Posted by: tomciocco | June 16, 2008


I may be slightly prone to coming out with sweeping declarations when it comes to wine, but I’ll bet you a beer that you are too, so I’ll listen to your spiel if you’ll listen to mine…

Trying to predict what “the next big thing” in wine might be will inevitably reveal far more prognosticators to be in the wrong than in the right, and even when there is a consensus winner for the dubious honor, the specter of the low supply/price inflation/quality decline, boom and bust jam-up always menaces. See California Syrah or the “Super Tuscans” for more on that…In short, the “next big thing” often represents somebody’s marketing department making WAY more promises for a region than the region could ever realisitically hope to keep. Whether your a drinker or a wineseller or a producer, beware of “The next big thing”…

All that said, I’m sure that someone, somewhere, at some point in time anointed Rias Baixas whites (and Albarino in particular) “the next big thing”, and they may have been right, but who cares. What I’M going to say NOW  (and with which you may violently disagree) is that Rias Baixas Albarinos are the most consistently pleasurable white wines that you can pour for the smallest number of clams (Albarino pairs perfectly with actual shellfish by the way). There are undoubtedly more profound dry whites to be had, but truly bettering what Rias Baixas Albarino offers is gonna cost you a whole BAG of clams more than these great little wines.

Albarino hails from the northwestern Spanish region called Galicia. Depsite the fact that Galicia is part of Spain, the Galicians and the Galician land itself has far more in common with the Portuguese and Portugal than with “The Spanish” and Spain. The Galician language is thought by some linguists to be a dialect of Portuguese. Galicia, like a good part of Portugal, is quite damp, green, and relatively cool. And like the Portuguese, the Galicians (whose genes also contain a thick Celtic vein) are born to sailing and fishing. Not surprisingly, the only other place that Albarino grows is just south of the border in the Portuguese regions of Minho and Tras-os-Montes where it is called Alvarinho – of all the crazy things…

Though the genetic data has conclusively proven it NOT to be the case, the similarity of Albarino and Riesling, both in the vineyard and in the glass, had led many to postulate that the two varieties might be closely related, if not genetically identical. Not the case though, but the racy, grapefruit and peach fruit, and minerally palate that both wines frequently exhibit make the conflation easy to understand.

The Condes de Albarei Albarino “Salneval” 2007 is a Rias Baixas wine, but it also carries the Valle del Salnes sub-zone (one of five subdividing the appellation). I paired this little charmer with littleneck clams (they all opened – YES!)  steamed in a green pepper/garlic/white wine/saffron/etc. broth, and a somewhat improvised platter of breaded turkey cutlets with lots of sage and lemon (and carrot rice). The wine did some different steps with the appetizer than it did with the main course, but it was beautiful with the clams themselves, and stood up well to the pungency of the bell pepper and the saffron broth. The wine’s good weight and acidity made it a really easy and fun combination with the lemon butter-fried escalopes. The post bibulum:

Conde de Albarei Rias Baixas Albarino “Salneval” 2007 

Pale, “white gold” color. Vivid nose of lemon peel, grapefruit, and herbs and white flowers. The palate has a fresh and zesty acidity and an intense, solid core of fruit with flavors of lime and green apple carried though a long finish. This is a distinctive yet easy-drinking wine that represents a tremendous value.





  1. I am stoked to see you blogging! I figured my first response would sensibly be on your latest post, especially since it is on the star wine of my Galician heritage (though admittedly often downplayed on my part due to my greater connection with my Italian ancestry).

    What Tom, no ratings? =)

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