Monday, August 5, 2013

Black Ankle Vineyards Albariño (2011)

For many, the word Albariño evokes images of a certain type of landscape ... panning from green rolling hills towards valleys and ultimately cliffs that drop into the Atlantic Ocean.  The land is that of Galicia, the northwestern part of Spain where nearly ninety percent of Albariño grapes are cultivated. From those grapes, wines such as Pazo Serantellos Albariño and Gran Vinum  Albariño Nessa

However, the rolling hills of Galicia are not the only place where you will find Albariño grapes.  Halfway around the world, there are rolling hills in the United States where adventurous vineyards and winemakers are trying to create Albariño wines that, at least, provide a unique character for the varietal and, at most, seek to rival those Galician wines.  The "New World" winemakers include Black Ankle Vineyards, which has planted Albariño grapes and has produced a very popular wine.  The wine is so popular that seventy-five cases can be sold in less than 18 business hours

Fortunately for Clare and myself, we were able to obtain a couple of the 2011 vintage of Black Ankle Vineyard's Albariño.  The question for me is whether an Albariño from Maryland could compare to a wine from Rias Biaxas, the region of Galicia that produces some of the best Albariño wines in Spain.  According to Rias Biaxas Wines, the promotional website for Spanish Albariño wines, Albariño wines possess the characteristics of many established varietals.  The website notes, "[i]t has been compared to Riesling for its minerality and bracing acidity; to Viognier, because of its fleshiness and peach/apricot character; and to Pinot Gris for its floral bouquet."  It adds, "when grown in highly acidic, granitic earth, Albariño yields a more mineral-driven and structured wine. In sandy soil, however, the Albariño grape gives a softer, rounder wine."

The Black Ankle Vineyard's Albariño provides an interesting look at a New World version of this old-world wine.  the wine leans toward that more mineral-driven, structured wine," which makes sense because those vines are not growing in sandy soil.    Instead, those vines are growing in decomposing slate laced with veins of quartz. 

The Albariño pours a light straw color.  The aromatic elements suggest grapefruit and perhaps some apple or a little lemon.  The taste also features these elements, with the grapefruit and citrus notes being at the forefront.  There was definitely a minerality and even a little hay or straw that followed in the background.  There is also a little tartness that grips the edges of the tongue long after the wine has been consumed, something of a reminder that you should take another sip.  Of course, this leads to one to drinking the wine faster than one should.  After drinking this wine, I can understand why Black Ankle Vineyards sells out of this wine so fast.  It also makes me look forward to the bottle of the 2012 vintage that is still resting in our little wine cages.  

When it comes to pairing, the Black Ankle wine follows the rules of any Spanish Albariño.  The wine pairs very well with fresh seafood, whether fish or shellfish, prepared on the grill or sauteed on the stovetop.  It would also work well with spicy dishes, such as lighter, spicy dishes from Indian, Thai or Chinese cuisines.   Finally, this wine pairs well with pasta and vegetables, which is the pairing that we chose.  The dish was Fettuccine with an Asparagus Puree.  The Albariño complimented the flavors in the asparagus puree, which was quite a feat, given the general difficulty that arises when pairing wine to asparagus. 

Unfortunately, this vintage is sold out and, it seems pointless to note the price of a bottle.  All I can say is that if you happen to see a bottle of a later vintage of the Black Ankle Vineyard's Albariño, you should give it a try. 


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