Published in The A - Z of Drinks

Albariño/Alvarinho – graceful white-grape variety of north-western Spain and northern Portugal, where it makes enigmatic, aromatic wines that have a Viognier-esque perfume about them with perhaps some smoky, oily Alsace Pinot Gris thrown in for good measure. Before the late 1990s Albariño seldom made it out of the lush green, fjord-scape of Galicia’s Rias Baixas (try ‘ree-ash by-shas’) appellation, where all Spanish stereotypes are redundant: them Gallegos are Celts, right down to the kilts and the bagpipes, and Celts everywhere would feel at home in the Galician rain – all 60 annual average inches of it, which requires everything to be kept off the damp ground including the vines that are trained up tall granite posts. Traditionally a highly prized – but moderately priced – local secret, the cat is now well and truly out of the bag and arguably Spain’s best white wine is ubiquitous. It is also being planted in the USA, where its popularity has surged rapidly. Preferably drunk young, on its own or with some pre-dinner salted almonds in order not to miss the subtlety, but most nonetheless have enough body to partner fish and mariscos (and enough acidity to hold their own should such things arrive in a dairy-based sauce).

Published in The A - Z of Drinks

Airén – unspectacular white grape, the most widely planted of any variety (the equivalent of every square inch of Surrey) in Spain, and therefore, by acreage, the world (with some three-quarters of a million acres), making a sea of Spanish brandy and an ocean of Valdepeñas, which can be perfectly decent with a nice bit of fish on a southern Costa. Gradually being supplanted by more characterful varieties – could be ‘goodnight Airén’? Alabama Slammer – shake equal parts sloe gin, amaretto and Southern Comfort with two parts fresh orange juice and ice and strain in to a highball glass. Or not.

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The Knowledge: Red Wine.


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