Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2012 Bodegas Martín Códax Albariño: A Seafood Companion

Sitting in the northwest corner of Spain, surrounded on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean, is the region of Galicia. Seafood is the king of cuisine and about half of the seafood consumed in Spain comes from the waters off Galicia. These waters are home to the famed percebes, goose barnacles, which are collected by brave fishermen who risk their lives in rough waters to collect this delicacy. It is no wonder then that wines from this region are created to accompany seafood.

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.

Last night, I attended a media dinner at 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 2012 Martin Códax Albariño (about $15) is made from 100% Albariño, was fermented in stainless steel tanks, and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. With an aromatic nose of citrus and flowers, the wine is dry, crisp and lush, with a delicious melange of apple, pear and lemon and a backbone of minerality. It possesses a lengthy and pleasing finish, and each sip beckons you to have another. It makes for a compelling summer wine, but has a richness that would not be out of place in the winter either. At this price point, this is an excellent value and highly recommended. I've long been a fan of Albariño, and have enjoyed the wines of Martin Códax for over five years.  

It almost goes without saying that the Albariño was a killer pairing with seafood. We began the evening with some Oysters on the half shell, and their brininess went well with the acidity and minerality of the wine. We also had some Smoked Scallops atop brioche toast and topped by caviar. Again, that acidity and minerality made a nice accompaniment to the scallops. We then proceeded to a dish of Striped Bass Crudo, with herb salad and crispy shallots. The clean taste of the fish was enhanced by the citrus flavors of the wine, and the acidity helped to make each bite seem fresh and new.

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.

1 comment:

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Great seeing you last night. I loved this wine, especially with that lobster dish!