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Albariño & Seafood: A Wine & Food Pair Made in Paradise

Oysters and lemon on a bed of ice, with an oyster shucking knife and two glasses of white wine.

Our guest contributor, Jacqueline Coleman, goes by this simple expression for pairing food and wine: What grows together, goes together. This time, she takes us through the pairing of Albariño & seafood, looking into both Spanish and Californian Albariño. Keep reading to find out why this pairing works so well.

When we think about all great food and wine pairings, there’s always a reason behind the way that the dish and the wine complement each other in the mouth. Food and wine pairing is a science and an art, meaning, there are certain formulas to follow, but once you are within those formulas, you can be a bit creative. There are a few rules you should always adhere to, but we’ll focus on one big one that guides us when we consider Albariño & seafood: a wine and food pair made in paradise.

Wine and food pairing rules

One of the most important things to remember when bringing together food and wine is to make sure the weight of each is the same. The worst thing that you can do is pair a very heavy wine with a light dish and vice versa. This culinary formula reigns supreme over many of the others.

Another important formula to consider when putting together a well-paired dinner is “what grows together, goes together.” This simply means that grapes that grow in certain regions and climates, say close to the ocean, go well with food raised and produced in a similar environment, like fish. One of the most perfect examples of this food and wine pairing formula is Albariño and seafood.

The Wines: Spanish and California Albariño

Though the Rías Baixas region in northwestern Spain is the most famous region for quality Albariño, there are more and more plantings of Albariño popping up in the New World. For this food and wine pairing exercise, we will taste through three Spanish Albariños and two from California. Though they are the same grape, there are some variances in these wines that allow for different types of seafood pairings.

NÉBOA 2017 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain

NÉBOA is made from grapes on 75-year-old vines grown in slate soils, which gives this wine a unique character based on its exact place in the world. There is dominating minerality on the nose, most definitely a product of the terroir, joined with predominantly lemon-citrus fruit. Soft and balanced minerality on the palate combines with a tiny bit of sweetness that softens the crisp acidity. Clean and fresh with weight on the palate, this wine would be an excellent wine to pair with seafood dishes containing a bit of spice. Think in terms of spicy shrimp or Thai seafood.

The acidity is strong enough to handle some grease, so you may even try a dish with fries or fried fish. Don’t shy away from more savory plates either, like Oyster Rockefellers with a glass of NÉBOA.

La Caña 2017 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain

Jorge Ordóñez was the first person to introduce Albariño to the U.S. in 1991, and he is now introducing to the world his own wines like this one from his winery in Rías Baixas. The La Caña 2017 Albariño has a bold nose of tropical fruit aromas, with pineapple and mango bursting through the seams. The wine is fermented in oak for eight months, giving it the ability to carry its own in weight and complexity, but without taking away at all from the fruit flavor. With the amount of tropical fruit present, La Caña would present well with white fish tacos covered in mango salsa or any kind of tropical seafood dish where the fruit and the fish hold center stage.

La Caña Navia 2015 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain

Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, the La Caña Navia is a slightly heavier, spicier version of the previous wine. Dried fruit and vanilla highlight on the nose, reminiscent of a tropical fruit trail mix. Fuller bodied and supple, the Navia still maintains balanced acidity and minerality on the palate, trademarks of a quality Albariño.

This wine would be best with a weightier seafood dish such as a pan seared grouper with buttered potatoes, cooked with a touch of cinnamon. Another potential pairing would be a grilled or seared tuna burger with sweet aioli and a tropical fruit slaw.

La Marea 2017 Albariño, Monterey County, California

With close proximity to Monterey Bay, the vineyards that are used to make La Marea Albariño are also ocean-influenced, albeit by the cool air of the Pacific instead of the Atlantic. This wine is from the Kristy Vineyard, which sits on the location of an ancient seabed, so it’s no wonder that the wine would be the perfect accompaniment to food caught in the sea.

The La Marea is medium bodied with completely balanced acidity and strong citrus fruit flavors on the palate. Some stone fruit and honeydew round out the sharp edges for a flexible wine that would pair well with a white, flakier fish that has been lightly fried and served with lemon and capers. Oysters or a crab dish would also be a nice pairing, served raw or with a light tempura and a lemon butter sauce.

Tangent 2016 Albariño, Edna Valley, California

The Tangent Albariño is from vineyards in the cool climate of the Edna Valley just over five miles from the Pacific Ocean. A light straw yellow colored wine, Tangent expresses with a big citrus nose dominated by ripe tangerine. Sharp acidity greets in the mouth leading to a long, clean finish. Fresh fruit flavors soften on the tongue, and the overall feel of the wine is fruit-forward and fresh.

An excellent wine for sushi or Pacific salmon tartare or lightly seared tuna. With the citrus fruit finish, Tangent is a perfect palate cleanser in between bites of white fish sashimi.

Have you tried any of these pairings or do you have a favorite of your own? We want to hear about it! Share with us on social media by tagging @Coravin and @historyandwine.