Wednesday, July 16, 2014
2012 Bodegas Martín Códax Albariño: A Seafood Companion
The Denomination de Origin (D.O.) of Rías Baixas, established in 1988, contains about 9138 acres of vineyards and approximately 90% of the plantings are Albariño, though 12 grape varieties are permitted within the D.O. As an aside, "Rias Baixas" meants "lower rivers" in Gallego, the native language of Galicia. The key to Albariño wines in this region is terroir, and the flavor profile will vary dependent on the terroir. For example, different terroirs might yield a more mineral-driven and structured wine or a softer, rounder wine. Because of the location of its region, Albariño is sometimes referred to as the "wine of the sea."
The region encompasses over 6,500 growers and 20,000 plots of land, meaning that the average vineyard is very small, less than half an acre. There are about 180-200 wineries in this region, about 57 or so which export to the U.S. Interestingly, over half of the wineries have female winemakers, which was not always the case and has occurred primarily during the last twenty years.
Albariño is very popular in the U.S. Consider that in 2010, Rias Baixas exported approximately 3.55 million liters of Albariño, and the U.S. imported 1.9 million liters, about 54%. After the U.S., the most important markets for Albariño might surprise you, as they include the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Though indigenous to Spain, Albariño is now grown in many other parts of the world, including the U.S., where the first plantings were in Virginia.
Row 34 which showcased the 2012 Bodegas Martín Códax Albariño with seafood. This was my first time at Row 34, and it seemed quite busy for a Tuesday night. It had a much more casual feel than the Island Creek Oyster Bar, though we were seated in a bit more elegant private dining room. I definitely need to return to check out their regular menu.
Bodegas Martín Códax was established in 1986 as a cooperative and now has about 285 members. The winery name is derived from the name of a famous 13th century Galician poet, more accurately known as a jogral, who composed a type of lyrical poetry called cantigas. A jogral is similar in a number respects to a troubador, though they are not nobles. Their head winemaker is Katia Alvarez, who started her career in wine at age 19 as an intern at a Galician wiinery. She eventually earned a degree in viticulture, worked in a Rioja winery, and spent a couple years in Chile before joining Martin Codax.
The main course, pictured above, was the rich Brown Butter Lobster with corn, basil and tomato. With two claws and a tail, there was plenty of sweet lobster meat, and the Albariño was rich enough to stand up to the lobster. And again, its crisp acidity helped with this dish.
Albariño is a no-brainer with seafood, though I will note that different styles of Albariño will pair differently with certain types of seafood. However, don't think Albariño only works well with seafood. It is a versatile wine that will pair nicely with a wide variety of cuisines and dishes, from Asian to BBQ. And this Martin Códax Albariño is a good choice whether you are new to Albariño or are already a fan of that grape.