Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! This summer, I’m diving into as many crisp, refreshing white wines that I can get my hands on. Thankfully, the sun has peeked its head through the clouds a few times this week so a quick sip or two on the deck might be in the cards. I’ve found two ideal candidates for summer-time sipping: one from the IGP of Cotes de Gascogne (France), and the other from a premium area of Spain called Rias Baxias. There are a couple of characteristics shared by both regions such as an Atlantic Ocean influence which moderates temperatures in the vineyards and also both regions primarily produce white wines.

First, let’s take a peek at Rias Baxias in Northwest Spain (pronounced as Ree-ahs Bah-sheeus with a rolling “R” at the start). This wine-producing region is famous around the world for producing premium wines from the Albarino white grape varietal. Its soils are rich in granite and schist minerals which reflect in the flavors of the wine. The climate here is generally cool which keeps the wines focused and acid-oriented but fruitier flavors can be found in some sub-regions. An interesting trellising system known as “parra” is used here which suspends the vines seven feet from the ground providing ventilation and mold prevention for the humid grapes.

99% of the wine made in Rias Baxias is white and if the label says “Rias Baxias Albarino” on the label, it must contain 100% Albarino grapes by law. A few other white grapes are permitted in the wines such as Caino Blanco, Torontes and Godello, while red wines may contain a variety of local grape varietals like Caino Tinto, Castanal, Loureiro Tinto, Mencia or Souson. With the cooler climate and ocean influences, wines from this region typically display higher levels of acidity and a touch of ocean or river-like minerality.

Moving on to Southwest France, the IGP of Cotes de Gascogne was created to showcase wines which reached a quality level higher than the entry-level “vin de table” wines (basic table wines). This category is sometimes known as “vin de pays” which indicates a wine with finer qualities than table wine but considered not as good as AOC wines (Bordeuax, Champagne, Cotes du Rhone, etc.). 91% of the wines in Cotes de Gascogne are made with white varietals including Colombard, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle and Ugni Blanc among others. Incredibly, the Domaine Tariquet Classic white blend contains seven grapes which in my opinion doesn’t allow the individual flavors to shine and makes the wine taste a bit too neutral. The wine is pleasant enough but doesn’t satisfy like other wines with a specific character or as the French would say, a certain “Je ne sais quoi!” (I don’t know what!).

Red grapes are permitted in this region but are not as commonly spotted. Among these allowable varietals, you’ll find Abouriou, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Duras, Malbec and Tannat as well as few lesser known, local grapes. As stated earlier, there is an Atlantic influence in the vineyards which keeps the grapes crisp and cool while the soil is primarily composed of alluvial soils with some clay and sand mixed in.

Of the two wines, the Vina Vedra Albarino stands out for its quality, intensity of flavors, bright acidity and beautiful depth of concentration. I did enjoy the French wine but as stated, it seems to be missing that certain something. If you’re looking to create a classy experience and want to take advantage of some warm days on the deck or at the lake, consider many types of food pairings like fresh seafoods, salty meats, olives, pickles, sautéed shrimp in garlic, butter and lemon, creamy white pasta dishes, risotto or if you can get your hands on it, yellow-fin tuna with a touch of sesame sauce.

Enjoy the beautiful weather and make some great new memories with friends, family, good food and a delicious bottle of white wine! Here are my wine picks of the week!         

Domaine Tariquet Classic White Blend 2022: (IGP Cotes de Gascogne, France). Dry white, pale lemon color with hints of green. Quite delicate at first, the nose opens up after some time to breathe with scents of green pineapple, tropical fruit, freshly sliced vegetables/stalks, riverbed, wet rock, chopped herbs and hints of citrus. The first sip reveals a slightly tangy character with crisp, medium acidity and clean, simple flavors of pineapple, savory mineral (wet rock), vegetal stalks and green fruits. Medium intensity with medium concentration, this wine doesn’t blow away the tastebuds but instead, tingles gently on the palate with a slight zippy sensation from the acidity. The medium-minus bodied mid palate passes quickly but I was impressed by the long finish of minerality, herbs and slight vegetal bitterness. Pair with fresh-water fish, sushi or risotto. Good! $25, 11% ABV

Vina Vedra Albarino 2020: (DO Rias Baixas, Spain). Dry to off-dry white, medium lemon color. Simple aromas of lemon citrus, plant stems/stalks, limestone mineral, riverbed rock and apple gently rise from the glass with medium intensity. The initial taste of this wine shocks my tastebuds with some impressive intensity and electric flavors of lemon peel/juice with a burst of limestone and plenty of flavorful concentration. Light-bodied with a touch of mineral salinity at the edges followed by green apple/pear and medium-plus acidity. This is a zesty one with a bright, tangy character and a zippy, tingling finish of citrus peels and a bit of mineral bitterness. Incredibly well-balanced, I could sip this entire bottle by myself (I restrained myself!). Highly enjoyable Spanish white with a crisp, refreshing character. While this is great by itself, it will pair incredibly well with pea shoot risotto, fresh hummus and pita chips, walleye fish or fresh/grilled vegetable courses. Very good! $35, 12.5% ABV   

Cheers and thanks for reading!