If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a Spanish wine, what comes to mind? I bet you’re happily twirling a healthy pour of garnet Rioja and getting a nose full of dried fig and cedar. Or, maybe in your mind, you went straight to swishing that earthy, red goodness between your cheeks, savoring the notes of black cherries. The only thing missing from this Spanish daydream is the nutty taste of jamón ibérico — Spain’s world-famous cured ham — melting like butter on your tongue. But I digress.
Yes — Spain is rightfully known around the world for its red wines, known as vino tinto. But what if I told you the best white wine you’ve never tasted comes from Spain? Indeed, Spain’s unsung hero of wines is the Albariño, a white grape variety from Rías Baixas in Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain.
Yet mysteriously, despite the increase in export volume of Albariño to the United States by 13% between 2020-2021 — and the ability to snag a quality bottle for a cool $20 — the average American wine drinker remains unfamiliar with this grape variety.
If this is you, let’s change that!
At Limoges Cellars we’ll be giving your taste buds a special opportunity to become acquainted with several distinct Albariños. But first, we want to equip you with just enough information to sound sophisticated — but not snobby! — when you describe your new favorite white wine.
Let Me Paint You a Picture…
Rewind that earlier daydream (the plate of jamón can stay in the picture, and let’s add some fresh clams with a squeeze of lemon).
It’s happy hour on a rooftop terrace in downtown Madrid, the air is hot but breezy. You hold a delicate crystal stem between your fingers; your Albariño is chilled and crisp, with nectarine and grapefruit on the nose, lime pith and sea breeze on the palate. Exquisite.
It’s easy to see why this refreshing white wine would be the perfect treat on a sweltering Georgia afternoon in August, and it’s why we took a shot at growing the grape ourselves. And while we don’t get the same salty ocean breeze here in Georgia that the Albariño gets in coastal Galicia — which lends the grape its quintessential “salinity” — we do have other things in common with Albariño’s native land.
The terroir of Rías Baixas is granite-rich and great for drainage. This is critical in this rainy region of Spain, which is lush and green and could easily be confused for Ireland.
Our land here at Limoges Cellars in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is clay and sandy loam, with lots of granite in the soil. We also get a lot of rain and have a humid climate. For these reasons, we chose a hillside site for the Albariño that is quite rocky. This helps to break up the clay and is good for drainage.
The slope of the hill is also ideal for water runoff, which prevents the vines’ roots from soaking up more water than they’re comfortable with. The high humidity risks formation of mildew and rot, but fortunately, our site is very breezy, which helps dry the leaves of rain and morning dew.
To What Other Whites Does Albariño Compare? What Should I Pair it With?
If you love Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Verdejo or Grüner Veltliner, we’re confident you’ll enjoy an Albariño.
We recommend pairing it with:
You can even turn it into a white sangria! Play up the citrus and nectarine notes by adding lots of fruit.
If this sounds delicious, you’ll be happy to know we feature a white summer sangria at Limoges Cellars made with our own Albariño. Come sample it for yourself — it’s been massively popular!
Winemaker’s Notes: The Limoges Cellars Femme Salée
At Limoges Cellars our goal was to plant some sure grape varieties, but we also wanted to leave a small plot for experimentation with newer, largely untested varieties in the relatively young North Georgia wine region. Albariño was one of the experimental varieties, and we were pretty confident it would grow well here. Last year, in our second leaf, the vines produced a small crop of fruit that we viewed as a preview of what to expect in the coming years.
“I enjoyed tinkering with the juice from this bonus crop and produced around 600 bottles of our ‘Femme Salee’ or ‘Salty Girl,’ as we affectionately call her.
Our Femme Salée is very citrusy and has a little more character and body than I anticipated. It has a weightier mid-palate than most. Next year I plan to harvest a little earlier to preserve a bit more acidity in the juice.
The 2022 Albariño was a fun starting point for me and is a wine that should hopefully evolve into my ideal Albariño within the next harvest. I know I’ll be chasing that perfect expression of fruit in all my wines so you have to come try the evolution with each new crop and tell me how I’m doing.
We haven’t fully determined whether Albariño vines are suited to North Georgia’s cold winters, but I see so much potential in this wine and am excited to continue cultivating the variety for as long as I can.”
Let Us Personally Introduce You
If your interest in Albariño is now properly peaked, you won’t want to miss our upcoming event. At Limoges Cellars you’ll have the opportunity to get to know Albariño intimately by participating in a blind tasting! We’ll be showcasing several Albariños from different growing regions in a tasting flight format to demonstrate the unique expressions of this beautiful grape.
We’ll be hosting these tastings for a limited time only, so be sure to subscribe for updates to make sure you don’t miss out! Details will be announced soon — stay tuned!