JUNE 7, 2017
Hailing from Galicia in Northwest Spain, Albariño is one of the country’s best-known grape varieties. This native Spanish grape is mainly grown in Rías Baixas, a region famous for fresh oysters, mussels, clams, and other delicacies of the sea. Albariño wines are known for their refreshing citrus and stone fruit flavors with notes of orange blossom, jasmine, and lemon grass. While it is often called “a great summer wine” or “a great seafood wine,” Albariño should simply be known as “a great white wine,” taking its place alongside such other global favorites as Chablis or dry Riesling.
Putting together the ideal wine and food combination in order to optimize the flavors and qualities of both makes planning a meal so much more enjoyable. When it comes to Albariño we think the best way to maximize your experience is to plan a Spanish road trip and savor it by the bottle and glass in as many locations across and around the country as possible. Unfold your map, pour yourself an Albariño to whet your appetite, and get set to enjoy a glass in as many of these Spanish hotspots as time and your imagination allow.
Santiago de Compostela: Each year millions of people visit the capital of Galicia, not only because the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the town center are the ultimate destination on ElCamino de Santiago, but for the gastronomic delights that this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers. Wind your way down ancient cobblestone streets in search of a pulperia, and then enjoy succulent octopus atop a bed of potatoes paired with the region’s liquid treasure, a glass of Albariño. Each bright, citrusy sip will wash down a bite of tender paprika-dusted octopus that has been lovingly cooked to perfection.
San Sebastián: When you are enjoying a leisurely lunch at one of the many restaurants lining La Concha, San Sebastián’s seashell-shaped beach, it takes more than the shade of a café umbrella to ward off the heat. Nothing will cool you down like an invigorating glass of Albariño. After a restful day at the beach, feast at one of the city’s Michelin-starred temples of gastronomy, known for their inventive multi-course tasting menus served up by noted Basque country chefs. Here you will truly discover how delectable seafood-rich cuisine meets its match in a chilled bottle of Albariño.
Pamplona: There’s hardly a bigger street party anywhere in the world than the San Fermin festival in Pamplona. After the early morning running with the bulls, it’s nice to take a little nap before heading back outdoors. There is a full roster of parties to round out the week, but we love the low-key events in a little shaded plaza off the main avenue. In the center, there’s a freezing cold fountain where we keep our white wines nicely chilled. Our friends know that we’ll always bring an assortment of Albariño wines, so we can keep everyone’s glass constantly filled.
Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s Gothic and Art Nouveau masterpiece in Barcelona, is truly a sight to behold. One of Spain’s most visited sites, it is certainly worthy of a detour wherever your Spanish adventure takes you. Once inside, you will marvel at the soaring ceilings and tree-like columns made from volcanic rock, but first take in the grandeur of the basilica from the open-air café directly across from the main entrance. Order a crisp bottle of Albariño to enjoy with a simple snack of freshly fried potato chips, and strike up a conversation with the locals.
Sitges: A thirty-minute train ride south from Barcelona brings you to the picture-perfect town of Sitges. Resist the temptations of the many restaurants lining the maze of charming streets leading to the beach, where the towering cathedral juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the white sand and the clear blue waters that coax the locals away from their beloved city to the north. For a few Euros you can enjoy a beach chair and umbrella with the added convenience of chair-side bar service. Order a chilled bottle of Albariño in an ice bucket, sit back, and watch the world go by.
Granada: The stunningly beautiful Alhambra in Granada, a 13th-century fortified palace, is one of Spain’s most frequented tourist attractions. Under the strong Andalucían sun it can be hot—and we mean really hot—in the summer. Its fortunate position on a mountaintop in the Sierra Nevada Mountains can make an afternoon stroll seem akin to a never-ending hike. With this in mind we find it’s best to take a break and duck into the shaded courtyard of the Hotel America on the grounds and order an ice-cold bottle of Albariño before heading back out to view the Generalife or Carlos V Palace.
Nerja: Nothing makes us happier than sitting on Burriana Beach—a mere five-minute walk from our house—with our toes in the sand, the sun on our faces, and our friendly waiter Paco greeting us with our favorite Albariño from Rias Baixas. Paco also knows that we’ll probably start our lunch with an order of flash-fried baby calamari before digging into the main course—delicious paella de marisco. When we’re with friends he knows to keep the Albariño flowing, and he would never think of offering us coffee or dessert until the sun begins to set over the sea.
Puerto Banús: One of Spain’s toniest seaside resorts, Puerto Banús welcomes visitors from around the world throughout the year. If you are not lucky enough to be a guest on (or better yet, own) one of the hundreds of gorgeous mega-yachts that fill the harbor, take a front row seat in an exclusive café with both street and water views and order a glass or two of cold, bracing Albariño. Sit back and take in the sight of yachts and prowling luxury cars as well as the constant paseo of fashion models, movie stars, sultans and sheiks.
Madrid: Daytime in Madrid belongs to the rich cultural history of the Spanish capital’s museums: the Museo Nacional de Prado, Museo Thyssen Bornemiza, and the Reina Sofia. When night falls, head for the narrow streets of trendy Chueca, savoring glass after glass of Albariño at the neighborhood’s many tapas bars and restaurants. Why commit to a large meal when you can wander from spot to spot enjoying a glass and small plate at each? Whether you and your friends choose pulpo Gallega, gambas pil pil, or calamari frito, you can be sure that a cold, crisp glass of Albariño is the perfect choice with every bite.
Vigo: One of the largest fishing ports in Europe, the Rias Baixas town of Vigo is home to Calle Pescaderia, informally known to locals as the “street of oysters.” Sit down at a street-front table and peruse the menu. While you’re deciding among the many mouthwatering seafood options, a grandmotherly type will offer you a dozen oysters. Nothing matches the bracing salinity of just-gathered bivalves like a well-crafted Albariño. Several glasses later, you will think your waiter has forgotten to charge you for your briny treasures, but don’t worry—Abuela has a bill of her own waiting for you.
About Mike and Jeff
MIKE DeSIMONE and JEFF JENSSEN, also known as the World Wine Guys, are wine, spirits, food, and travel writers, educators, and hosts. They have been featured guests on shows such as The TODAY Show and The Martha Stewart Show, are the Entertaining and Lifestyle Editors at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and are regular travel and wine contributors for The Huffington Post.The World Wine Guys are all about visiting the places grapes are grown and wine is made, eating the food that goes along with that wine, and letting you know what we have found. In a phrase…WE UNCORK YOUR WORLD.