The aromatic albarino grape is responsible for some of Spain’s best white wines but doesn’t have much of a footprint beyond vineyards along the Atlantic Coast in the northwest corner of the country. Across the Minho River, in northwestern Portugal, the variety goes by alvarinho and is the star attraction of the assortment of white grapes found in Vinho Verde.
More than 90 per cent of the white wines produced with this grape come from either Spain or Portugal so you’d be forgiven for passing on a bottle made elsewhere. Devoted fans know to look for ones made in Rias Baixas, where albarino represents nine out of 10 vines planted in the Spanish region’s cool, coastal vineyards, or Moncao and Melgaco, the historic subregion of Vinho Verde, right on the Portuguese/Spanish border.
But there’s interest stirring in different parts of the world. Wine experts are suggesting the variety is prime to become a breakout star. The refreshing and fruity nature of the wines produced work well with seafood and fish dishes as well as lean meat and salads. They are also flavourful enough to enjoy on their own, particularly in warm weather where their crisp, refreshing nature tastes its best.
Previous columns have recognized the outstanding fruity and floral character of albarinos produced in the Okanagan Valley by Stag’s Hollow and Terravista Vineyards, which first planted the variety in 2009. It is turning up in bottles from California and Oregon as well as New Zealand and Australia, which would have a more established track record had vines planted in 1989 that were believed to be albarino not turned out to be savagnin blanc, a French grape famous in the Jura region.
This week an albarino from Bodega Garzon is featured amongst the recommended wines. Garzon’s red wines, especially its tannat, have developed a devoted fan base in Canada. My first taste of this expressive albarino suggests the winery is equally adept with white wines.
Bodega Garzon Reserva Albarino 2020 (Uruguay), $23.95
Albarino is a grape white wine lovers should know about. This one presents the variety’s lovely peachy and citrus fruit flavours with the right mix of freshness and richness. The mouthwatering finish leaves a lasting impression. Drink now-2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $22.80 in Quebec, $25.95 in Nova Scotia.
Burrowing Owl Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Canada), $52.95
This rich and ripe cabernet sauvignon captures the Burrowing Owl full-bodied house style admirably. Nicely concentrated, with a core of fresh fruit and oak-derived spice, this is approachable now, but structured to age. Decant for best enjoyment. Drink now-2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, $40 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Caro Amancaya Reserve Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Argentina), $23.95
A partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild, which operates Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux, and the Catena family, Caro Amancaya is a stylish red wine made with grapes grown in older vineyards in Mendoza. The blend is virtually two-thirds malbec with one-third cabernet, which makes for a seriously enjoyable red wine with juicy fruit flavours and appealing complexity. Considering the success of this blend, it’s surprising we don’t see more mablec-cabernet blends on the market. Drink now-2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Coppola Rosso & Bianco Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (United States), $19.95
The Rosso & Bianco cabernet is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah, which contributes spice and floral notes to this approachable red wine. There’s a hint of sweetness on the palate which adds to the silky texture and full-bodied character without losing the wine’s freshness or focus. Drink now-2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $25.01 in Nova Scotia (2018 vintage). Available in Ontario.
Erasmo Seleccion de Barricas Cabernet Franc 2015 (Chile), $29.95
A tremendous example of cabernet franc made from organically grown grapes in Maule, this captures the fragrance and finesse of the grape with a richer and riper frame. The aromas and flavours suggest a soothing mix of blackberries with some spice and savoury notes, with a firm structure that suggests this serious red wine will develop gracefully over time. Decant for best enjoyment. Drink now-2032. Available in Ontario at the above price via lcbo.com/online-exclusives
Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2019 (Canada), $31.99
This fresh and fragrant pinot noir from British Columbia delivers a mix of tart cherry and redcurrant flavours with some spice notes. Made in lighter and brighter style, this should be served relatively cool and preferably with a meal. Drink now-2025. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct, fortberens.ca
Jose Maria da Fonseca Domini 2018 (Portugal), $16.95
Made with a traditional blend of touriga nacional, tinta roriz (a.k.a. tempranillo), and touriga franca, this Douro red wine offers an enjoyable mix of fruit and floral notes, with an approachable character and a refreshing edge. Nice balance, structure, ripeness and freshness make for a robust and enjoyable red to enjoy with a meal or on its own. Drink now-2024. Available in Ontario.
Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera d’Asti 2019 (Italy), $15.95
Made with a selection of barbera grapes from vineyards in the South of Asti, this fruity and vibrant red wine is aged in the winery for a minimum of 16 months prior to its release. The mix of red cherry and currant fruit flavours is fresh, but not tart, which makes for an expressive pizza, pasta or burger style of wine. Drink now-2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $15.85 in Quebec, $18.49 in New Brunswick, $18.47 in Newfoundland.
Vina Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2019 (Argentina), $19.95
This refreshing and enjoyable chardonnay comes from vineyards in the Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo regions of Mendoza. Made in a modern style, with only a slight suggestion of oak, its fresh and clean aromas suggest a pleasing mix of peach, pear and green apple. The wine’s balance and poise make for a style that’s ready to drink. Drink now till 2024. Available in Ontario and Quebec (2018 vintage) at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
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