Sauvignon Blanc, I love you. You were there when I needed a break from Chardonnay. You were there when I wanted a crisp, clean, high acid white. Thank you. Thank you for being a constant in my life. But Sauvignon Blanc, I need a break. It’s not you, it’s me. You have been lovely, I just need something different. I know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but I need to see for myself. I promise I’ll be back. We can frolic in the meadow like we used to do. But for now, I need to see what else is out there. Perhaps something from the Rías Baixas wine region? I digress...
Why hello Albariño. You exciting little thing. You’re checking all the boxes I need: high acid, crisp, clean, and palate cleansing. You’ve swept me off of my feet and reminded me to BE ALIVE. This is what excitement feels like. Oh, and you keep things interesting when you role play as Alvarinho. You’re the same person but with a different hairdo and a shorter skirt, you little minx. Wow, I haven’t felt this alive in years. Sauvignon Blanc, I do miss you, but I sure am getting what I need with Albariño and Alvarinho over here. See you soon…..I’ll send a postcard.
If you are a Sauvignon Blanc lover and stuck in a wine rut, you’ve come to the right place! Keep an eye out for Albariño or Vinho Verde, and you just might find something else that satisfies you ☺
To lay the groundwork, the white grape we’re talking about is called Albariño in Spain (the Rías Baixas wine region) and Alvarinho in Portugal (the Vinho Verde region). Both generally come in tall green bottles with a screw cap. They can also be slightly sparkling. The effervescence used to be natural, as carbon dioxide would get stuck in the wine as it underwent a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation. Now, some winemakers tend to add the CO2 as a part of the process, as consumers have come to expect it!
Albariño/Alvarinho wines generally have high, bracing acid. They’re generally aged in stainless steel, though sometimes oak is used. The wines are almost always bottled and sold young, and meant to be enjoyed right away!
Here are a few Rías Baixas wine and Vinho Verde examples to look out for.
This wine has been made for almost 100 years, as the first vintage was in 1928! Beautiful notes of green fruit, citrus, and stone fruit. And Zoe likes it!
A classic Albariño producer. A super-duper rich nose on this wine. Rich stone fruit and tropical fruit. Acid driven and crisp AF on the palate. This wine keeps you on your toes.
What you know about aged Albariño? This is the serious kid in the class. Aged on fine lees for a year with weekly bâtonnage, then four more years aging in stainless steel tanks. This is one of those wines where you open the bottle and you’re reminded why you love wine. Creamy, round, and slightly perfumed on the nose. Great acid plus an oily quality I do not normally get from an Albariño. Lovely. Just lovely. This wine makes me smile.
Bright, fresh, and fruity. I get notes of green fruit (green apple and pear), stone fruit, and a slight tropical note (melon and pineapple).
And for good measure, this is a fantastic domestic Albariño that I recently sampled.
Markus and Liz Bokisch have been producing Spanish grapes in Lodi since the early 2000’s. In fact, Markus was the first to bring Albariño to Lodi, and now it’s planted in over a dozen vineyards. This wine is well-balanced and offers the high acid I’d expect from the grape. Bright fruit, including citrus (lime and tangerine), green apple, and tropical notes (did someone say lychee?). Also, a lovely orange blossom floral note.