The United States is seeing an all-time high in wine diversity. This is in part to consumers looking for more options, but also wholesalers and retailers charting the globe to bring us wines from widespread regions of the world. These wines are no longer seen as “other” on a restaurant wine list or pushed into an obscure section of the retail store. Once viewed as eccentric, they are gaining favor on the mainstream palate.
Albarino is one of the most distinctive white wine grapes in Spain. Its home is in Galicia, located in Spain’s rainy northwest corner, and in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region. In the past, the juice from this grape was usually blended with local grapes unfamiliar in the U.S. market such as Loureiro, Godello, Arinto or Treixadura. In the 1980s this grape’s full potential became reality, and producers began bottling this intensely aromatic wine on its own. It is refreshingly acidic and showcases aromas and tastes of peaches, apricots and almonds. The best versions of this grape come from the Rias Baixas region in Spain.
Vernaccia is a minor variety from Italy’s Tuscany region. Most of us are unfamiliar with this wine, and few even know it’s a grape. Wine from the Vernaccia grape was the first to be awarded DOC (Denominazione Origine Controllata, a quality assurance label for Italian products) status in 1966, before even the familiar and famous regions of Barolo and Brunello. This says a lot for a little known “other” on a wine list or retail shelf. This wine is refreshing, with a crisp acidity and a medium- to full-bodied style. Vernaccia is known for its abundance of flavors, the most common being white fruit, citrus and almond.
Portugal’s Vinho Verde is fresh, lively, zingy, zesty and bargain priced. That’s a lot to ask in a wine, but this one delivers. These wines are traditionally made from an unfamiliar listing of local grapes like azal, loureiro, arinto and treixadura. Vinho Verde is the largest of the regulated wine regions, stretching from the Spanish border to south of Oporto on the Atlantic coast.
- 2015 Gazela Vinho Verde, Spain (about $8 retail)
- 2014 Laxas Albarino, Spain (about $14 retail)
- 2014 Broadbent Vinho Verde, Spain (about $11 retail)
- 2014 Rocca delle Macie Vernaccia, Italy (about $18 retail)
- 2014 Vionta Albarino, Spain (about $19 retail)
- 2014 Mar de Frades Albarino, Spain (about $27 retail)