The first “real” wine I ever learned about was Albariño, the classic yet under-appreciated white from Spain’s northwestern Rías Baixas region. My postgrad palate, theretofore raised on Franzia and Yellowtail, learned to detect the basic structural and flavor components of wine through Albariño, distinguishing fruit from sweetness and body from acidity. Not only did Albariño have all the essential components of a complete wine — fruit, flowers, herbs, minerality, acidity, body — but as my spectrum of tasting knowledge grew, I realized that one grape from this small region offered nuanced stylistic diversity to explore.
As I moved on to new grapes over time — Chenin Blanc! Carricante! Viura! — I drank Albariño less. But I was reminded why I loved Albariño in the first place through a recent taste of the Columna Albariño.
While Albariño from green, wet Rías Baixas has some classic grape variety markers — aromatic, orange blossom and peach-laden nose with a snappy, stony, citrus zest palate — each of its five non-contiguous subregions tweaks the formula slightly. Versions from the sea-proximal Salnes Valley have a leaner, saltier edge, while those from O Rosal are usually rounder and softer, with Albariño’s acidity tempered by blending grapes. Bottles that hail from the inland Condado do Tea subregion, such as the Columna, tend to have fragrant, fruit blossom aromas, boosted by plentiful sunshine and warmer temperatures.
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On the spectrum of Albariño wines from Rías Baixas, the Columna Albariño leans more toward simple, clean, and mineral-driven than rich, leesy, and savory. It has more complexity than the average $15 wine, though, giving a superb bang for the buck (and proving how under-the-radar varieties can offer excellent value over well-known ones). The driving flavors are lime zest and salt, almost like a Margarita rim, padded with floral hints and a finish that lingers nicely.