Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2009 Martin Codax Albarino: Thoughts of Summer

Like many in the Northeast region, I am tired of all the snow that has fallen this winter.  I despise shoveling more than any other household chore.  So, anything which reminds me of summer is especially pleasing at this time of year.  And though I drink it year round, Albariño still brings to mind a warm summer day. 

Albariño is an indigenous grape in Spain, and grows primarily in the Galicia region, in the northwest of Spain. It is the signature grape in the Denomination de Origin (D.O.) of Rías Baixas, which is also the only exclusively white wine D.O. in Spain.  Though 12 grape varieties are permitted in Rias Baixas, Albariño remains king, representing 90% of all plantings.  The key to Albariño wines in this region is the terroir, the cool Atlantic climate and the more than 2,200 hours of sunshine each year.  The flavor profile of this grape varies dependent on the terroir.  For example, different terroirs might yield a more mineral-driven and structured wine or a softer, rounder wine.

Albariño is popular in the U.S., which imports more than half of the total exports of Rias Baixas. The grape is now grown in many other parts of the world, including the U.S., where the first plantings were actually in Virginia. The grape commonly produces crisp and aromatic wines, with flavors including honeysuckle, citrus, melon, peach, pear, apricot, mango, and other exotic fruits.  The wine is an excellent pairing with many types of seafood, as well as other light fare.  I love an Albarino with steamed clams, mussels, shrimp, or grilled white fish. 

The 2009 Martin Codax Albarino (about $15) is made from 100% Albariño, which was fermented in stainless steel tanks and about 40% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation.  Following fermentation, the wine was aged sur lie for four months.  It has an alcohol content of 12.82%.

The winemaker is Katia Alvarez, who started her career in wine at age 19 as an intern at a Galician winery. She eventually earned a degree in viticulture, worked in a Rioja winery, and spent a couple years in Chile before joining Martin Codax.  Interestingly, over half of the nearly 200 wineries in Rias Baixas have female winemakers. This has been a very recent change as back in 1990, there were few female winemakers in this D.O.  The surge of female winemakers has led to higher quality and more complex Albariño wines.  They have continued experimentation and I bet their wines will only continue to improve. 

The wine has a light golden color and an alluring nose of bright fruits, reminding me of a summer farmer's market. It is a full-bodied and crisp wine, with clean and delicious flavors of apple, peach, lemon and touches of pineapple. It has character and complexity, and the finish is fairly long, smooth and pleasing.  It is refreshing, and one sip easily leads to another and then another.  I could drink this on its own, slowly sipping it on a lawn chair beneath the summer sun, or paired with food. An excellent wine at this price point and a good example of the delights of  Albariño.     

1 comment:

Paul Kalemkiarian said...

I really love this grape, and the Martin Codax sounds like a perfect representation of what Albarino is to taste like. While you don’t typically see it in California, I recently had a bottle that was a nice California spin on an Old World grape—white peach, honeysuckle, floral, Asian pear and lychee, with an interesting guava component—and, as you said, a great kind of wine to go with any kind of shellfish.

What’s interesting about Albarino is that the Rías Baixas region of Spain where it’s typically grown has a very wet climate within which very few grapes can grow, as the soggy soil has a tendency to rot them. Albarino, however, thrives in this kind of atmosphere.

Great post.

Paul Kalemkiarian
President, Wine of the Month Club