The current warm weather and long days beg for a crisp, fresh and nicely chilled white wine. This month’s baked fish recipe does just the same, particularly at this time of year. The wine I’ve chosen to pair with the fish is well-known in Europe and is certainly worthy of becoming more widely recognized and appreciated locally. Albarino is a wine grape that has been cultivated in parts of Spain and Portugal for many centuries and has just started showing up in California vineyards over the last couple of decades. The planted acreage here is minimal, but the wine produced from these balanced and alluring grapes can be absolutely delicious, so I hope more consumers will come to appreciate its value. This, in turn, should allow more wineries to try their hand at Albarino, which will incentivize more grape growers to cultivate the varietal.
Albarino is typically a high-acid and light-bodied wine which matches beautifully with seafood. A favorite meal memory of mine was made on a trip to Barcelona many years ago where we found a restaurant which specialized in local seafood and where we enjoyed some of the best mussels, octopus, clams, fish, lobster, shrimp and limpets that I’ve ever had. Yes… I said limpets, and they were fantastic. Accompanying this fine feast was plenty of Spanish white wine with Albarino playing a starring role.
Albarino provides exciting aromatics, typically leaning toward citrus and stone fruits. On the palate, Albarino exhibits fruit flavors and a light nuttiness as well as some intriguing minerality, but the bright, tangy acidity is what really stands out. That acidity is what makes this varietal such a great food wine, and what allows it to stand out as a natural partner for seafood in general, and this month’s recipe in particular.
If you are generally prone to order Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with your fish dishes, take a little step out of your comfort zone and try a wine that has been pleasing seafood consumers in Europe for generations. There are a few local versions available and they are certainly worth the effort in seeking them out. Grab a bottle of Albarino and cook up some light and healthy fish, then raise a toast to trying something delicious and new. Salud!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com