With maritime origins just like New England, this signature white from Spain is the perfect pick for our favorite culinary season.
Oyster season has arrived, so it’s time to start indulging in this everyday luxury experience. From Island Creek Oyster Bar and Atlantic Fish Co., to Select Oyster Bar and Saltie Girl, there’s no shortage of Boston hot spots to enjoy succulent seafood. The only question you need to ask yourself is: What wine will work the best with all of the briny, creamy, sweet, and brilliant flavors you’ll find? Two of the city’s top wine pros have the answer: Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain.
Both TJ Douglas, owner of Urban Grape, and Master Sommelier Michael Meagher, principal of Sommelier On-Demand Hospitality Services, have travelled to the region, which is located on the Atlantic coast. Impressed by the high quality, affordability, and accessibility of Rías Baixas Albariño, they were also struck with how similar the area is to New England. The two locations share a love of producing amazing seafood; are inspired culturally by Celtic influences; and are obsessed with aquatic activities like sailing and fishing. Of course the fact that this crisp, dry white wine is highly rated for its distinct minerality, enticing aromatics and flavors swayed them as well.
“Depending on what you’re going to do with it, Rías Baixas Albariño is one of the most user-friendly food wines in the world, especially in the spring, summer, and fall,” says TJ. “We’re selling these light-to-medium body white wines that have amazing acid, salinity, and that most of the time, are unoaked. They have a lower price point and super-high quality. People come into our store and say, ‘I want something crisp, dry, and light body, but I don’t want a Pinot Grigio and I don’t want to spend the price of white Burgundy.’ Certain Albariños really fit into that area. Some really good Albariños taste like a Grand Cru Chablis.”
“There’s never a bad time to have a glass of Rías Baixas Albariño. It’s great because a lot of times when you choose a wine you think: What am I going to have it with?,” adds Meagher. “Rías Baixas Albariño has this wonderful balance about it—the acidity, the fruit, the minerality, the style. The wine just goes with everything. It’s also not a wine that you need to have years of experience enjoying wine to ‘get it.’ There’s nothing that you have to go looking for. You can go out and find a great bottle of Rías Baixas Albariño for $15 to $20 and get a really good expression of it.”
When it comes to pairing oysters with Rías Baixas Albariño, it’s the variety of expressions that make the wine such an excellent choice. “To have oysters and a wine that doesn’t have a super thin body (like a Muscadet), but a little bit more substance like an Albariño, it can handle the salinity of oysters and pairs well,” explains TJ. “Rías Baixas Albariño also doesn’t overpower oysters with minerality. Then when you get into some of these fatter, richer, bigger-style ones, the richer-style Albariños can stand up to them. It’s almost like a full meal—a big, rich, oily Albariño and a big, rich, oily salted oyster. It’s a great pairing.”
“Like we have terroir in wine, in oysters we have the term ‘merroir’—it’s about where the oysters are grown. They absolutely taste different from different places in the ocean and different styles of farming. One of the key things about oysters is you want to be able taste their subtleties. Otherwise, why list 20 different oysters on your menu?,” says Meagher. “You want a wine that’s not going to overwhelm the oysters; but at the same time, you don’t want a wine that’s not going to stand up to some of the brininess, sweetness, or creaminess that good oysters can show. The beautiful thing about Rías Baixas Albariño is that it has this transparency to it—it’s not dominating, and it’s not monolithic. Rías Baixas Albariño is very much a wine that’s almost by design (based on where it comes from) designed to go with seafood in any of its forms. My advice? Just have fun with it.” This is a wine that’s meant to celebrate everyday life, so go out, buy a bottle (or more!), and just give it a try.
For a local selection of Albariño from Rías Baixas visit Urban Grape.
Photography by: Rías Baixas team