Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Spanish White Grapes: Albariño

On August 1-7, we celebrate Albariño week! Albariño is one of the most popular white grapes from Spain, though it is not the most planted, that honor belongs to Airén, which is by the way, the most planted variety in the world. 
Albariño is a wonderful summer white, and a great value too! with prices 
usually starting at $13 and up.
Most Albariño is produced in the Rías Baixas appellation, marked with a black circle, on the map below, located in NW Spain, facing the Atlantic ocean.

Map courtesy of Wines from Spain/ICEX.

Now, if you see Albariño on the label of your wine, by law this wine must be 100% made from this grape. As you can imagine, there are other white grapes planted in Rías Baixas too! such as Torrontés, Treixadura, Caiño, Godello, these are also allowed in the Rías Baixas blend sold as blanco (white), but only in tiny percentages. If any of these grape names are familiar to you, is probably because some of them are grown in Portugal where they are part of the Vinho Verde blend.
There are different theories about the origin of Albariño, most say, it is original from Spain from the subzone of Val do Salnés, closest to the Atlantic, others that came from Germany with the Cistercian Monks or that Albariño is from northern Portugal, know there as Alvarinho.

All pictures, courtesy of DO Rías Baixas

From a viticultural point of view, Albariño is a very low yielding variety, it grows mostly on sandy, coarse soils, called xabres; some of which contain a bit of limestone, granite and clay. The Rías Baixas appellation is also known as “Green Spain”, this is due to the abundant rain that the area receives every year (about 1600 mm). It is indeed really humid here, and very much influenced by the Atlantic ocean (with a maritime climate similar to Bordeaux). 

All pictures, courtesy of DO Rías Baixas
To prevent fungal diseases most of the vines are trained in Pergolas/ Parrales (high wires) so that air can easily circulate and are planted facing SW to aid ripening.
Albariño yields a very aromatic wine, usually featuring white peach, apricots, pineapple, citrus (grapefruit, lime) and mineral notes. It will showcase solid acidity, a medium body and balanced alcohol, usually at 12,5 %. It is vinified in stainless steel to preserve the Albariño refreshing character. These whites are not usually aged in oak, but aging on lees is very common, which will add more body and complexity to the wines. Albariños are made to be drunk young, no more than 3 years from vintage. 
Best food matches for Albariño are all types of seafood, including octopus (pulpo gallego, a typical dish in Galicia), but also shellfish: shrimp, oysters, mussels,scallops, lobster. And all types of light white fish fillets such as cod, hake, filet of sole, flounder, etc.

The D.O. Rías Baixas has different subzones, yielding different wine profiles; for example, in the Val do Salnés Valley, where most of the wineries are based, is cooler, so the wines tend to be more green, crispier and mineral (with citrus: grapefruit, lime and green apple notes). While in Condado do Tea, located inland and south, where is warmer, wines are bigger and yield tropical notes (nectarine, pineapple and mango). In O Rosal, wines tend to be a happy medium of these two, featuring white peach and apricot notes. 
Depending on the subzone some wines will be 100 % Albariño like in Val do Salnés  and Soutomaior, while in Condado do Tea and O Rosal, is easier to find also blanco (white) blends of 70% Albariño with the other allowed white varieties.

Recommended Producers:
Though, there are plantings of Albariño in Australia, California and Oregon. No samples have impressed me so far, so my advice is to stick to Spanish producers from Rías Baixas. Here are some of my all time favorites:
Fillaboa, Palacio de Fefinañes, Santiago Ruiz, Terras Gauda, Viña Nora, Pazo de Barrantes, Granbazán, Mar de Frades,Fillaboa, Pazo de Señorans, Condes de Albarei, Martin Codáx, Paco & Lola, Marqués de Cáceres.

Below, some Albariños that I tasted lately and liked, I indicated the subzones where these come from, so that you are aware of the different styles.

Leirana Albariño 2018, $15.99 (Val do Salnés)
Vibrant Albariño features lemon zest and mineral notes. Vinified with indigenous yeasts and no malolatic fermentation. 

Paco & Lola Albariño 2019 $17.99 (Val do Salnés)
Completely vinified in stainless steel, followed by a brief aging on lees. This energetic Albariño showcases red apple and nectarine notes and a very focused finish.

O Fillo da Condesa Albariño 2018, $14.99 (Val do Salnés)
Partially fermented in oak, the rest in stainless steel, with 4 months of aging in lees. This impressive Albariño exudes lime zest and green apple notes, framed by juicy and refreshing acidity.

Altos de Torona 2019, $18.99 (O Rosal)
Juicy Albariño vinified in stainless steel and 6 months of aging on lees. It offers delicious white peach and pineapple fruit flavors with a fleshy finish.

Marqués de Cáceres Deusa Nai Albariño 2018 $18.99 (O Rosal)
Aromatic Albariño, vinified in stainless steel with 5 months of aging on lees. Shows grapefruit and white peach notes and a crispy finish.

Eidosela 2018, $13 (Condado do Tea)
Fresh Albariño showing yellow peach and orange blossom notes, with a round mineral finish. Fully vinified in stainless steel.

Viña Nora Albariño 2018 $17.99 (Condado do Tea)
This wine underwent maceration pelliculaire to extract more aromas and flavors for 6 hours, followed by fermentation in stainless steel and aging on lees for 4 months. This elegant Albariño features white peach and honeysuckle notes and a kiss of minerality.

Happy Albariño Week! Silvina

#Albariño  #Riasbaixas #spanishwines #spanishwhitegrapes #galicia #thoughtsoflawina #Spain #WineWednesday #Albariñoweek

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Verdejo: The Variety of D.O. Rueda

Are you familiar with Verdejo?
If you are like most American wine drinkers, you probably are not. So, allow me to invite you to open up your palate and think outside the box for a change, as we discover a delicious, vivacious white that everybody should be drinking. Verdejo is by far my favorite Spanish white grape variety, and the most important variety of D.O. Rueda, a Spanish appellation dedicated mostly to making white wine. 
To situate ourselves, the Rueda appellation is located in Castilla León, to the south of the city of Valladolid and the Duero River. 

map courtesy of D.O. Rueda

Verdejo (named from verde, which means green in Spanish) is an early to mid budding and ripening variety, very resistant to drought. Besides growing indigenous Verdejo, we can find other white varieties in Rueda such as: Palomino Fino, the Sherry grape, which was important once upon time, Viura, the most important white variety in Rioja, Sauvignon Blanc and thanks to a recent change in regulations: Viognier and Chardonnay. By law, any Rueda white must have at least 50% Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc in the blend and the rest could be any of these other grapes, in most cases, Viura. However, if the word Verdejo appears on the label, the wine must be 85% from this variety.

Beautiful Verdejo Grapes.
Picture courtesy of RiberaRueda campaign

What makes the Rueda appellation so special? 
For starters there's a long winemaking tradition in this area, they have been producing wines since the 11th century, however an important revival took place in the 1970s, when a very well known producer from Rioja (Marqués de Riscal), advised by Emile Peynaud saw potential in the area to make wines from Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. 
The climate in Rueda is continental, which means extreme, hot short summers and very cold winters, with low rainfall falling mostly in Spring and Autumn (400 ml per year). These dry weather conditions during the growing season, make this spot an ideal place to practice organic farming, with many producers certified as such.  Altitude of the terrain, makes a big difference here, with most vineyards located between 500- 800 metres, the cooler night temperatures will allow the vines to rest and to keep acidity levels. 
Verdejo grapes grow on two types of soils, some are stony and pebbly with good drainage (like those in the area of La Seca) and others are sandy with limestone (like those in Segovia). This appellation hosts some of the oldest vineyards in Spain with vines averaging 30-130 years old, most of them ungrafted, having survived the deadly phylloxera louse.

Verdejo vines planted on stony soils.
picture courtesy of Ribera Rueda campaign.

Most Rueda wine is made in stainless steel, at low temperatures to preserve the fine aromatics of this grape. Some producers have dared to experiment with barrel fermentation and aging in oak, as well as some aging in lees which will add creaminess, with successful results. There’s also a small production of  Verdejo Traditional method sparkling wines as well, and fortified Verdejo wines called Rueda Dorado and Pálido (similar to Sherry and aged for a few years in oak). New regulations in Rueda, created a new designation for wines that come from older vines, 30+ years old, now defined as Gran Vino de Rueda (Great Wine from Rueda).

Verdejo’s tasting profile will feature an aromatic wine with notes of green herbs, grass, fennel, lime, grapefruit and passion fruit; with aging they acquire bitter almond notes. Old vines will yield very concentrated wines, with medium plus to high acidity, medium to medium plus bodies and medium plus alcohol (some can easily have 14%). Rueda wines are better drunk young, but thanks to their acidity can age up to 8 years.
Match your Verdejo/Rueda wines with salads, as well as seafood, especially delicate white fish such as Flounder, Mahi Mahi or Cod. I also love it with Sushi or Poke salad.

Recommended Producers: best Verdejo can only come from Spain, here are some the top producers:
Naia, J&F Lurton, Jose Pariente, Telmo Rodriguez, Carlos Moro, Cuatro Rayas, Marqués de Riscal,Marqués de Cáceres, Jorge Ordoñez.

Here some Verdejos I tasted lately that I liked:

Jorge Ordoñez Nisia Las Suertes Verdejo 2018 $29.99
Made from dry farmed, ungrafted old vines, and aged for a year on its lees. 
This smooth Verdejo offers pineapple and honeydew melon notes. Complex, focused and elegant.

Cuatro Rayas, Vendemia Nocturna 2019 $15
Fermented in stainless steel, this wine is made from grapes harvested at night to avoid oxidation. Very lively Verdejo featuring green herbs (fennel) and citrus (lemon zest and lime notes).

Shaya Verdejo 2017 $17.99
A Verdejo with a touch of oak, 20 to 30% is fermented in barrel. Smooth Verdejo offers tropical passion fruit and pineapple notes supported by a vibrant finish. Made from very old vines grown in sandy soils.

Bodegas Beronia Verdejo 2019 $16.99
Fermented in stainless steel with grapes featuring different grades of ripeness, one part was harvested early to preserve freshness and acidity and the second later to show riper fruit. This juicy Verdejo exudes red delicious apple and guava flavors framed by nervy acidity.

Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo 2019, $12.99
Bright Verdejo showing white peach, grapefruit and blanched almonds notes ending in a clean and crispy finish.

Cheers! Silvina

#verdejo #rueda #thoughtsoflawina #Spain #WineWednesday  #verdejowinelover #winesfromspain #drinkrueda

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Cool Climate Whites

I have a story about Cool Climate Whites. Once upon a time when it was time to pass my wine tasting exam to get the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, the school presented me with the following exercise, in front of me, there were three wines, they didn’t tell me the grape variety, origin or vintage, I was supposed to taste them blind, write tasting notes about them, identify the grapes and origin of the wines and identify a common characteristic that all of them shared. The three whites were a Mosel Riesling, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a basic Chablis... and you guessed it!  Their common denominator was that all three were Cool Climate Whites.  I knew this immediately, mostly because I love acidity (a giveaway for this category), and purity in wines… meaning little or no winemaking man intervention, another giveaway.

I love Cool Climate Wines, both white and reds. I always say that climate is a very important factor in viticulture, where matching grapes, soil and climate is like a good marriage. Certain grapes need more sun to properly mature and prefer mild or warm climates, and then we have other grapes, mostly whites, that do quite well with less sun. Now, remember that viticulture is only possible on certain latitudes in our planet, mostly between 30 -50º north and south from the equator. Now, less sun, and therefore less ripeness, less sugar, and less alcohol. Less alcohol means less body and at times less fruity flavors. Instead, you will get more acidity, more vibrancy and freshness, more green and mineral flavors and more elegance. You will also have more focus, precision, as the French say “pointu”. Of course, we always need to aim for the balance of all the elements in wines. Even in a cool climate wine, though acidity is normally the central element, there are other things that keep the wine together, among them, their ability to express the terroir and soils, such as the cases like Chablis or Mosel, (wines known for their minerality, wet stones aromas and flavors). 

I believe this is a wonderful category of wines to enjoy in the summer, most of them are light to medium bodied, with high acidity, balanced alcohol, and pure… so pure in the sense that  producers have chosen to feature the aromas and intrinsic characteristics of the grapes, instead of masking the wines with too much oak. 
This is a category that will match very well, with light summer dishes, vegetables, salads, light fish/ seafood or even on their own, like I love to enjoy them… chilled and seating on a balcony or patio overlooking the stars or my favorite TV show. I love drinking Sauvignon Blanc while on vacation on the beach… that is a sublime experience indeed! that I will resume once the pandemic is over!

Flavor profiles of whites from cool climates usually are all types of pears, apples, especially green apples, citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange), peaches. Green herbs, fresh grass, green peppers, also stones, and other mineral flavors.

There are plenty of cool climate places in the world: Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace, Carneros, Russian River and Sonoma in California, Casablanca in Chile, most appellations in Germany and the UK, Austria, Rías Baixas & Txacoli in Spain. Oregon (especially appellations closer to the Pacific coast), New Zealand, appellations in the South Africa Coast, etc.  Most of these places are either too north so the coolness comes from their location, some are due to their high altitude (temperature goes down as we go high up) or the vineyards/areas are heavily influenced by cool sea breezes, (proximity to oceans and rivers).

Below are some examples of Cool Climate wines that I have tasted lately

1)Marlborough, New Zealand: sunny and influenced by cool sea breezes, Marlborough is a unique location to grow Sauvignon Blancs, like nowhere else on the planet. NZ Sauvignon Blancs are vibrant with piercing fruit intensity. 

Sunday Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2019 $14.99
Medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc showing intense lime zest and passion fruit notes and beautiful zingy acidity.

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $19.99
Light bodied Sauvignon Blanc featuring fresh green grass and grapefruit notes, and lively yet well integrated acidity.

2)Mosel, Germany: Germany and the UK, are two countries located so far north, they are in the northern limit for viticulture. In wine terms we call these locations “marginal climates”, located at 50-55º latitude respectively, here it’s so cool, grapes have a hard time to mature, of course this is fast changing with global warming. Of the many cool climates spots, Mosel is one of my favorites, there is an elegance found here that can't be duplicated anywhere else, plus alcohol levels are low, allowing me to drink more wine… without having a headache.

Gunther Steinmetz Brauneberger Riesling 2017 $18.99
Dry and racy Riesling, featuring lemon peel, honey and flint notes, complex almost Alsatian in body. Superb!

Dr Hermann H Riesling 2018 $19.99
Delicious off dry white, featuring vibrant acidity, lemon and petrol notes and a light body with only 10 % alcohol. Ideal with spicy foods.

3)Robertson Valley, South Africa, though summers are dry and sunny here, the vineyards are cooled down by the Breede river breezes and also by the Agulhas coast influences. The Chardonnay grapes used in this wine grow on limestone soils, similar to those found Burgundy. This wine was aged on its lees for 4 months.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2019 $19.99
A crisp full bodied Chardonnay, full of yellow and green apple notes. Creamy mouthfeel and a touch of minerality rounds up the persistent finish. 
So, there you have it! What wines are you enjoying this summer? Tell me on Instagram @silvinalawinaUntil next one, cheers! Silvina

#coolclimatewines #coolwines #whitewines #thoughtsoflawina

A special thanks to Broadbent Selections and HB Merchants for these wonderful samples.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

E-Wine Retailers

In one of my latest posts, I wrote about E-commerce and how since the beginning of the pandemic, online retail sales have increased to an outstanding 237%! Of course that makes me very, very happy, mostly because I think life is better with wine… more so during the pandemic. 
I guess, I wanted to explore and to recommend to you, the most important wine retailers online. I know what you are going to say,  my papa/mama wine store around the corner is selling online too and now they deliver, I will continue to go to them… and sure, do that, it’s completely fine. But, there are some wine stores out there, that have taken the time, not only to build an incredible selection of wines for you, but they also ship, no matter where you are (even to other countries too, as we soon will see). It’s also good to check the prices. Sometimes, if you buy, let’s say 1 case or more of wine, you can get free shipping and if the store prices are really good, you will save a lot of money, too. 


This eretailer has plenty of labels, actually more than 20,000, plus it lists scores too. It can ship to your house or you can pick up your bottles at any Wallgreens or Federal Express locations nationwide. $49 per year gives you free shipping for a year, good if you are planning to buy wines all year long. Prices are also good, you can also chat with a representative to ask for help. They have free virtual wine tastings and very interesting lists such as 90 pts and less than $20 or 94 pts and less than $50.  10% discount off, if you buy a full case of wines. 
You can search your bottles by varietal, region or style, and sort your results, they even have a quiz to discover your wine style... I did the test and it was correct, I'm a crispy and minerally white wine fan, perfect for summer.

The biggest wine community online. The good thing about Vivino is that it values consumers’ opinions and not wine critics’. Every time you scan a label with your phone, it will take you to the page of your wine to see what others think about it. Best wines must have received at least 3.5 points or up, I normally go for bottles that have received at least 3.8 or better 4 pts.
They sell all over the world, including outside the US. They work with stores that can ship to your address. In the US, deliveries can be tricky in certain states, so do check before placing an order. Shipping charges vary according to each store, sometimes a minimum of $150 is required.
You can do searches by varietal, region, food pairing.  They list most popular wines in the community (they review an average of 100,000 wines per year, more than any trade magazine or wine critic). They also have a less than $10 wine list (if money is tight, look for recommendations here). 


This eretailer is for the rich and famous… a huge selection of top wines and collector’s items. They divide their categories in cellars, that include different styles: The Acclaimed Cellar, the Magnifique Cellar, the Explorer Cellar, etc. They also have a wine club, you can sign up to receive 3-4 bottles per month starting at $75 plus per bottle. 
If you only drink cult wines, this is the place for you. They guarantee the provenance of all their stock. If you on the other hand, are a collector who wants to sell your fine collection, they can help you too.

Besides having good prices and ratings, JJBuckley can also store your wines for $0.28 per bottle. Plenty of discounts here, including $25 from your purchase of $250.  They also have wines discounted as much as 40-50% off. An impressive selection of high end brands.


Good selection of wines, free shipping is included if you spend $120 on 6 bottles, they ship to most estates of the US. They don’t ship overseas. 
A huge variety of wines to choose from, they also have a Wine club for $150 per shipment plus tax, 4 per year, which includes 6 bottles of wines, plus a guided video tasting of these wines and 10% discount in all their selections.


Huge selection of spirits with some solid wines. Free delivery with $150 purchase, Reserve Bar delivers to most states. Other specials include $10 off from a purchase of 6 bottles or $25 off from a purchase of 12 bottles.

This is not a wine store but the place where you can find your wines in stores, all over the world that sell online and also find out their price and vintage. I use it all the time. It includes information to help you find wines overseas, which is helpful when traveling on holiday. 

Drizly is not a store per se, it lists brands that are available in retailers near your address, that sell and deliver the products to you. Delivery may or may not be included, depending on the store and how much you spend on your order. In my neighborhood for example, shipping is in most cases only $4.99. Delivery should be within 60 minutes. Prices vary, actually some of them are more expensive than in real wine stores. My recommendation is to check Wine-Searcher for the best prices. 

Minibar is similar to Drizly, it offers a $5 off on your first order. The selection is however limited, it is convenient because of the delivery option, but thanks to Covid-19 most wine stores deliver these days.

So, what are you waiting for? don't you think it's time to stock up on some wines? Cheers! Silvina.
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#thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #vivino #wine.com #benchmarkwine #JJbuckley #drizly #minibar #wineaccess #minibar #reservebar #wineretailers #ewine

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Whites for Summer: Pinot Gris & Pinot Grigio

Now that Summer is finally here! it is time to explore more fun whites, by trying and learning about delicious Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, as it is known in Italy, and Grauburgunder, as it is known in Germany, are all the same grape variety, basically a grape mutation of Pinot Noir. However, the style of wines Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio can create will be very different according to climate, winemaking intent and yields. 

Picture of Pinot Gris, courtesy of Wines of Alsace.

One of the best expression of this grape comes from Alsace, where it produces dry, as well as, sweet/dessert styles, affected by botrytis (VT:Vendages Tardives and SGN: Sélection de Grains Noble).  In Alsace, the perfect combination of dry autumns, mineral soils and low yields, produce wines that have fuller bodies, balanced acidity and enticing aromas featuring citrus, spices and honey notes. Here, Pinot Gris is considered one of the top 4 noble varieties of the appellation, and is vinified both as a varietal and in blends, yielding an unctuous and worth aging wine. 

In Germany, especially in Baden and Pfalz, we can find some good samples too, though these tend to be higher in acidity and with lower alcohol levels than those from Alsace. 
In Italy, Pinot Grigio sales raised up to 223 million bottles last year alone. We have two different styles: the mass produced, inexpensive quaff that don't show much complexity/ personality, yet it continues to be a favorite of US consumers.  And better yet, it's the Pinot Grigio produced in appellations in the north east of Italy, such as Alto Adige-Trentino, Collio and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia that make very good samples featuring medium bodies, stone fruit flavors, nice minerality and zippy acidity.

Besides the locations described above, Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio has been planted all around the world, in California is usually treated as Chardonnay and fermented it or aged in oak. Oregon produces some good examples, mostly due to Oregon’s cool weather that suits this grape quite well. New Zealand’s Southern Island (Martinsborough) and Victoria, Australia offer good promise too.
Something to notice about this variety is that its skins vary in color, going from grey to blue, to purple, almost too dark to create a white wine. In any case, producers make white wine by removing the grape's skins. 

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio usually features a deep golden color, light to medium bodies and aromas showing honey, lemon,yellow apple, white nectarine, peach and tropical mango, according to climate variations. 

Recommended Producers:
Alsace: Hugel, Trimbach, Weinbach, Zind-Humbrecht, Josmeyer, Lucien Albrecht
Italy: Alois Lageder, Felluga, Attems, Franco Terpin, Tiefenbrunner,Jermann.
Oregon: A to Z, Chehalem, King Estate, Benton Lane, Elk Cove, Big Table Farm.

Wines that I have tasted lately that I liked:
Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2018, Alto Adige $12
Gradis Ciutta Pinot Grigio 2018, Collio $19
J Hofstatter Pinot Grigio 2018, IGT Delle Dolomiti $19
Astrolabe Pinot Gris 2016, New Zealand, $14
A to Z Pinot Gris 2018, Oregon, $14
Thank you to Frederick Wildman, HB Merchants and Vineyard Brands for donating samples.

Cheers! Silvina
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#peterzemmer #gradisciutta #Jhofstatter #thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #pinotgris #pinotgrigio.