Seafood’s Soulmate: Rías Baixas Albariño


When it comes to choosing wine to go with seafood, Spanish Albariño is always a worthy contender. This white grape variety is native to Galicia, in the far northwest of Spain surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. The grape’s best-known wines come from the Rías Baixas D.O. where 90% of the vineyards are planted with Albariño, producing wonderfully crisp, fragrant, and mineral-driven white wines, a match made in heaven with the local seafood.

When Rías Baixas became a D.O. in 1988, there were only 30 producers, and most of the wine was consumed locally. Since then, the number of wineries in the D.O. has increased significantly, and today the appellation boasts 178 wineries and 5,500 grape growers. Rías Baixas Albariño has gained a huge international following, and the United States is its biggest export market.

“The wines were a novelty when they began showing up in Spanish restaurants in the United States in the early 1990s,” says Eric Asimov in a July 2019 New York Times article. “…In short time, though, it caught on, and helped pave the way for other then-unknown white wines to be welcomed onto the country’s wine list, like Grüner Veltliner of Austria, Fiano di Avellino of Campania and Assyrtiko of Santorini, as well as other Spanish whites like Godello.

Valdo Salnés Pazo Señorans with sushi at a popular Manhattan seafood restaurant, Oceans, a great pairing.

Today, Albariño is a favorite of American chefs and can be found in all types of restaurants, not only Spanish, often served by the glass owing to the wine’s great price-to-value ratio.

Since April 2022, D.O. Rías Baixas has been partnering with renowned chefs across the country to create recipes that highlight the pairing power of Albariño. One example comes from Top Chef winner and owner of Boulder’s Blackberry, Chef Hosea Rosenberg, who recently shared his favorite recipe to pair with Rías Baixas Albariño: Sautéed Shrimp with Caramelized Spaghetti Squash, Kale, Apricot, and Garlic.

Home chefs are also jumping on the Albariño bandwagon. During the past two weeks, I enjoyed a couple of Rías Baixas Albariños (sent as samples) in my own kitchen, paired with two very different seafood dishes: a delicate baked grey sole simply adorned with butter and thyme, and a pungent shrimp stew flavored with coconut, lemongrass, coriander, and Thai basil.

Find the Coconut Shrimp Stew Recipe here

The gray sole was perfect with Bodegas Pazo Pondal ‘Leira Pondal’ Albariño 2021 (SRP $19.99), a classic example of the grape, fragrant with tropical and stone fruit aromas, and a hint of white flowers. On the palate, medium-to-full-bodied with medium-plus acidity, saline minerality, and notes of lemon, lime, green apple, and pear. Delicious!

The shrimp stew matched beautifully with Santiago Ruiz Albariño 2021 (SRP $22.99), blended with a few other local grape varieties, such as Loureiro and Treixadura. The wine’s fruity nose leads into a crisp palate with saline and flinty mineral notes, along with bright, citrusy acidity and hints of pear, apple, and honey on the finish. Lively and lovely!

Note: These wines and many more fantastic Spanish Albariños are readily available at wine shops, usually for $25 or less, a true bargain.

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