ALISTAIR GIBSON: The perfect Spanish grape to pair with fruits of the sea

Pazo Senorans Albarino
Pazo Senorans Albarino

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I’ve spent much of the summer working on events for this year’s Emsworth British Food Fortnight.

As ever, there is a packed programme of events during the annual celebration.

This current vintage shows nectarine, fig, apple... and even just a hint of the sea

But one event in particular that seems to catch people’s imagination more than any other is the Emsworth seafood lunch.

Hosted on Emsworth’s picturesque quay and cooked and prepared by four of the town’s leading chefs, with all the profits going to local charities, it sold out in half an hour of the tickets going on sale.

It does beg the question, what is the perfect wine to serve with seafood?

It does, of course, depend on what type of seafood and how it is prepared.

But if I had to choose one grape it’s Spain’s albariño.

An indigenous grape to the Iberian peninsula, albariño – pronounced ‘alba-reen- yo’ – has its home in what is often referred to as Green Spain – the Galicia region of north west Spain.

And until 20 years ago it rarely travelled out of the region.

Due to the cooling breezes, this region is much cooler and indeed wetter than most of the rest of Spain– perfect for growing albariño.

It has become, without doubt, a very fashionable grape over the past few years. It is rarely oaked and is best drunk young to retain its juicy freshness where it can offer flavours of citrus, honeysuckle, peach, nectarine and minerals and a mouth-watering acidity.

A good place to start would be Pulpo Albariño 2016, Vintae (Majestic £8.99 but £7.99 if part of a mixed six bottles), which is very lively and fresh, with citrus, pear and stone fruits and nicely judged acidity.

It’s a very easy going, simple wine, reflected perhaps with its colourful octopus label but works well with simple seafood or as a zesty aperitif.

However, it’s once you get over the £10 mark where the real excitement starts and you find wines with a little more complexity.

Vionta Albariño 2016, Rias Baixas (Ocado £13.99) is on the richer side of what this grape can achieve.

There are ripe notes of peaches and nectarines, melon and even a touch of banana on the nose, followed by ripe acidity and a reasonably long fruit-driven finish with a just a touch of bitterness at the end which is often a characteristic of this varietal.

Again, great with simple seafood but also try with a prawn linguine.

Pazo Señorans Albariño 2016, Rias Baixas (Virgin Wines £15.99, Hennings Wine £18.99, Hermitage Cellars £15.25) is perhaps the ultimate expression of albariño.

It’s produced by Bodeg Pazo de Señorans who have done as much as any producer to put this region on the map and even release a wine with some bottle age to prove that this grape does have the potential to age well.

This current vintage shows nectarine, fig, apple, minerals and citrus notes on the nose and the palate is long and perfectly-balanced with even just a hint of the sea.

Match it with some really fine shellfish or it would also work well with a roast chicken.