If you are living in a similar part of the world as me — where the summer weather has become hot and sticky — then you likely are reaching into the fridge for chilled white wines to cool you off.
No doubt Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are standbys, but if you haven't given Albariño a try, now's the time to do it.
The Albariño (al – bah – REE – nyo) grape is grown mainly in the Spain and Portugal (though I understand Qupe and a few others are planting it in California as well), to make dry white wines. It is a thick-skinned grape with strong aromatics that may remind you of ripe peaches — to me the smell is kind of like Viognier. Unlike Viognier, however, the wine tends to be very high in acidity and lighter in flavor — it's more like a sharp Pinot Grigio in that respect. That zesty acidity cuts through fatty foods, stands up to salad dressings, and can be refreshing on a hot summer day — it's not as tart as you might expect, and has a nice buttery texture. Flavors you may recognize include apple, peach, and apricot, as well as a distinct mineral component.
Geeks will tell you that the very best Albariño comes from Rias Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shuss) area of Galicia, in Spain, and they may be right. Personally, I have enjoyed Burgans Albarino, which is a consistently good value. However, there are also fine examples from Portugal, where it is often labeled as “Alvarinho” (that's how they spell it there). And, as mentioned earlier, California's Qupe makes one (called “Verdad“) but they don't make much of it and I've never had it — if you have, please post your notes in the comments.
Regardless of where the Albariño comes from, make sure you pick the youngest you can find (as of this writing, 2008 is the vintage you want), as it's not meant for aging. Albariño tends to lose a lot of its fresh, attractive aromas and flavors as it ages. Expect to pay between $8 and $15, though the best bottles can run as high as $25.