The famous Spanish wine from two regions, Monterrei, Spain vs. Monterey, CA is paired with a famous dish from the California seaside.
Have you tried an Albarino wine?
Most famously grown in Galicia, Spain and northwest Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho, Albarino is derived from the word for "white" or "whitish".
Characteristics of the grape include herbal, zesty citrus, and saline notes.
Most famously grown in the Rias Biaxas DO in Spain, Albarino is now grown by several noted wineries beyond the Iberian peninsula, including Abacela winery in the Umpqua Valley AVA in the state of Oregon and by Bodegas Garzon in Uruguay.
For this exploration, I tried an Albarino from the Monterrei DO in Spain and from Paso Robles, CA.
What is most notable about both of the wines is that they did not have the extra zippiness I would have expected fro an Albarino.
Instead the Monterrei Alabrino expressed more honeyed, mineral, and grapefruit notes with a subtle floral aroma. It has medium weight with richness, fullness, and an unexpected finish.
The Monterey Albarino from Monterey, CA had more citrus punch but still relatively easy drinking on its own.
I thought oysters would make an apt pairing with Albarino, but in this case the oysters did not pair especially well with the wines.
It wasn't bad, but it wasn't outstanding either, and maybe I just like oysters with bone dry white wines, which neither of these albarinos were.
However, both of the wines did pair nicely with a local cioppino from Monterey, CA.
Monterey is probably most well known for its world class aquarium. And it may also be known just as well for the cioppino from Phil's Fish Market.
Cioppino is a San Francisco seafood stew, originating from West Coast Italian American fisherman who crafted a stew with Dungeness crabs, clams, mussels, squid, scallops with tomatoes. It is most often served with crusty bread, used as a substitute for pasta to dip into the residual sauce.
The Monterey version from Phil's adds a twist of ground cinnamon and Worcestershire sauce.
Phil famously beat Bobby Flay in a cioppino cookoff. Cook's Country also did a copycat version of the recipe. It is probably the most well known cioppino outside of San Francisco.
For me, it's not so much the recipe that matters as the quality and freshness of the fish. Sourcing fresh vs. frozen, local vs. foreign, and wild vs. farmed fish makes a difference to me as a consumer and also to my tastebuds.
2019 Benito Santos Godello Albarino
100% Albarino, 13% ABV, $18
Benito Santos started working in his grandfather's vineyards in the 1930s and helped found the Riax Biaxas DO.
The vineyards in Monterrei are over 27 years old with granite and slate.
I kind of loved this Albarino, since it had a little bit of everything: salty, minerally, fruity, lemony but nothing too overpowering or overwhelming.
I never thought I would meet an Albarino I could drink without food, but this one actually made for a nice fireside beverage.
It worked so well with the seafood stew, rich basil tomato sauce, and hint of spice from the cinnamon.
2020 La Marea Albarino Kristy Vineyard Monterey
100% Albarino, 11.9% ABV, $28
This Albarino from Paso Robles definitively had more tropical notes than the Monterrei Albarino. Lots of kiwi, pineapple, and feijoa flavors with some subtly saline notes.
This wine would go well with Asian food, either with sweet-spicy combinations from ginger heat or fresh chilis. The strong backbone of acidity with some peppery bite could handle more assertive flavors.
With the cioppino, it worked with the bold tomato sauce and seafood but not too many tertiary flavors. More just like a squeeze of lemon and fresh citrus.
The Last Drop
Old world vs. New world. Who's to say which one is better? Perhaps it just comes down to preference. In this particular standoff, the Spanish stalwart had a slight edge over its California counterpart.
While it would be nice to bottle and sell many things, apparently terroir remains the one thing you can truly bottle and sell.
More Amazing Spanish Wine
Learn more about Spanish wine from the World Wine Travel Writers:
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm is getting in the spirit wIth "Merry Christmas; Let's Celebrate with Cava"
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass will be "Revisiting tried and true Rioja"
- Terri from Our Good Life shares "5 Great Wines from Spain Perfect for Gift Giving"
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! is confessing "Shh! Cream Sherry is My Guilty Pleasure"
- Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog is "Commemorating Setbacks and Success with Bodegas Tradición Palo Cortado VORS|"
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley will be sharing "5 Garnacha from Spain with Spicy Spanish Pairings"
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest is "Ending the Year with Wine Family Suertes del Marqués in Tenerif"
- Nicole from Somm's Table will be "Re-introducing Cava!"
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing "Mushroom Soup with Manzanilla Sherry"
- David from Cooking Chat is pairing "Steak with Carrot Top Chimichurri and Spanish Wine"