Posted on 09.10.20 Wine of the Week

#WOTW: sea breeze salinity from a sparkling Albariño

There are few wines that evoke their surroundings in the way a good Albariño does. Convinced that I can smell the sea breeze buffeting the glass, the salinity in the finish feels as if it’s swept in by the Atlantic waves that crash into the stunning shores of the Rias Baixas on Spain’s north east coast.

Albariño happens to be rather fashionable at the moment, which is not always a good thing. Thankfully, one of its greatest exponents, Paula Fandiño at Mar de Frades, continues to make amazing wines, in their distinctive (and sometimes divisive) blue bottles. I have readers who have literally bought case after case of the still wine to see them through summer.

Fandiño likes to experiment. One such fandango, a couple of years back, was a sparkling Albariño, which proved an immediate hit. It still sells out every year. Made using the ‘Traditional Method’, with a secondary fermentation in bottle like Champagne, it is ‘Brut Nature’, the term used to describe the very driest sparkling wine, with less than 3 grammes per litre of ‘dosage’ (basically sugar, in simple terms). This style can sometimes be a bit austere but this isn’t, thanks mostly I suspect to the exuberant quality of the fruit, which is picked a little earlier from the vines at Salnés, to preserve the acidity that good sparkling wine demands.

Mar de Frades sparking Albariño (£24.30 if you’re buying a mixed case, otherwise £27 for a single bottle, at Great Wine Co) has a nose of vibrant lime, yellow apple, greengage and a hint of eucalyptus leaf, with the toasty autolytic character – and a note of wet walnut on the palate – playing a subtle second fiddle to the fresh citrus. A blast of sea breeze salinity runs through it from nose to tail. It’s exhilarating, a little bit different, and I think it cleverly retains its varietal character too.

If you want to know more about its creator Paula Fandiño, then you can read about her restless innovation in this piece I wrote for The Buyer last year.

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