Will Albarino Be 'The Next Big Thing' in Wine?

    The Niven family, owners of the tangent (with a lower-case “t”) wine line, has carved out 55 acres of its renowned Paragon Vineyard in California’s Edna Valley to dedicate to the Albarino variety. 

     It’s the largest single-vineyard planting of Albarino in the United States.

     Eight acres of Gruner Veltliner and six acres of Grenache Blanc also are being planted. These varietals will join the line-up of “alternative” white wines grown or produced by tangent: Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

     “We created tangent to fill a specific niche,” says John H. Niven who, along with his cousin Michael Blaney, represents the pioneering winegrape growing family’s third generation. “We rolled out the first vintage last year,” and Vinesse was proud to bring one of its bottlings to club members.

     “Our research showed that America was ready for a brand dedicated to cool-climate, alternative white wines, so we expected it to do well,” Niven adds. “What we didn’t realize was how receptive the market would be to the more esoteric varietals like Albarino; it took off like a shot and sold out in just a few months.

     “We have decided to commit, in a big way, to Albarino and a few other alternative whites. Some think we’re crazy; we think America’s ready, so we’re taking the leap.”

     Albarino’s native land, the Rias Baixas region of Galicia in Spain, has a similar climate to the Edna Valley. It is bordered on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean, keeping conditions cool and temperate – never hot and never too cold.

 The Edna Valley, which is situated in San Luis Obispo County, is only four miles from the Pacific Ocean. A unique east/west valley funnels fog and cool breezes from Morro Bay directly to the mouth of the valley, keeping temperatures moderate.

     Both regions benefit from a long growing season, culminating in fully developed fruit at harvest.

     “Tangent is about white wines of true varietal character, with good acid structure and lower alcohol levels that go well with a wide variety of foods,” says winemaker Christian Roguenant. “Albarino fits in nicely.

     “The Edna Valley mirrors the Rias Baixas from a cool-climate standpoint, ultimately allowing me to produce an Albarino with a similar compound profile to that of Galicia. The lime blossom-tangerine aromatic is the tell-tale characteristic.”

     The Nivens aren’t stopping with Albarino, Gruner Veltliner and Grenache Blanc. They are considering planting other varietals from cool-climate regions, anywhere in the world. Currently on the table are Loureira, Godello and Treixadura, all Galician varietals.

Posted in Wine Cellar Notes
Members-only Wine sampler specials delivered straight to your inbox via our Cyber Circle newsletter.