I like to buy wine the same way I like to travel: I don't over-plan or restrict myself, and I try to avoid obvious, expensive destinations (I'm looking at you, Napa cabernet and Santa Barbara pinot.) I prefer the freedom to explore; to discover something unexpected.
Too often, people avoid white wine. It's as if they believe one sip will body swap them into an eighties stereotype, shoulder pads and all, or worse, their mother. Too many white varietals get labelled 'sweet', 'too acidic', or, worst of all, 'buttery'. People presume them watery or bland, the drink of 'housewives'. They're wrong.
White wine is (almost always) more affordable than red, but it's equally (if not more) complex. White wine exploration taught me the beauty of Burgundy (try a white Burgundy and you'll never call chardonnay 'buttery' again), the surprising depth and power of a riesling, the zesty excitement of an assyrtiko, and the punchy pleasure of a trebbiano. If I thought all savignon blancs were too acidic, I'd never have come to appreciate Australia and New Zealand's wine country, where some of the best are produced. I'd never have discovered one of my favorite wines from trailblazing female winemaker Merry Edwards, once served at the Obama White House. If I always dismissed white wine in favor of Napa reds, I'd never get to experience the magnificent colombard in Peju's elusive Carnival. White wine pairs well with everything (yes, even steak), you can find a perfect bottle for under twenty dollars, and the possibilities are endless.
This leads to my latest, unexpected discovery.
Albariño is a white varietal I'd never heard of before, from Galicia, a lush, verdant area of northwest Spain. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, it's nicknamed 'Green Spain' thanks to the cool, damp climate. This climate, a refreshing change from the hot, dry areas of Spain, is what makes the albariño so robust and flavorful. Albariño typically grows in a region of Galica designated Rías Baixas DO, but its thick skin and small size make it a challenging grape to produce. Like most challenges, this makes the end result worth savoring.
The Val Do Sosego Albariño I bought is from this region, and it's definitely a wine you want to savor. It's a breath of fresh air on a hot day. It's dry and medium-bodied with subtle peach and a grapefruit, floral edge, all balanced by a saline, mineral finish. It tastes like walking along the ocean at sunset, allowing the cold, bubbly water to just kiss your feet. I learned it goes well with gnocchi in tomato sauce and vegetarian Indian food, but it would go just as well with the standard pairings of fish, chicken, cheese, or even ham. It's an unexpected, welcome detour from the typically citrus or stone-fruit forward white wines that dominate this time of year, and at $15.99, it's well worth a try. Before yesterday, I had no idea what albariño was. Now, it's all I want for the rest of summer.