Above The Rush, 2021 Albariño from the Sierra Foothills????
The name is derived from the Latin word albus, meaning white. No one knows the origin of the grape with a split camps believing it being native to Spain or perhaps brought in from France in the 11th or 12th centuries by pilgrimaging monks. Today, Albariño is considered indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula and generally found in “Green Spain” in Galicia where the vineyards receive the cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean. This area is cooler and rainier than the rest of the country. The main growing area is Rias Baixas, which is along the coast with breezes providing a “salinity” and being high in minerality. The soil is sandy granite which is the generally accepted soil for this grape. In fact 93% of the world production of Albariño comes from Spain (72%) and (21%).
Albariño can and does grow in warmer regions, especially with more clay soils. Here Albariño possess a riper fruit characteristics (apricot, nectarine and mango) and less acidity. Specifically Albariño in California per the United States Food & Agricultural report of 2021 shows 5,700 tons of Albariño processed verses 3,644 tons in 2020, or a 56% year increase year over year. It is a growing in popularity. In California almost 87% of all Albariño grows in regions with cool ocean, bay or delta breezes (Yolo County, San Joaquin County, Solano County, Monterey & San Benito Counties and Sonoma & Marin Counties. So when visiting Above The Rush Wines and they offered an Albariño, I was a bit surprised and taken back from it growing in Calaveras County. As it turns out their vineyard is located next to New Melones Reservoir and does receive cooling evening breezes. However fresh water verses salt water. The amount of grapes grown in the entire Sierra Foothills AVA (7 Counties) represents less than 1% of all Albariño grape tonnage grown in California. For more information on Above The Rush Wines see an earlier story at:
First on the eyes, a medium yellow or light golden color on the eyes. On the nose, aromatics are far ranging from lime to grapefruit all being citrusy. On the palate, you are struck with the bright acidity, a slight saltiness and a subtle bitter note. This is a natural by-product and inherent in Albariño. Cantaloupe and lime zest notes stand out. On the finish, minerality and beeswax are prevalent and extremely dry. While all wines change over temperature, Albariño has an extremely large fluctuation in taste as it warms up, allowing more fruit flavors to sneak into the palate. When tasting it alone, it may not appear to be a clear cut alternative for Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, but allow it time to morph over temperature.
The Food and Wine Pairing
The food pairing tonight was a lemon garlic and shrimp pasta dish. Besides the shrimp and linguine, the other ingredients included olive oil, unsalted butter, garlic cloves, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, baby spinach, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Topped off with fresh minced parsley and freshly squeeze lemon wedges. The high acidity in the wine was perfected suited for the shrimp and as the wine temperature changed, the fruit calmed the crushed red peppers and garlic in the dish. Other dishes recommended for Albariño include ceviche, fish tacos and various seafood pasta dishes.
Three noteworthy finds from this wine. First, not all Albariño must grow next to the ocean or salty bay lands. It appears the cooling breezes are critical to provide and allow Albariño its natural slight salinity. Secondly, this grape has a large ranging profile based on the temperature of the wine. Be patient if you get an initial “bitterness” and allow it to warm up in the glass as it will change significantly. Thirdly, with its high acidity profile I believe it excels with food and will enhance many dishes.