Spain’s Resurgent Albarino

Photograph by Michael Pirrocco

One reason this is such a profitable time to be a wine drinker is the vast number of sensational wines made from grapes that not long ago were hardly known. Twenty years ago, for instance, albarino was a complete obscurity. Back then, in fact, this white wine grape from northern Spain was in danger of extinction. Some preservation-minded winemakers, along with European Union subsidies, helped keep albarino alive, and it has since enjoyed a remarkable renaissance.

For a time, it even became the go-to grape of sommeliers in New York and London. The buzz has since died down, but the quality of the better albarinos coming out Rias Baixas – albarino’s stronghold on the far western coast of northern Spain, close to the Portuguese border – continue to impress.

We are particularly fond of the wines of Pedralonga. Founded in 1997, this estate turns out consistently delicious wines that showcase the refinement and complexity that can be achieved with albarino when it is in the right hands. In this case, those hands belong to winemaker Miguel Alfonso, whose minimalist approach (organic farming with elements of biodynamic viticulture, native yeasts, no de-stemming, no new oak) yields outstanding albarinos.

The 2012 Pedralonga Albarino is a typically stellar effort from Alfonso. It shows notes of citrus, chamomile, and brine on the nose (the vineyards are only about 20 miles from the Atlantic, which undoubtedly accounts for the seaside aroma). On the palate, it is crisp and refreshing, but this is no simple summer quaffer – there is a complexity and depth of flavor to rival a good Chablis. The Pedralonga is a terrific bottle of wine, and a great example of why oenophiles are feeling so fortunate these days. [$27;]

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