Albariño ‘can make Spain’s best-quality sparkling’

15th March, 2016 by Darren Smith

Albariño has the potential to eclipse Cava and produce Spain’s best-quality sparkling wine, a leading Rias Baixas winemaker has said.

Head winemaker at Mar de Frades Paula Fandino believes sparkling Albarino has the potential to become Spain’s best quality sparkling wine (Photo: Mar de Frades)

Paula Fandiño, head winemaker at Mar de Frades, said Albariño’s growing reputation for producing high-quality white still wine, combined with its unique freshness, presents a big opportunity for producers using the grape to make wine in a sparkling style.

“Albariño is becoming very popular in Spain as a high-quality white wine. It means sparkling wines made with this grape can be even better than sparkling Cava,” she commented.

Albariño is the native grape of the Galicia region of north-west Spain, whose granite soils, mild Maritime climate and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean impart a crispness and a distinct saline quality to its white wines, Fandiño said.

Cava is made in Cataluña, where the warmer Mediterranean climate produces a “warmer” character in the region’s three traditional cava grape varieties – Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, according to Fandiño.

“We work with the Atlantic coast, and the fresh and crispy wines we produce in this region are more attractive than Mediterranean wines, [which] are very warm and without the same fruity and crispy notes,” she said.

Mar de Frades became the first winery in Rias Baixas to produce a sparkling Albariño with its non-vintage Brut Nature. The first Mar de Frades Brut Nature, a blend of 2009 and 2010 vintages, was released in Spain in 2012.

Like Cava, the wine is made using the traditional method and is aged for 10 months in steel tanks before bottling.

A total of 2,000 bottles of the Mar de Frades Brut Nature were made in 2015. The winery aims to produce 2,500 bottles this year, with a target to produce up to 4,500 bottles by 2020, Fandiño said.

She added that the wine was currently selling well in Spain, particularly in Galicia, but that the winery would be looking to at least double its exports of sparkling wine in the next five years.

Mar de Frades’s biggest export market for the wine is currently the US, but the company is looking to introduce the wine into other foreign markets, including the UK and Russia.

“On the export market, we are selling more and more because sparkling wine [consumption] in the world is increasing,” Fandiño said.

“We sell more because people look for new and different sparkling wines.”

Mar de Frades Brut Nature NV (Photo: Mar de Frades)

Mar de Frades Brut Nature NV (Photo: Mar de Frades)

Ageing Albariño

Fandiño’s comments came at a Mar de Frades masterclass held in London to explore the ageing potential of the Albarino grape. Mar de Frades specialises exclusively in Albariño.

Fandiño works with around 150 local growers in the Salnès Valley in Rias Baixas to select fruit from small parcels of vineyards. The vineyard area is 1km from the Atlantic coast.

Since 2009, Fandino has been experimenting with lees stirring [batonnage] and ageing to explore the full potential of the Albariño grape.

“I know some vineyards where the combination of old vines and terroir give beautifully structured, powerful wines,” she explained.

“My research is into whether the right batonnage and lees ageing will also give us wines that combine the minerality and character of the Salnès Valley with the complexity and depth that is needed to age and evolve [a wine] in bottle.”

The winemaker presented a selection of her ‘experimental wines’ to selected press at Barrafina restaurant in London, along with samples of Mar de Frades Brut Nature NV, Mar de Frades Albarino 2015 and the barrique-aged Finca Valiñas 2014.

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