Thanks to: you think of Spain's geography as the shape of a bull's head, you realize it doesn't have much of a western coast. Portugal actually comprises much of that area - with only the tippy-top of Spain's left "bull horn" having ocean boundaries. It is in this northwestern area, Galicia - and perhaps more notably, the D.O. Rias Biaxas (said Ree-as Byay-shas) - where arguably the most versatile white wine is created: Albarino. With its northern location and proximity to the sea, it won't surprise you to learn Albarino has its work cut out for itself to avoid rot and ripen fully. (Or, well, maybe the high, spread out trellising by the vineyard managers has something to do with it, since the wind can more easily pass through the vines and help dry things out....) Whether natural selection is at play or not, Albarino fortunately has developed very thick skins - which impart the strong, beautifully floral aromas you should associate with this particular vino.

Actually, Albarino is often likened to two other grapes we've discussed now and again: Riesling and Viognier. It is associated with Riesling for its mineral characteristics and Viognier for the stone fruit and floral aromas that often float from the glass. It also has very low alcohol and high acidity. These factors make Albarino so versatile. (Low alcohol allows it to pair well with spicy dishes too, for example; the heat of the alcohol does not fuel the flames of spicy cuisine while the residual touch of glycerin adds a robustness that complements richer foods' texture. ) And it's not just that Albarino's innate characteristics make it a good match for these "trickier," spicy foods! The wine is also enhanced by the flavors found in these dishes: it tastes even more distinct than when it flies solo!

Albarino is a go-to wine for me particularly around holiday meals. It is so refreshing, has that extra bit of roundness to it texturally, complements so many dishes and is one even red wine drinkers can appreciate. With Easter a few weeks back, I brough home a bottle thinking I would save it for our feast. It never made it that far.... The Vinum Terrae's Agnus Dei Albarino offered such a lovely bouquet of peaches and apricots, it was love reignited. It delivered the same apricot-peachy goodness on the palate and was further enhanced by a serious squeeze of lemon citrus "juice" and a bit of wet-slate minerality. With its low alcohol, it quenched my thirst as I prepared the meal.

There are several Albarino's on the market, probably the most widely distributed being the Martin Codax. Have you enjoyed this varietal before? Which was the offering you tasted?