, Galicia suffered from a huge and devastating economic depression in the 19th century, leaving many of the vineyards untended and useless. However, the 20th century saw various organizations pour money into Galician wine making, thus rebooting the wine industry of this relative wet and windy region on the Atlantic coast. Today, the region is being celebrated for its superb and flavorful blended white wines, made from native grape varietals such as Albarino and Caino Blanca, and is continuing to rebuild itself and regain former glories.
Apart from sherry and Malaga, classic Spanish white wines have never been popular outside their own country. They tended to be oaky, high in alcohol, low acid and prematurely aged - in a word, flat. But the wines of Rias Baixas in Galicia (in addition to Penedes and a few other areas) indicate that Spanish white wines can be very different. Rias Baixas, in the extreme northwest bordering on Portugal, receives moist Atlantic breezes that give it a cool, damp Mediterranean climate. Wines here are fresh, dry and somewhat acidic. Often compared to those of the nearby Vinho Verde region of Portugal, they are significantly more interesting, and perfect for drinking with seafood and chicken dishes. The major white varietal by far is Albarino; the remaining ten percent of vineyards can contain Caia Blanca, Treixadura, and Loureiro. The best Rias Baixas wines have floral aromas and an apricot character sometimes compared to Condrieu. Reds are not exported
Ever since the Phoenicians and Romans brought their knowledge of vine cultivation to Spanish soils, the country's culture has grown alongside wine production, with wine being a vital part of Spanish identity and Spanish traditions. Each region of Spain has a wine quite distinct from the others, and it is produced by smallholders and families as much as it is by large companies and established wineries. From the relatively mild and lush regions of La Rioja to the arid plateaus that surround Madrid, grapes are grown in abundance for the now booming Spanish wine industry, and new laws and regulations have recently been put in place to keep the country's standards high. By combining traditional practices with modern technology, Spanish wineries are continuing to produce distinctive wines of great character, flavor and aroma, with the focus shifting in recent decades to quality over quantity.