As most of you might not have known, myself included, Aug. 1 was International Albariño Day. Oddly enough, I had decided to write about Albariño (“alba-reen-yo”) before learning the varietal is celebrated in Spain on that day.
My reason for choosing this grape goes back to my old wine-blogging days when I paired characteristics of wines and grapes with the personalities of people. Instead of using typical wine descriptors, I would bring the wine to life in the form of a person.
The “Albariño” in my life was my sister Cindy.
When thinking of my sister and what wine she would be, I knew for certain she was nothing as obvious and attention-seeking as a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. While she could easily give those grapes a run for their money, she didn’t need to be the most popular wine in the room.
Like Cindy, Albariño has a friendly and welcoming personality. With its approachable flavors of lime, honeydew melon and tangerine, Albariño is very likable; it’s a light-bodied wine and one that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In Spain, Albariño is the workhorse of white grape varietals. This was no surprise to me as my sister was one of the hardest-working people I knew. It also came as no surprise to me that Albariño is a tough-skinned, tiny grape with hearty vines able to withstand extreme growing conditions. As the mother of three boys, Cindy had to be tough, and she was. Like the grape, Cindy had a spirited can-do attitude and approached life’s challenges with confidence and strength.
In contrast to the physical aspect of Albariño, it has a heart of gold with sparkling brilliance and loving generosity. And although Albariño is not a sweet grape, there is a subtle sweetness to the wine that brings a smile to your face like a warm embrace.
Albariño, however, is not all rainbows and butterflies. There is a fierceness about it that comes through in the form of high acids. Like the wine, Cindy could be very feisty and not afraid to stand her ground, as was evidenced by the many yelling matches we had as teens. Not unlike a wimpy white zinfandel, I quickly learned to choose my battles carefully and know I would never have the last word.
When I want to take some time to remember my sister, I would happily enjoy any of the following Albariños, all of which are from the Rias Baixas region of Spain and available at Haggen stores:
First is the 2022 Lagar da Condesa Kentia Albariño ($14). The Kentia displays aromas of tangy herbs and honeysuckle and follows through on the palate with generous tangerine and lime flavors. The wine has an inviting silky texture. At $14, this is a superb value.
Next is the 2021 Bodega Riojanas Veiga Naum Albariño ($15.29). What I loved most about this Albariño is that it reminded me of lime gelato — it is full-bodied with subdued acids, has a creamy texture, and is bursting with lime and juicy tropical fruit flavors.
Following is the 2021 Bodegas La Cana ($17.99). From vintage to vintage, La Cana is always impressive and a perfect example of how intense, pure and gorgeous Albariño can be. You can expect seductive flavors of passionfruit sorbet threaded with zingy acidity.
Finally, the 2021 Condes de Albarei Albariño ($11.69). Aromas of peach and pear greet you on the nose and follow through with classic varietal flavors of lime, apricot and a whisper of minerally salinity. A classic style of the grape.
My sister is gone but she will never be forgotten. I think of her every day and am comforted by the fact that I can enjoy the spirited soul of my sister by sipping on a glass of Cindy-like wine and imagining the conversations we would have — the ones about our fears, our joys and our lives.
Katie Bechkowiak owned Vinostrology wine bar in downtown Bellingham from 2013–19. If you have wine suggestions for her monthly column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.