Porch sippers rate well, won’t break the bank
June 24, 2023
Let’s start with a few info points. Galileo Galilei is known to most for astronomy, telescopes, microscopes, hydrostatic balance and the compass. While I am amazed at all those his most important contribution, for me, is this quote: “Wine is sunlight held together by water.” Rivaled by Luis Fernando Oliverri’s “Wine is the only artwork you can drink” Look up Luis for a chuckle.
Although the lazy, hazy days are a bit late in arriving this year, I decided to search for a few porch sippers that rate well and won’t break the bank. Unfortunately, Portugal and Spain’s economies are in the doldrums due to European Central Bank- and International Monetary Fund-induced interest rate issues and poor currency exchange rates brought on by our falling dollar. Market mavens may remember that some of the most successful investors, such as Nathan Rothschild, advise: “Buy when there is blood in the streets.” With those ideas in mind, I knew it was Alvarinho/Albarino time. Some of the oldest living vines worldwide are 300-year-old Alvarinho. Val do Salnes, Rias Biaxas, Spain is recognized as the birthplace of Albarino. Wine from this coastal location has slightly elevated salinity and minerality, but the fruit aromas and bright acidity balance are a great accompaniment for seafood dishes such as salmon, monkfish, tuna and mahi mahi. Generally, these are known for stone-fruit aromas, with a sea breeze nuance and bright acidity. On the palate, lemon zest, grapefruit, melon, nectarine and mild salinity are common, as are dryness, light viscosity, bright acidity and between 11.5-13.5% ABV. A proper serving temperature Is between 40 and 45F. Most have a five-year window, but are approachable on release.
Experts agree, Moncao and Melgaço in the northwestern edge of the Portuguese, Spanish and Galician border, along the Minho River, are home to some of the best sites for Alvarinho. Tucked into rocky escarpments, one finds many vineyards. Locals name them jardins due to their small sizes. Considering the arduous work conditions and small production, these circumstances might indicate high prices. My first recommendation, Nortica Alvarinho Minho 2022 or 2021 (both rated 90 McD) can be found under $18 and $15, respectively. 19 and 20 are both rated 89 McD. If you see either of the latter, keep in mind that Albarino enjoys a bit of aging, and these are just entering their window. 2019 has a citrus profile. 2020 is delightful, and shows apple, with a hint of nectarine, minerally acidity and a brief saline note in its finish. Citrus, peach and tropical fruit aromas rise from your glass. On the palate, succulent fruit is supported with mouthwatering and vibrant mineral acidity. 2022 is approachable now. If you can afford a case - after trying one bottle - it’s a fine idea to watch the wine improve over time. You don’t need a cellar if you have a cool, dry, dark place. Turn the box on its side. There is scant discount - this is an availability move. Well-made Albarinho will frequently double or more in price in three years.
In Spain, Albarino’s reputed top-growing region is Rias Biaxas. Bodegas Forjas del Salnes Albarino Leirana 2022 is produced by Rodrigo Mendez, who is regarded as a top Albarino producer worldwide. Why would one look elsewhere? Leirana has been rated 91-93 McD since 2011. They typically broach the market at $14. 2018, at 92 McD, is now $55; 2019, 91, is $32; and 20, 91, is $27. 2022 is likely to be best. Pale yellow with a slight green tinge. A redolent bouquet of honeysuckle, ripe lemon, tonic water, sea breeze and a hint of fresh ginger leads to a dry, medium weight palate with nectarine (I love our local ripe nectarines and am anticipating their arrival next month). It’s citrus and mildly briny, with mineral bright acidity. The long, clean finish has some ginger spice and floral notes.