When introduced to a new grape varietal or wine growing region, I follow one of the principle tips for food and wine pairing; “if it grows together, it goes together.” Albariño from Rías Baixas located in northwestern Spain, bordering the Atlantic Ocean is known for its fresh seafood. These pan grilled clams paired with a glass of Spanish Albariño is a classic pairing that is simple but loaded with flavors that enhance both the freshness of the wine and clams.
Albariño is an aromatic wine that is known for it’s fresh, crisp, elegant style. The flavor profile often includes citrus, melon, stone fruit, and tropical fruit with notes of minerality and salinity. The popularity of Spanish Albariño has continued to grow since the 1980’s when the winemaking technology in Rías Baixas was modernized with temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, vastly increasing the wine’s quality.
A Few Key Facts About Albariño and Rías Baixas
Rías Baixas is named for the irregular Atlantic inlets called rías.
The region is known as “Green Spain” because it’s landscape of rolling green hills is more reminiscent of coastal Ireland than the rest of Spain.
90% of the grape varieties grown in Rías Baixas is Albariño. Other allowed varieties include; Caiño blanco, Treixadura, Loureira, Torrontés, and Godello.
99% of the wine grown in the region is white.
The soil in the region is based on granite bedrock with some schist, and, alluvial and colluvial deposits of clay, silt, sand, and gravel.
There are five sub-regions in Rías Baixas
- Val do Salnés – the birthplace of Albariño, located in the northern half of the region with the most coastline, it is the coolest and wettest, has the most land under vine, and the highest number of wineries
- Ribeira do Ulla – the newest sub-region, located in the north and inland along the Ulla River, is cool but drier
- Soutomaior – the smallest of the sub-regions located in the center on the coastal hills by the head of the Rías de Vigo
- O Rosal – bordering Portugal located farthest south on the coast by the Miño River with cooler temperatures
- Condado do Tea – bordering Portugal located farthest south inland on the northern slopes of the Miño River with warmer temperatures
My Tasting Notes
2016 Pazo de Señorans Albariño Rías Baixas, Val do Salnés
13.5% abv | $22.99 Total Wines | 100% Albariño
Pale straw in color with hints of green. Honeysuckle aromas, low-medium acidity, medium bodied, notes of citrus, and peaches with a hint of tropical fruit. A soft round smooth texture on the palate.
2016 Altos de Torrona Albariño Rías Baixas, Val do Salnés
13% abv | $13.00 SRP (sample) | 85% Albariño 10% Caiño blanco 5% Loureira
Light straw yellow in color with a hint of green. Medium+ acidity and medium bodied. Nice crisp, fresh acidity on the palate with notes of citrus, stone fruit, and minerality.
2016 Nora Albariño, Rîas Baixas, Condado do Tea
13% abv| $14.99 Total Wines | 100% Albariño
Pale straw yellow in color. Medium acidity and body. Notes of citrus, yellow apple, pear, pineapple, and salinity.
The Alta de Torona and Nora both with fresh crisp, acidity and minerality on the palate were the ideal and preferred pairing with the clams. The acidity and citrusy notes in the wine matched the acidity of the saffron vinaigrette, tomatoes, lemon juice, and briny flavors of the clams. The Pazo de Señorans is a riper tasting Albariño with muted acidity leaving the pairing to fall flat.
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 good pinch saffron threads
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup canola
- 1 teaspoon Kosher sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Clams
- 2 lbs. littleneck clams in their shell, scrubbed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 8 slices french baguette
For the Saffron Vinaigrette
- In a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine white wine vinegar and the saffron threads. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and then remove from heat and cool. Whisk in the oils, salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the Clams
- Prepare a charcoal grill with wood charcoal. While the wood charcoal warms up, soaked some mesquite wood chips in a small bowl. The grill should be very hot 600-700 degrees F.
- Put the clams in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Add tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Pour the saffron vinaigrette over the clams mixture. Cover the skillet tightly with heavy duty foil. Add the drained soaked mesquite wood chips to the charcoal. Put the skillet on the grill rack and cover the grill. Cook for 5-6 minutes. Uncover the grill and skillet. Continue to cook until the clams open. Discard any clams that do not open during a reasonable cooking time.
- Toast baguette slices. Drizzle lemon juice over the clams and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with toasted baguette slices and Spanish Albariño wine.
Join the Wine Pairing Weekend Group on Twitter Saturday, August 11 at 11:00am ET for our our conversation on Crisp White Wines from Spain and Portugal. (Using hashtag #WinePW to follow the chat). Check out my fellow Wine Pairing Weekend Bloggers discoveries with Crisp White Wines from Spain and Portugal below ~
- Lori of Dracaena Wines is Celebrating International Albariño Day with #WinePW.
- David from Cooking Chat offers up Rias Baixas Albariño with Summer Party Nibbles.
Sarah of Curious Cuisiniere puts together Galician Style Mussels In White Wine And An Albariño WinePairing.
- Jill of L’Occasion says What We’re Drinking Now: Chill White Wine from Spain andPortugal.
- Jeff of FoodWineClick! writes Tapas and Albariño: A Winning Combination.
- Lauren of The Swirling Dervish features Wines from Cariñena, Spain: Perfect for Summer Sipping.
- Cindy of Grape Experiences is Summer Sipping: Pazo Pondal Albariño 2017.
- Rupal of Syrah Queen lists Top White Wines from the Douro Valley.
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog tells us to Beat the Summer Heat with Rias Baixas Albariño.
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Albariño and Seafood Stew: the Perfect Pairing.
- Jane of Always Ravenous serves Grilled Clams with Spanish Albariño.
- Nicole of Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Adegas Gran Vinum Nessa Albariño
RiasBaixas and an Umami-packed Twist on Fish and Chips.
- Susannah of avvinare offers Albariño paired with Shrimp Paella – A Summer Delight.
- Gwendolyn of WinePredator is having an Albariño Adventure on Anglesey.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs California Central Coast Albariños with Spanish Bites.