The Embassy of Spain’s Economic and Commercial Office organised a food and wine trail to highlight the versatility of Albariño wines. On hand to educate us was consultant sommelier Lisa O’Doherty, who would take us through wine pairings and the different Albariño wines available.
Before I go on, I should explain that Albariño is not a brand of wine, it is a variety of white grape and is the signature grape from the region of Rías Baixas in Galicia, which is located in northwest Spain along the Atlantic seacoast.
Our first port of call on the food and drink adventure was Fallon and Byrne where we tucked in to bowls of olives, sundried tomatoes, platters of homemade bread, pate, onion jam and raw oysters on ice.
First tip Lisa gave us was to match wine origin to cuisine type, for example an Italian wine with pasta, French wine with French food etc. Seems simple enough.
But what about the oysters we were eating today, they are quite universal? Well, in that case, think where the food comes from. Oysters are from the sea so pick a wine made with a grape that grows near the coast – handy then that the Albariño grape grows in a maritime region. The same minerals are in the soil as are in the seabed, and therefore the wine will compliment the oysters perfectly and, like oysters, Albariño wines have mineral overtones which help further compliment each other. Also, the acidity of the wine balances out the saltiness of the food.
For these reasons, to pair with the salty food in Fallon and Byrne Lisa chose Albariño Pionero Mundi 2013, an aromatic, crisp wine (like granny smith apples and lemon) that washed down the salty (slimy) oysters perfectly and the acidity balanced out oily olives really well – a perfect pairing I thought.
Next, Lisa wanted to show us how to pair Albariño wines with spicy Asian food, so we went to Saba, a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Dublin.
Here we filled up on smoked trout mieng kam, tempura soft shell crab and many other dishes that were flavoured with Asian spices and came with hot dipping sauces. So, what would we pair with this type of food? Well, Lisa chose a 2013 Maior De Mendoza On Lees – a refreshing wine that cools the pallet after eating spicy dishes.
I was interested to see it there was a difference between the wines considering they are made from the same grape and from the same region. And well, yes, they were different, very much so. This one was darker in colour and not as acidic or crisp but more rounded, tasting more like peaches and pears than apples and grass! There was also a hint of apricot, which I loved. Furthermore, these notes combined perfectly to make a wine that was sweet but delicate that balanced out the spiciness flavours of the food, without drowning them out.
The final stop on our Albariño trail was Las Tapas de Lola, firm foodie favourite in Dublin. Here we tried traditional Spanish fayre, like rich marinated pigs cheek, spicy Padron peppers, garlicky prawns and salty Iberico ham – a wonderful mix of textures and flavours. This time Lisa chose Alba Martin a wine that was more floral than the others and had a summery taste of white stone fruits. Yet again, this wine was unlike the others. It was a lovely pale shimmery golden colour, and I would have placed it in between the other two wines in terms of intensity and freshness. It was more balanced and elegant and went perfectly with the rich, intense flavor dishes that we were pairing it with. It balanced out the meatiness of the pig cheek; it cut through the salty oily almonds and refreshed our pallets after we tried the hot peppers. This wine did it all and with great taste too.
So after all this wine tasting and education I am pretty confident that I can pair wine with my food. I now know that just because wines come from the same region or are made with the same grape, or both, they do not all taste they same. They can be very different in colour, aromas and flavours. Furthermore, Albariño wines pair perfectly with a wide variety of foods from meat to seafood, olives to almonds and everything in between – a truly versatile wine – and I’ll drink to that. Cheers.
Written by Melanie May