Why Albarino could be your favourite summer wine

If you’re fed up with Chardonnay and want to try something different now the hot weather is finally here, why not go for an Albarino wine? It’s the ideal summer wine, thanks to its freshness and elegance.


While wines using the Albarino grape have been made for decades, mostly in Spain, it’s not hugely commercially known. Mainly grown in north western Spain in the Rias Baixas region, Albarino grapes are also cultivated in Portugal. A few decades ago tourists travelling to Portugal would probably have been offered Vinho Verde, which is a local favourite made from the Albarino grape.


Is Albarino the ideal summer wine grape?


Albarino remains of the most distinctive grapes used for white win in Spain. In Portugal it is called Alvarinho and Cainho Branco. It used to be generally mixed with local grapes, such as Arinto, Caino or Godello, which resulted in blended wines. Since approximately 1985, however, the full potential of the grape itself has been understood and there are plenty of single variety bottles to try.


The grape has a thick skin, perfect for surviving the damp climate where it is commonly grown. It results in a grape that is high in glycerol, small and very sweet. Good quality wines dominated by this grape taste of peaches, almonds and apricots and are very aromatic and perfumed.


As the wines age very well, lots of Albarino growers are experimenting with making wines using oak maturing techniques. The best Albarino still come from the Rias Baizas DOC of Galacia in central Spain, but it’s also made in certain wine regions in California.


Peachy, fresh and acidic flavours


Due to its peachy flavours and refreshing acidity, Albarino wines are particularly enjoyable when it’s hot. They go well with shellfish and other seafood, but can be served with anything/


Albarino is most enjoyable when it’s made as a dry white, due to the grape’s propensity to convert sugar to alcohol easily and quickly. Best served chilled, enjoy a bottle with a picnic or dinner al fresco this summer. Try something like La Marimorena Albarino, Casa Rojo, which is a Spanish wine with florally notes. There are distinctive hits of pears, peaches and apples with a clean and very refreshing finish. Perfect with a lobster salad or prawn dish.


Another good choice is also Spanish. From the Riax Baixas region, Exquisite Ablarino is full of zest and peachy flavours. Expect citrus fruit and a herby aroma with a lovely crisp finish on the palate.

Matching wines with Japanese food

Japanese food is all about the balance of flavours. It’s delicate, sweet, salty and delicious, all at once. And although sake is a great accompaniment, pairing your favourite wines with it can turn a good meal into a great one.

Every year, millions of people from all around the world visit Japan to enjoy its fascinating cities, beautiful landscape and, of course, to sample their famous food. Compared with food from further south in Asia, Japanese food is actually easier to pair with wine. You just need to understand the balance of flavours in both your dish and the wine.


Wine matching for Japanese food

One of the reasons why Japanese food is so delicious is the so-called fifth flavour – umami. It’s a strong, very savoury flavour that will always make you think of Japanese food.

It’s quite difficult to describe the taste as it isn’t directly one of the four flavours: salty, sour, bitter or sweet. Umami translates as delicious (umai) and essence (mi). Many Japanese dishes are driven by this flavour sensation, thanks to the seasonings that include miso, soy sauce and yuzu pepper.

Dishes like miso soup, katsuobushi (dried, fermented and smoked tuna), and accompaniments such as wasabi and soy sauce are great examples of umami rich foods. Enjoy them with a minerally Riesling or a tart and fresh Soave Classico – these are the wines that pick out and enhance the underlying flavour.


Wine matching for sashimi and sushi

Probably the first dishes most people think of when think about Japanese food are sashimi and sushi. Sashimi is specifically raw fish, sliced into very thin fillets. It’s served when it’s as fresh as possible along with shoyu (soy sauce) and wasabi. Sushi are the rolls of seasoned, vinegary rice wrapped with seaweed (nori). They are packed with savoury and salty fillings, which range from crab meat (kani), sea-urchin (uni), raw fish, freshwater eel (unagi) and egg omelette (tamago).

As they are both similar flavour-wise, these dishes can be matched with the same wines. Two good choices are the dry Alsace Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. They can really pull out the flavour of the fish itself and the seasonings that include pickled ginger and wasabi. Riesling also goes well with tuna sushi, known as maguro.

Another good choice to go with sushi and sashimi is Pinot Blanc, as it cuts through the flavours and complements the sweetness of the raw fish. If you prefer something less dry, then go with a creamy Chardonnay, preferably oaked to bring out the flavours.


Which wines go with tempura?

Tempura is also a very popular Japanese dish in the UK, thanks to its crispy, tasty flavour profile. It goes really well with lots of different wines, ranging from Chablis to Sauvignon Blanc and Champagne to Gruner Veltliner. Or you can try a light Rose to go with a big plate of mixed tempura for a delicious match.

For deep fried prawn (ebi), then a Chablis or Sancerre works best. For eel (anago), squid (ika) or scallops, you could try a drier Riesling or Chenin Blanc. Veggie tempura goes really well with a dry Muscat.

The next time you’re ordering in some Japanese food, or heading to a restaurant, leave the sake on the side and go for one of your favourite cellar wines instead.

English wine ramps up the innovation

Most wine-lovers include New Zealand somewhere in their favourite bottles. The popularity of New Zealand wines has always been impressive in the UK, which is surprising when you consider how little they actually make.

New Zealand makes less than 0.5% of the total wine production in the world, but its high quality and accessible flavours make it an enjoyable choice. The UK is one of New Zealand’s most important and valuable export markets in the world. Let’s take a look at why New Zealand wines are enjoyed by so many people, and exactly what they produce.


New Zealand wine soil is fertile and productive

Fertile soils abound in New Zealand, and these combined with its temperate climate make it an ideal location for wine making. It’s famous around the world for producing delicious whites and reds and have plenty of varieties to choose from.

Almost 60% of New Zealand’s wines are from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The Marlborough region makes most Sauvignon blends and has done since the first grapes were planted in 1973. By 1990 New Zealand became well known for its Sauvignon Blancs both locally and internationally.

The 1990s also saw a boost for Chardonnay from New Zealand, although it’s never been as popular. Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne specialise in full and medium bodied Chardonnays due to their location in the warmer North Island. In the same decade Pinot Gris gained popularity. It’s produced throughout the country and makes up around 7% of New Zealand’s wine production.


Rich red wines from New Zealand

The colder regions in New Zealand make a lot of Pinot Noir, which makes up 8% of the country’s overall wine production. The South Island is known for many red wines, including the fuller bodied and freshly aromatic flavours of Marlborough’s Pinot Noir.

Red wines from Waipara Valley are enjoyed for their more savoury flavours, and the Central Otago region produces soft and fruity reds. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are also well renowned in New Zealand and go back to the early 1800s. Around 80% of the Pinot Noir production takes place in Auckland/Northland and Hawke’s Bay.


Other grape varieties popular in New Zealand

Mass production of Riesling began in the 1980s, despite the grape being introduced in the 19th century. Around 90% of the country’s Riesling is made in the South Island and is centred on the Waipara/Canterbury region.

Shiraz on the other hand has always struggled to gain a hold in New Zealand, despite its popularity in Australia. It makes up just 1% of the country’s winemaking production.

Due to New Zealand’s wine reputation, there are lots of wine trails, vineyards and wineries in New Zealand that have become extremely popular tourist attractions.

How UK wine exports are on the increase

English Wine Week has been and gone with good news for the UK wine industry. Exports of UK-made wine is are predicted to be worth £350 million by 2040, according to the Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT).

Production of wine in the UK reached 15.6 million bottles, a record-breaking amount. And vineyards across the country can look forward to celebrating overseas success, thanks to a rise in demand.


UK wine exports expanding into emerging markets

Because of this soaring demand from global markets, UK wine producers are beginning to look at new markets. In 2017, The Classic Reserve, a wine from Hattingley Valley vineyards became the first from England to be sold at Whole Foods in the United States. It was on the shelves of 420 shops in the chain across 40 states, which has boosted its profile.

Overall sales of UK wine shot up 31% between 2015 and 2017. By 2040, this should reach a production level of 40 million bottles a year, which equals a retail value of £1 billion.

Government support for UK wine makers

As part of the general promotion of English wine, the DIT have supported many producers overseas. For example, English wine was promoted at the Nantucket Wine and Food Festival between 15 and 20 May 2019, which is the biggest wine event in the US.

Various UK vineyards, including Chapel Down, Gusbourne and Hattingley, showed their wines at the event, thanks to support from the Food is GREAT campaign. This is an inter-departmental Government initiative between the DIT and the Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

English sparkling wine continues to do well

It’s also been a fantastic year for English sparkling wine, with producers all over the country receiving awards. These include major wins at the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the International Spirits Competition (IWSC) and the Decanter World Wine Awards.

The wine industry in the UK is responding to this surge in demand by identifying the key markets. The biggest export markets for UK wine are Scandinavia and the United States, but focus is also on emerging markets like Japan.

In a DIT press release, International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox says: “It is such an exciting time for the English wine industry right now. The potential for exports is going from strength to strength due to the rapid growth of the sector and an increased demand from overseas markets for high quality British wine.”

Export will remain a key strand of the UK wine industry’s growth over the next few years, with the ultimate goal of becoming the premier wine market in the world.

Is there such a thing as the perfect food and wine pairing?

Pairing food and wine has long been considered something to strive for by culinary experts. Restaurants, food experts, chefs and cookery writers have been recommending the best wine for certain dishes for decades, if not centuries. But is it an exact science, and does it really matter which wine you serve with your dinner?


Whether you believe there are perfect wine and food pairings or not, there is an entire industry built around the concept. Sommeliers taste hundreds, and possibly thousands, of different wines to match with a menu. There is a set of instructions in place regarding the balance of acid, fat, salt and alcohol to achieve the perfect match. But recently, the wine industry has been upset by experts suggesting it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.


Perfect wine pairing may not exist


Tim Hanni, a US chef, Master of Wine and certified wine educator announced at the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Celebration that he doesn’t think the perfect food and wine pairing exists. He qualified this by saying that the industry is doing “a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it.”


After the event, he told The Drinks Business that he is concerned with the genetic traits that cause people to taste, smell and experience sensations differently. It’s a scientific fact that some people lack certain taste receptors and can therefore tolerate much more bitterness than others, for example. In contrast, more than a third of people are very sensitive to bitter flavours and don’t enjoy any wine with an alcohol content of more than 13%.


Hanni says these differences make the notion of ideal food and wine pairings obsolete, as they depend so much on personal taste receptors.


Food and wine pairings should be adjusted for personal taste


Clement Robert is a wine buyer and Master Sommelier for Caprice Holdings, London. He agrees with Hanni that taste is subjective but does not agree that sommeliers are blocking people from enjoying food and wine.


He says that wine pairings are simple, and expert sommeliers will always adjust their suggestions to cater for personal taste.


Of course, if you’re visiting a fine dining restaurant, the wine list and sommelier are all part of the experience. But the popularity of House Reds and Whites shows that many customers don’t want to overthink their wine choice, and just want to enjoy their meal.


So, is there such thing as a perfect food and wine pairing? As the debate rages between wine experts, winemakers and Master Sommeliers, it’s probably best to assume that there is no single answer. Everyone has their own opinion, and most people have a favourite wine. It’s about finding the wine that’s perfect for you, and not worrying about whether it is the ‘right’ one.