Granbázan Albariño Etiqueta Ámbar
Blank is the new blank, i.e. gochujang is the new sriracha, or poke is the new ceviche. You get the idea. Statements like these are everywhere, especially where wine is concerned. Allow me to give it a go – Albariño is the new … Sancerre. Albariño is a fresh, mineral-driven white wine full of attack just like Sancerre. And “Albariño” is fun to say just like “Sancerre”. But these types of statements can only go so far, so let’s dispense with the nonsense! Albariño is the name of a grape variety. In its native Spain (though Portugal can claim it as its own too), the grape is grown along the north Atlantic edge in the province of Galicia. In the early ’80s the appellation was named Albariño but was changed to Rias Baixas when Spain entered the EU (EU wine laws did not recognize DOs named after grape varieties). Almost all wine from Rias Baixas is white and of that most is made from Albariño.
A leader in advancing quality to the region, Granbazán was established in 1980 and today is spearheaded by the founder’s nephew, Jesús Álvarez Otero. The winery sits within the sub-zone of Val do Salnés, which is considered by many to be the best area for growing mineral-driven Albariño. The soils are mostly granitic. It is the wettest and coolest climate of any Rias Baixas subzone with an average annual temperature of only 55ºF. The gently sloping vineyards are susceptible to the maritime influence of the Atlantic, so the tradition is to grow grapes on pergolas. The pergolas can be as high as 7 feet and when the grapes ripen they are harvested by folks who stand on wine bins to reach the fruit. The visual effect of people walking beneath the green canopy of the grapes is extraordinarily beautiful, but it serves a purpose for the grapes. As the grapes grow high above the ground, air flows beneath preventing mildew and promoting even ripening. It amuses me to no end to see how inventive we can be when it comes to viticulture – wine will be made!
Granbazán makes a few types of Albariño. The Etiqueta Ámbar, my favorite, comes from their oldest vines which are 30+ years old. Only the free-run juice is used. The wine ages on the lees for about six months, giving the wine an exotic roundness and attractive softness to the finish. The intensity of the fruit flavors remind me of how free-run juice sets apart Montenidoli’s Vernaccia Fiore from their other Vernaccias. The combination of the free-run juice and lees aging, while it doesn’t take away from the inherent minerality of Albariño, does enhance the overall texture of the wine.
Its been two weeks since school let out and somehow my family is feeling more tired than ever. My husband, a physical education teacher, runs a summer sports camp for kids. My daughter goes to camp with him and is one of his “counselors in training”. It’s a lot of work for my husband and a lot of fun for my daughter. They both come home exhausted. We’re due for a quick jaunt up north to the family dacha. That bottle of 2014 Granbazán Etiqueta Ámbar chilling in my fridge should come along too. After a day of swimming and sunning, some grilled shrimp and Albariño should cap off the day perfectly. Gotta make it happen! – Anya Balistreri