The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2016

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Page 48 of 132

PAIRINGS 48  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2016 A fter the long waltz of winter reds, warm weather whites inspire a jig. And among the most-sprightly steppers of all is Albariño, the signature variety of Spain's ver- dant, coastal Rías Baixas region. Capable of wearing many hats and costumes, at its core Albariño is taut, aromatic and mineral-driven—a refresher that shares traits common to Sancerre, Chablis, Vermentino di Sardegna and other salty sippers. Yet there is more to Albariño than often meets the palate, and its many styles—from crisp, mineral and melony to soft, juicy and peachy—were showcased at the first Rías Baixas Tastemaker Table event in April at Kitchen Table in New York City. Sharing the spotlight with a flight of eight Albariño wines were several Spanish tapas-inspired plates created by James Beard–nominated chef Katie Button of Cúrate Tapas Bar and Nightbell Restaurant & Lounge in Asheville, North Carolina. Beginning with briny, succulent Blue Point oysters, the menu included white asparagus with tarragon lemon vinaigrette, braised pork with apricot Albariño sauce, salt cod stewed with tomatoes and olives, octopus skewers and banderillas (peppers, anchovy and Manchego bites). The Altos de Torona Rosal 2015 ($18) was a natural fit for oysters, showcasing a taut and zippy style latticed with salty minerals and citrus pith. Both the Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes 2014 ($18) and the Martín Códax 2014 ($17), with nicely balanced citrus, orchard fruit and powdered mineral profiles, fused with the creamy lemon zest to elevate the delicate flavors of the asparagus. The heartier braised pork, with its touch of earthy sweetness, was delivered to deeper resolution by the juicier, fruitier styles of the As Laxas 2015 ($18) and Castro Martin 2014 ($15) with their apricot, dusty pineapple and zesty mango notes. While oak is seldom utilized in Rías Baixas, extended maceration, malolactic fermen- tation and lees aging are occasionally employed to tame high acids, round out angular textures and provide additional structure (blending is also permitted, commonly with Loureiro, Treixadura, and Caiño Blanco). Indeed, a few wines deviated from the anticipated blazing acidity, salty mineral, citrus-driven norm to reveal a fleshier, gentler side Albariño. Notable examples included Morgadio 2015 ($19), Santiago Ruiz 2015 ($20) and Condes de Albarei 2014 ($15), all of which contained enough freshness and backbone to stand up to the octopus and peppers. With 90 percent of plantings in Rías Baixas, Albariño reigns as the region's flagship grape and according to Félix Meana, Wine Director for Heirloom Hospitality, is Spain's most premium category of white wine. When confronted with Chef Button's diverse menu of piquant and richly-flavored dishes, Albariño proved its food pairing prowess and performed a perfect palate tango. Pure Pairing Perfection PHOTO: XURXO LOBATO PHOTO: XURXO LOBATO A historic "pazo" houses a modern winery in Rías Baixas. by Cliff Rames RÍAS BAIXAS SHOWS OFF ITS VERSATILITY AT THE FIRST RÍAS BAIXAS TASTEMAKER TABLE EVENT Fog rolls over the vineyards of Rías Baixas.

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