Monday, March 9, 2015

Report from ... Albana Seminar and Tasting - February 22, 2015

When I told some of my colleagues I was headed to Romagna for a Sangiovese and Albana tasting, I got a lot of flak about the Albana.  Sangiovese, of course, is a grape grown all over Italy, but Albana is very regionally grown, specifically in the Romagna area.  It was the first white wine granted DOCG status (in 1987), and even the seminar leader made note that the status was due to a "very strong lobby."

The history of the grape, could be described, at best, as a checkered one.  Pliny the Elder was the first to critique the grape and he had nothing good to say about it.  In 1303, the first true description of the wines from the Albana grape were recorded, and in the 1700's we find the first references of specificity of wines from the district of Romagna.

Common aspects of Albana are its thick skin, richness of colour and tannins (which makes it quite unique in the realm of white varieties, which are not known for having any tannins at all).  Albana is also good for drying and the production of sweet wines; and while the grape is not strong in aromatics what it does have is quite distinctive - whether that is good or bad was not mentioned to us.

Albana in my opinion, is a misunderstood and misused grape variety that suffers from poor winemaking practices of the past, which in turn helped to give it its poor reputation - in the mid-80's there was a massive movement away from the natural aromatics, alcohol and character of the grape to make it more appealing to a mass market ... and although there is now a movement afoot to restore the grape's primary characteristics the grape is still paying the price for past mismanagement and those bad winemaking decisions.  By managing the quality and focusing on the old vines in the region available to them the hope is to revive this grape, but it will take time.  

From my tastings of the selected wines, the best of them learned how to harness the tannins possible in these wines and embrace the characters particular and peculiar to this grape.

There was a question posed during the seminar about the lack of definitive style between the wines; but I think it's too early in the rebranding process of this variety to pick one style over another - trial and error will dictate where this grape and the wines are headed.

The Wines of Note ...
of the 7 wines tried during the seminar these three had the most appealing qualities:

Aromas: white flowers, unripe pineapple
Palate: there's a pleasant, pseudo-sweetness here
floral, waxy and apple flavours with good acidity (*** 1/2)
Aromas: almond praline, oxidative with deep colour
Palate: pleasant pineapple core, weighty with seeming tannin
notes; with the right food/sauce this would be a killer (*** 1/2+)
An odd little wine that shows weight, tannins, acidity
and drinks like a red with all that it leaves behind;
it does have a pineapple note that is the only indication
that it could be a white.  Peculiar, but welcomely so.
Takes a few sips to fully understand. (*** 1/2+)

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