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Vines & Wines: Crisp albariño gains popularity in Virginia

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Crisp albariño gains popularity in Virginia

Albariño, a white, crisp, lively wine often associated with northwest Spain, is starting to gain a foothold in Virginia.

Make that a toehold, but it might not be long before it becomes a go-to grape and wine, especially for wineries in the eastern part of the state.

Ingleside Vineyards’ Doug Flemer planted albariño several years ago and now has three acres of it. His first albariño wine was the 2012 vintage, and the 2013 will make its debut this summer.

Ingleside’s 2012 Albariño, still available at the winery for $19.95, is a summertime treat with multiple aromas and a crisp, vibrant minerality.

Based on a sneak preview, the 2013 vintage has similar soft aromas of peaches and apricots followed by light citrus flavors and that crisp minerality indigenous to the grape. It’s 76 percent albariño with 9 percent viognier, 9 percent chardonel and 6 percent petit manseng and has 12.5 percent alcohol and no residual sugar.

The difference between the two vintages?

“The 2013 is perhaps more characteristic of the typical albariño that might be produced in Spain — crisp and light, yet fruity,” Flemer said.

Only six state wineries are known to grow albariño, so was Flemer taking a chance?

“Yes, of course, (because) no one had much experience with it here in Virginia,” Flemer said. “We felt it would handle the heat and humidity as it does in the Galicia region of Spain.”

That Flemer started making albariño as a varietal is no surprise. As former Ingleside winemaker Bill Swain said, Flemer has a “pioneering spirit.” His wines have included such grapes as charbono, graciano and petit manseng, varieties not in the mainstream.

Flemer, a key figure in Ingleside’s wine business since 1980, has produced numerous top wines through the years. Albariño is the latest of those.

“We are very excited about the albariño as a new white variety for Virginia,” he said. “The style we will strive for should be popular with both new and experienced wine drinkers and pair well with our local seafoods.”

Flemer has developed a new approach to winemaking since Swain retired about 18 months ago.

“We have created a nice team effort with our winemaking,” Flemer said. “I depend on Dominick Fioresi and Camila Burda to perform the cellars duties and … we all have input into how the wines are handled, blended and bottled. So it is winemaking by committee and, thankfully, we all have a similar palate for wine. (And) we are still working with Tom Payette as a consultant when needed.”

Vines & Wines appears every other week in Dining. Contact Jack Berninger at jberninger@timesdispatch.com.

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