Friday, November 28, 2014

Unusually Rare

For me, one of the most interesting parts of this Wine Odyssey has been the discovery of new varieties of grape. The world is not all Chardonnay or Cab - nor should it be. I think the fact I'm inching closer to my 200th variety on my Wine Century Club tally is a teensy indicator of my enthusiasm for discovering new grapes and wines.

Sometimes, that discovery just leads to more questions. Case in hand - or at least bottle in hand - I quickly grabbed for this bottle of Albillo varietal wine from Spain when I happened upon it. Little did I know that I still wouldn't be sure of which grape was actually used in making the wine.

1807.  2012 Bodegas Valduero - Garcia Viadero - Blanco de Albillo (Castilla y León VDT - Spain)

Although winemaking in this part of northern Spain dates back hundreds of years (if not centuries), in 1984, this family run winery was one of the first to be established in the heart of the newly created Ribera del Duero D.O. (or quality wine region). At the time, there were only about a half dozen wineries in the region; however, the region exploded on the wine scene and has played a big part of the renaissance of Spanish wine. There are now over 200 wineries in Ribero del Duero.

The regional D.O. is best known for its reds and does not, in general, permit white wines to be produced under its auspices. Most white wine produced is destined for local consumption - without D.O. designation. Ribera del Duero does have one exception and that is the indigenous Albillo grape. Even then, only Bodegas Valduero and (regional star winery) Vega Sicilia, have been given special permission to grow the grape and the wines still need to be labeled as Vino de la Terra (a lower, table wine designation) from the larger Castilla y León region.

Problem is the grape is quite rare and has never really been a highly-identified cultivar. Over the years, there have apparently been a collection of grapes with the word Albillo forming part of the name, but almost all of them have been referred to simply as Albillo. Many of those grapes no longer even appear to be in production. According to Jancis Robinson (et al)'s tome, Wine Grapes, both Albillo Mayor and Albillo Real still see limited production, are both grown in the Castilla y León region and are seemingly referred to, interchangeably, as Albillo.

Neither the label, nor the winery website, expand any further on the grape than to say that the wine is 100% Albillo. It would seem that this can be a common occurrence. In addition to Wine Grapes, I often refer to the Fringe Wine blog when it comes to unusual grape varieties and even Rob's entry on Albillo left him uncertain as to which grape he'd actually partaken in with the wine he'd sampled.

I'm counting it in my Wine Century Club tally regardless of the fact that the grape could be more accurately identified. The odds of my running into another Albillo wine are probably pretty slim. I see that only slightly more than 26,000 bottles were made of this vintage. I think I'm good to go with just calling the grape, Albillo.

As far as Spanish whites go, this was richer with bigger tree fruit and citrus coming through than I'm used to tasting. If this is what I might expect from Albillo, I suppose I should keep my eyes open for another.

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