Food and Wine Pairing: Albariño

Food and Wine Pairing: Albariño

Albariño, food and wine pairing, summer menu

In the northwest region of Spain, in Galicia, grows a white grape that is used to make the perfect summer wine. Albariño is a crisp white wine with flavors of citrus, honeydew, nectarine, honeysuckle and just a hint of salt. It is light in color and body, dry, and acidic. The white wine that Albariño is most similar to is Sauvignon Blanc, but Sauvignon Blanc is a bit more herbal in flavor than Albariño.1-3

While Albariño is predominantly grown in Spain, it is also grown in Portugal where it is known as Alvarinho. These days, you can also find Albariño from the US (California), Uruguay, Australia, Chile and Brazil. While Albariño may not be as common as some white wines, you can find it at any store with a decent wine selection, usually in the Spanish wine section. Prices tend to range from $12 to about $23 where I live (Metro Detroit). It is most commonly served young.1-3

Like one would expect from a dry and acidic white wine grown in a coastal region, Albariño pairs well with seafood. Think ceviche, fish tacos, and grilled seafood. It is not uncommon for dry white wines to pair well with fish and seafood; Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio pair similarly well with these foods and are easier to find in a grocery store. However, there are some instances where it is better to search out an Albariño rather than pick one of these more accessible wines. A unique thing about Albariño is it can handle a bit of spice, while most wines cannot. I wouldn’t pair it with anything extremely spicy (you’d want to pick a Riesling in that case), but it can hold its own with Cajun or Thai food or a seafood dish with a slight kick. Also, Albariño pairs well with herbs, so if your recipe uses pesto or chimichurri, you may want to seek out an Albariño.1-4

Seafood isn’t your only option with Albariño. It will also pair with light meats, soft cheese, semi-hard cheeses, herbs, and grilled vegetables. Consider it a to-go wine for a summertime tapas party.1-4

Recipes to Serve With Albariño:

Cheesy crab tostadas (Recipe here)

Vegan “ceviche” stuffed avocado (Recipe here)

Saffron shrimp sheet pan dinner (Recipe here.)

How to Taste Wine: 

Step 1: Examine the color. First hold the wine up to the light, and then examine it against a white background (tablecloth, napkin, etc.). White wines range in color from pale straw to deep gold. Wine Folly has a great color chart on their website that can help you narrow down the shade of your vino. Other questions to ask yourself: Is the wine clear or opaque? Can other shades be seen along the edges of the glass? If the wine is browner near the rim, it may indicate the wine has been aged. If it’s pale near the rim, it may be a less flavorful wine. 5-7

Step 2: Swirl the wine glass. Yes, it looks snobby, but swirling your wine has two purposes: releasing aroma compounds and indicating alcohol levels. After you swirl, you will find there are tears running along the sides of the glass. These are called the legs. Is your wine a thick thighed gal? That indicates she has a higher alcohol level and you do not want to underestimate her.5-6

Step 3: Sniff. Note the distinctive aromas, which can be fruity, floral, herbal, or mineral. Take another sniff and see if you can identify new scents. Distinguishing aromas can be challenging. You might note that you smell berry, but you can’t identify which berry is triggering your scent memory. One way to simplify (or possibly complicate) the matter is to refer to the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel, which was created by Dr. Ann Noble, a chemist who retired from UC Davis.5-6, 8

Step 4: Taste. Your first sip should be swirled around your mouth so all the flavors are released. My first impression is always whether the taste matches the scent. White wines I usually find to be pretty consistent, but every now and then, I come across a red wine that smells like sweet ripened berries and tastes like gravel. Other things to note when tasting include acidity, sweetness, alcohol content, and tannins (wines with high tannins will “dry out” your tongue). The last thing is the wine’s finish. Do the flavors linger after your sip? If yes, your wine has a long finish. Is it a pleasant finish? Some wines may mellow out in the finish, while others taste delicious initially only to have an unpleasant finish.5-6

Step 5: Cheat. Okay, I made this step up. Wine tasting is subjective. You may taste pears while your dining companion tastes apples and vanilla. After I note my perceptions of both smell and taste, I like to read the notes on the wine bottle. If the wine doesn’t provide any notes on the back of the label, I Google wine reviews and learn what Wine Enthusiast had to say about it. I then take another sip and see if I now taste new flavors based on the tasting notes of others. This isn’t to see if I am right or wrong; there isn’t a right or wrong in wine tasting. For me, it’s about training my palate. Please don’t ever read tasting notes before you taste yourself, as you will only taste the flavors you anticipate that you will find.

Sources:

1Wine Folly: Albariño (Alvarinho). Accessed April 20, 2022.

2The Spruce Eats: What is Albariño Wine? Accessed May 26, 2022.

3The Grape Grind: All you need to know about Albariño. Accessed May 26, 2022.

4Dornenburg A and Page K. (2006.) What to Eat with What You Drink. (pp 203.) Voracious/Little, Brown and Company.

5Wine Enthusiast: How to Taste Wine. Accessed May 26, 2022.

6The Spruce Eats: How to Taste Wine Like a Professional. Accessed May 26, 2022.

7Wine Folly: The Wine Color Chart. Accessed May 18, 2022.

8The Wine Aroma Wheel Official Website. Accessed May 18, 2022.

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